|My daughter, Grace|
This is not a post I wanted to write. I like things that are bright, and shiny, and beautiful. I like uplifting, encouraging posts.
This is not one of those.
A few days ago, I finished reading The Book Thief. I know, I know, I'm waaaay behind the times. The book was published several years ago. That's what having four kids does to you.
If you don't know, The Book Thief is about a young girl living in Nazi Germany. Appropriately enough, the book is narrated by Death. The Book Thief is full of tender, beautiful moments juxtaposed against the horrifying backdrop of Germany during WWII.
I could not read this book in one sitting. I would read a little and have to walk away. But just as much as I had to walk away, I had to come back.
Let me tell you why.
A few years ago, I spent two weeks in London. I toured fascinating places like the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Harrods Department Store (hey, I like to shop!)...and The Imperial War Museum (IWM).
Touring the IWM is difficult. The exhibit showing how children were evacuated from London during the Blitz made my throat swell shut. What if that had been me and I had to send my children away to keep them safe. Could I do it?
Honestly, I don't know.
Then came the Holocaust Exhibit. I knew it wouldn't be easy. My mother taught history. I grew up in a house where we talked about the past as a way to prevent such horrifying things from happening again. Dear Reader, I thought I could handle it.
I was wrong.
The lights were dim as we entered the exhibit. No one spoke. I wound past a pile of black discarded shoes. Survivor's stories. Newspaper clippings. A wooden funeral cart with use-worn handles.
Across from the funeral cart was an impossibly white, child sized dissection table. Above the table was a picture of a naked boy. His body curved like a question mark. His eyes were spaces a bit too far apart. His tongue lolled from his mouth. His stomach had caved in on itself.
He was five.
A plaque next to the picture explained that he was taken from his mother and sent to an institution. Later, his mother received a letter saying he had died of a "respiratory illness". The dissection table with the drain in the middle said a respiratory illness did not cause his death.
He looked like my daughter, Grace.
I looked from the table to the picture of this boy, so like my daughter, and I cried. In the middle of the room, I sobbed for this boy someone labeled broken, worthless. I cried for his mother who never got to hold her child again. He wasn't worthless to her.
This child was one only boy among millions killed because someone decided they were "wrong". Jews. Homosexuals. Romas (Gypsies). Slavs. Dissenting Clergy. Jehovah's Witnesses. Anyone deemed "undesirable".
People with physical and/or mental disabilities. Like my daughter.
250,000 mentally and/or physically disabled people were murdered during the Holocaust. People like Grace.
So why am I telling you this? Because I'm concerned, Dear Reader. I'm concerned about the way we talk to each other in this country. One both sides of the political aisle we are labeling each other. Look at the list of people above who were rounded up and killed during the Holocaust. It contains people vilified by the American Left and people vilified by the American Right.
Dear Reader, Nazi Germany started with words. As Markus Zusak writes in The Book Thief: "The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing."
Words have power. The power to build up and the power to tear down. In our rush to win, to be right, we seem to have forgotten this. We choose the words that come out of our mouths, and too often we're choosing to wound instead of heal.
It hurts my heart. And it scares me. The anger in this country--this country that was built on the freedom to be different, to disagree with each other--terrifies me. It needs to stop. Right now. Not after the election. Not tomorrow or the next day. Right now.
We are not enemies. We are brothers and sisters. Mothers and fathers. We are different, but different is a good thing. Different makes us strong. Different is why people from all over the world come here. Because they believe in the dream of a place where all men are created equal. All men. Not all men who agree with you, or look the same as you, or speak the same language you do. All. Men.
Dear Ones, we need to stop. We must stop. And it's so easy. Really, it is. I'm not asking you to change your opinions, or agree with someone you disagree with. As I said above, our differences (including our differences of opinion) make us great.
I am asking you to think about your words. I'm asking you to choose words that heal. Words that build up. Words that create. Leave behind words that destroy and tear apart. If you agree with this post, please pass it along.
Remember the boy at the IPW. He died because of someone's words. Let's stop hurting each other.