Wednesday, August 21, 2013
A Penny For Your Thoughts
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
A Facebook friend sent out a really disturbing message the other day. Apparently, someone rang her doorbell one night a few nights ago, not long after 10:00 pm. When her husband answered the door, no one was there. What he found, though was a pile of pennies on the doorstep, formed in the shape of a swastika.
I posted this to my own Facebook page, because I wanted to share my outrage and disgust. I was almost speechless in my fury—a fury that is tinged with just a tiny bit of fear-- that this could happen, that it happened so close to home, that there is such senseless hatred still threaded throughout our world.
Many of my friends posted their own comments, sharing their own outrage, their passionate disgust and calls for action. And then there was this:
Am I surprised? Of course not! [My daughter] was confronted by two boys 4 weeks before the end of school. They yelled at her, calling "Jew, Jew" and threw pennies at her feet, telling her to pick them up. This happened not once but twice before she told me.
The onlookers only laughed.
We went through the process at school. Kids were dealt with again by the Administration because they have been bullying kids for years. Guess their policies don't work. The school isn't too bothered or outraged, so it seems. But she was harassed again, by the other kids, because she told.
Then at the proof of residency event last week, the same kids saw her and started yelling 'Jew, Jew, there's the Jew!". She came and got me. I confronted the two boys in front of the Principal and the entire population of parents and kids who stood, looking at their schedules, there in the cafeteria, deftly ignoring the situation. I had a meeting with the Principal, who ended up deciding that the incident was not serious because it still wasn't officially “school.”
Will this stop for her? No chance. The school really doesn't have decent policies to deal with the situation. No chance they will kick out the bullies because the school doesn't want to lose the money. There’s been lots of talk to my daughter about not being a victim, about fighting back, about being strong and better than them. Next stop: police. Next stop: lawyer. How pathetic. The school administration should be ashamed that they can't keep the kids in a socially safe learning environment. For them, just another day of trying to make do with crap policies that protect no one. For everyone who says we shouldn't stay silent, well, I can't hear you. Sorry for the tirade but this one is just too close to stay off my soap box.
I can't afford to be speechless, to step down off the soapbox-- especially not about this. "We are better than this!" I want to shout, “Haven’t we learned anything?” Hatred lives and thrives in the dark, in the twisted, ugly places that are guarded by fear and envy and ignorance. Shine a light! We must. We must illuminate this pestilence so that it cannot grow and fester.
This is not a matter of “kids will be kids.” We can't afford to pass this off as a prank or fear that we may overreact, or that our reaction is merely feeding their need for attention. What we shouldn't do-- because that does feed their salacious frenzy for attention-- is posture. We cannot wring our hands and shake our heads in worry or resignation. We cannot just post our outrage and then walk away. When I talk about shining a light into the dark-- I mean it actively. What do we, what do I do about this? How do I teach and shine the light and change the world?
I hate to make this into a comparative lesson, but what if, I stead of a swastika, it was a burning cross, or a some ignorant, racist term spray-painted on a garage, or a vicious cartoon aimed at reviling gays—or the disabled, or Muslim, or fill in the blank for any group, anyone who is marginalized or minimized or made to feel less-than for no other reason than that they are Jewish. Or black. Or gay. Or take your pick—the actions of these hate-mongers is cheap and evil and cowardly. And we cannot let it pass.
We are a people who do not sit idly by. We cannot. We must not. We were commanded in last week's parasha to remember Amalek and what he did to us in the desert. If we do nothing-- Amalek wins. Let's make the desert bloom instead, shine our light so brightly that we change the world.
This is a slightly tweaked version of something I posted on my Facebook page the other day. To date, there have been almost 50 comments, all of them echoing outrage, disgust and the need to mobilize. One of the comments suggested that we gather the pennies on the doorstep to the Holocaust Museum. I’m thinking that’s a great idea.