Friday, January 27, 2017

International Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is an important day for the chance to learn and remember the lessons of the past, in order not to be doomed to repeat them. Surely one would think that the horror of the attempted genocide of Jewish people, accompanied by the death of so many others deemed undesirable, others like my brother with Down's syndrome, my special ed. students, my friends who are wonderful people but have a myriad of sexual identities and racial backgrounds; was so unusual and so horrific as to be unforgettable and unrepeatable. Sadly, one would be wrong.

When I was a child, I couldn't have asked for a safer, more loving world, and assumed that the rest of the children also were loved and cared for by loving parents, and grandparents. So my first hints of the holocaust rocked my world, but were of something "a long, long time ago, on the other side of the world, and it isn't ever going to happen again."

But of course it had happened before, and where I lived, and would continue to happen again and again.  It had happened to my great-grandmother, that same tiny woman who snuggled me on her lap and fed me pickles and soups and sang me songs. What was I to know of the family history she never spoke of, or why her Father had disowned her for marrying a white man soon after the battle of the Little Bighorn and the massacre at Wounded Knee. I wouldn't know until her funeral when my Sioux relatives arrived en masse.

It happened here in my adopted home of Crescent City, CA when a town with 700 Chinese one night, only had one the following night. It happened here when hundreds of natives were slaughtered during a celebration that was mistaken for a war party by the fearful townspeople.

And it happened in eugenics experiments in the good ol US of A when people with too many relatives in prison or mental hospitals were forcibly sterilized. Sadly, Hitler learned some of what he did from our country after all.

I'm sad that a day of rememberance is necessary and grateful that there is also the remembrance of those who fought and resisted and won against fear and hatred. Even though the lesson has to keep being learned, we have many heroes (yes, male and female and other) who have given examples to light the darkness and chase out hate. Remembering that we are not all to be feared just because we are not all the same. Remembering that your difference may provide the very strength I would have perished without. Remembering that when the haters scream from the podium, the resistance is already whispering encouragement and love in your ear.

On this cold January when the world is still frightening, remember to look for the light, and when you can't find it, you can be it.