As a society, we do our best not to be affected by the sorrows in our world, and for good reason. It’s painful to feel injustice. It’s painful to listen to the cries of a planet under assault. It’s painful to witness a people frightened for their lives because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes, their ethnicity or their religion. But then something happens that makes it much more difficult to turn away.
Silence is complicity
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
The sharing of pain is one of the most resonant forms of interconnection.
Chris Cuomo said that on his radio show on Friday morning. I agree with him but, as far as I can tell, much of the time we expend a lot of energy in presenting a good face to the world. We do our best, on a day-to-day basis, not to reveal our pain. There are special extenuating circumstances, to be sure, when it’s acceptable, but even then, it’s like there’s a statute of limitations on how long it’s permissible to feel extreme emotions, at least in any detectable way. What we do in the privacy of our homes, well, at least no one else has to see it.
I have a shelfful of books about the Holocaust in my living room. As I’ve delved more deeply into the fate of my grandparents, I have become more curious about what their day-to-day lives were like in Berlin in the years leading up to their deportation to Auschwitz, so many of the books on my shelf share some of that experiential history. Because of censorship, their letters to their daughter, my mother, couldn’t talk about how it got harder and harder to leave the apartment, to walk down the street, to go to the store. Not only were the hours Jews were allowed to do such things limited, but there was the increasing danger of being accosted—either verbally or physically—by passersby who identified them as non-Aryan.
The terminology is different today, but I recognize white supremacist intolerance when I see it. Hate incidents against Asians have increased almost 150% in this country since the pandemic began. Last Tuesday, driving to the store to get some eggs, I heard the breaking story about eight people shot in the Atlanta area. There weren’t a lot of details yet, but they did know that the shootings had occurred at day spas and a massage parlor. “Oh no,” I said to myself. I knew who the targeted population was.
The messages of intolerance are increasing, just as they did in the 1930s. At that time, America turned away. Last week, our president said, Our silence is complicity. We are being called to stop turning away from the realities that Asian Americans have dealt with for years. We can’t look away. We have to do whatever we can to ensure that Never again applies to all people.
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There is so much in this piece that brings up pain in me. Thinking about how your grandparents could not dare to speak to their daughter of all that was happening to them makes my heart ache. Times have not totally changed, sad to say. As to today, I am so glad that we now have a compassionate and empathic president who does speak up and I certainly pray that he can make a difference in the most current instances of hatred against the Asian community!
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