In a town I lived in for over two years, a place I considered home in every respect, there was a rally this weekend in response to a swastika that had been painted on a driveway this past week. I am writing this in 2017. I never imagined I would ever have to write a statement like that, and it has shaken me more than I can admit.
I remember reading Anne Frank’s diary and “Night”, learning about the Holocaust at an age when it was difficult and perhaps a bit traumatizing to be made aware of such horrors of the past. We were taught to consider the intolerance and bigotry of the Nazis, and taught to protect and defend each other in the face of an evil oppressor. We learned about the brave individuals who worked against such evil and who fought for freedom from such malicious parties. We learned about the Civil Rights movement and the bitter fight for equality, something our own parents witnessed first had in many cases. We learned about those who risked their lives rather than remain silent and oppressed any longer.
I am only twenty nine years old. My education can not be that different from most Americans, and from other people in their twenties and thirties. And I am so inspired by the movements towards equality my generation has seen, and the ways that Americans of all ages, races, and genders are standing up to this administration, fighting for what it right. On Saturday in Boston, another city I also consider home in some ways, there were thousands upon thousands of counter protestors to a “freedom of speech” protest meant to defend Neo- Nazis and their “right” to express their views. It is important to show our solidarity against such incomprehensible hatred. This is not about freedom of speech, or individual rights- it is simply about aggressive attacks against specific groups of citizens.
But I am deeply troubled by the fact that we need to be making such protests. We must continue to fight against unjust policies, any sort of discrimination or oppression, any sort of inequality based on gender, race, or ethnicity. This is nothing new, yet it seems like much of the progress we have made during the twentieth and twenty- first centuries has been rendered meaningless this past year.
We are threatening individuals who have come to this country to build a better life for themselves, we are labeling anyone “Middle Eastern” or Arabic as a terrorist, and we are pushing women’s rights backwards in very harmful ways. Discrimination based on gender identity and sexuality may become legal.
This is not the world I imagined, nor is it the future our country deserves.
I can not express how frightened I have been at times this past year. Some of the events have seemed unreal, and it becomes more difficult to believe that it is not hopeless, that we can continue to overcome the destruction this presidency has brought to our country.
Both our environment and individual rights and safety and being continually threatened. Our educational system is being given away to those simply seeking profit, scientists are being silenced and targeted for speaking truths about the state of our planet. This doesn’t even begin to touch the scandal surrounding the election itself and Trump’s finances.
But these recent attacks have shook me the most. The fact that white supremacists feel they have every right to try to take control again, by violence if necessary, is utterly terrifying. I do not believe that we will truly degenerate into another civil war, but I do fear that we may face fatal assaults before these voices of bigotry and maliciousness are silenced. I will do whatever I can to ensure that our nation is a place of tolerance, peace, and hope, and I do believe there are millions of others in this country who feel the same way. We will keep fighting, but I feel both saddened and distressed by the fact that we do have to put up such a resistance.
Perhaps we have just continually turned a blind eye to this lingering hatred that has been passed from generation to generation, that has quietly grown throughout the nation. Honestly, I can not say I understand their ultimate goals, what they believe they will accomplish. How is such illogical spite and brutality developed in individuals? How can one believe that they are being threatened by a particular group of people, how one could not see their own hypocrisy in claiming superiority over others.
Whites are not be “discriminated” against. Jewish people are not to blame for causing anyone to be poor, and they are not dirty or evil in any way. These are basic logic statements that I believe nearly every American accepts. I realize as a white female I have had advantages over African Americans, both men and women, and over other non-whites who are either natural citizens or immigrants. I also realize that as a woman, a white man has advantages over me in certain respects. I realize I have never had to face any persecution because of my sexuality or religion, and that I may never truly be able to understand what their experience has been like. I could not image adding to their difficulties in any way. I can not pretend I understand that experience of a refugee attempt to escape their own battle- torn country only to find they are treated as an undesirable here simply because they may be a “terrorist” or they may take some other “real” American’s job.
We can not continue to devolve into a country that is run as a dictatorship, filled with corruption and hatred. We can not descend into a country where certain individuals are denied basic rights for any reason, or become a country that is fueled by aggression and suppression and fear.
I believe there is always hope, and I continue to believe our country can be a peaceful, caring place to live. It will be hard work, and we can’t let ourselves be divided, and we have to remain active. We can not passively wait for someone else to come and “save the day” anymore- WE must be the ones to do it.
Yes, there are still white supremacists in our country, there are people in our country who believe woman shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions about their bodies, there are people in our country who believe gay and transgender individuals should not have the same rights as every other citizen in the country. It’s time to face this, and time to have real conversations about how this can change.
We can not believe we are powerless. We can not simply sit back and accept that our country will be controlled by individuals who are intolerant, greedy, and irrational.
While we have seen hatred and brutality these past few weeks, we have also seen that we are not alone. And that makes all the difference.