On the night of November 9-10 1938, thousands of Jewish homes and business and over 200 synagogues were destroyed by Nazi Storm Troopers and civilians. After this, over 30,000 Jews were rounded up and deported to concentration camps. This event was reported on by foreign journalists stationed in Germany, Austria, and Sudetenland to the world… yet the rest of the world did nothing to stop what would become the Holocaust.
All my life I have never been able to fully understand how people could let things like this happen. I always thought it was just massive fear and silence. But after the last six months when 200,000 people died in this country due to a pandemic that could have been contained, after seeing people unleash their fury on others while not wearing masks, after watching glass broken, I can understand it now.
It’s not fear and silent complicity either. It’s a willing embrace of other people’s suffering, that it’s right and good that other people suffer while you don’t. It’s willingly embracing ignorance, hatred, and trying to destroy empathy and compassion in those who believe in it, show it, and try to live it.
Last evening when I heard the news of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, a song came into my head from out of left-field. The song was ‘Broken English’ by Marianne Faithfull. There’s a line she repeats over and over in the song: “What are we fighting for?”
This is a question I’m asking myself now: what am I fighting for?
For the right to live. To exist. To think and feel freely and openly. To live without pain and suffering. For others to live this way.
And yes, people have fought for these things by breaking glass. Sometimes literally, and sometimes figuratively, like Justice Ginsberg did in her long legal career fighting to practice law.
But the most painful thing for me to write right now is this: my own fears. I woke up in the dark with a pounding heart and a righteous anger from the night before. Yet as I came awake, that pounding heart stayed but the righteous anger fled as a wave of fear swept over me. Fear that I won’t be able to take care of myself, fear that I will retreat into silence, fear that I will give in to this feeling that I am not worthy or capable of speaking out and fighting to live my life.
I will continue to swallow my tears, take those deep breaths, and find some way to fight to end the suffering of others. Whenever I feel like I’m in a deep well of sorrow, I don’t pray to God to heal me or lift me up. I ask Him to heal those in real pain, to lift those who truly need to be lifted up. I thank Him for the breath in my body, for the emotions I feel so strongly at times, for the words in my mind and the ability to share them. I tell Him I will not give up, and that I will do better. I tell Him now I will break my silence once and for all. I tell Him that when I hear the words in my head, I will do my best to write them down and share them.
I understand that the hardest choices, even if they’re the right ones, aren’t the easiest. To feel so deeply not only my own feelings, but the feelings of others, to feel deep pain at the suffering of others, is hard. But feeling those emotions is how to stand against evil, hypocrisy, and corruption. It’s how to see past the broken glass on the ground, and inside us, and want to heal.
And we can learn from complicity to evil and how people can choose to hate and glorify the suffering of others. And I can learn to swallow my own tears, take a deep breath, and get my damn shit together once and for all. For I know all too damn well someone in this world is not going to like what I’m writing here.
Yet I will say this now:
Look past the broken glass outside yourself, and inside yourself. And know that things that are broken can be fixed, and that you can heal from those wounds.
And that the world can heal from the wounds of broken glass.