Sunday Confession: Never Again
Whenever I hear the words "Never Again", my mind supplants the image of the faces of men and women from different nations collectively taking that vow.
I imagine that the words are whispered over one another until the phrase is said millions of times. Never Agains would trip over each other. The two words running as quickly as they could out of each mouth, attempting to apologize for silent stances and unimaginable atrocities and choosing to be a powerful battle cry.
This two word chant, Never Again, this promise, if they were to be read as they fell off peoples lips would be muddled and highly incomprehensible, just like the thought of genocide.
In eighth grade we went on our obligatory field trip to Washington D.C. I remember being awkward and nervous walking around the United States National Holocaust Museum. I cried from the minute I walked through the doors to the time we left.
My mother inadvertently taught me about the Holocaust before school did when I heard a friend of hers mention the Holocaust.
They were crying and I was confused and my mother briefly explained.
I, unfortunately, was the type of child who once they found out about something needed to investigate it and learn everything about it. I pedaled my bike to the library for two weeks straight and digested everything I could about the holocaust. I read history books, memoirs, poured over pictures. Memorized the names of the camps like someone would a favorite song.
I needed to know how this happened and why it happened.
I was nine and didn't sleep for two weeks.
My mother got it out of me why I was so preoccupied and upset. I wanted her to tell me why people could be so evil and she hugged me. I cried over people I never met or knew and never would. I cried for lost parents, tortured souls, the unspeakable acts acted upon "undesirable" people. I cried because for the first time in life, I felt hatred and it scared me. I hated Hitler and nazis and everyone who didn't help. I hated the gross feeling in my stomach when I thought of parents and children being separated in lines being valued for their worth like livestock.
Ashamed. I felt ashamed to be human and insecure and asked my mom how she knew it wouldn't happen to us if people decided they didn't like us.
I'm sure my mother had never anticipated staying up with her nine year old debating whether the true nature of humans was evil or good. To this day I appreciate that she sat up with me every time I doubted humanity, which as a sensitive, poetic soul was a lot.
My mother introduced me to Anne Frank and her belief that "despite everything people are still good at heart".
I held steadfast onto that for a long time.
When I went to that museum with my classmates , I felt they were treating it like history. They weren't involved or interested. I felt so sad that no one else was crying except the adults.
I tried to analyze why the kids in my class seemed apathetic. Probably because it happened in the past and they weren't emotionally involved? Or probably because they were just eighth graders who were more worried about who might kiss them, how cool their Oakleys looked and if they could sneak out of the hotel rooms?
As I grew up, Never Again seemed like an empty echo of broken promises. Taking history in high school was probably the most detrimental thing I could do to my belief in good in the world.
Reading about Rwanda-the Hutus and the Tutsies, the "ethnic cleansings in the Bosnian genocide, the use of chemical warfare to murder the Kurdish population in the Iran-Iraq war did nothing to restore my faith in humanity.
Those all happened after the holocaust.
Just like the holocaust happened after other atrocities in the world (slavery, European colonization, Aboriginal child abductions and so much more).
What happened to the war chant of NEVER AGAIN? What happened to people being involved and not wanting to see the repeat of hatred and apathy?
Ideals and beliefs are nice but politics-no matter what the party-hamper, harm and do not help when these atrocities occur.
That does not in any way indicate that I believe that bad triumphs and evil wins. It just means I acknowledge the hurdles. The obstacles. The apathy.
It means I know we have to work harder to effect the change we want to see in this world. We have to stand when no one else will.
Never Again has changed its meaning for me.
We have to acknowledge evil and hatred and find strength in the fact there are good people who's main objective in life is to stop the bad.
I am not foolish to believe that evil acts will never happen again.
I am intelligent enough to know though, that there are others who feel the same way. They understand that apathy is a disease and love and action is the cure. They will stand when it is time to demand action and make a point. They will be called optimistic, idiotic, intrusive, dumb and naive. But they will still stand.
I know this because l have seen people react.
Yes, some people stand still amidst heartbreak, destruction and chaos. But there are those wonderful people who jump right in and perform first aid, put out fires, lend a helping hand, volunteer or enlist.
There are those beautiful souls who cannot physically help so they take to spreading the story, loudly, far and wide, sounding the call, demanding others to take notice and act.
I believe that bad people and cruel decisions can pull a blanket of darkness over the world but l know that many helpful hands can pull that blanket back and let in the light.
Never again will I let darkness cloud my optimism, because I know like smarter, people before me that people are for the most part good at heart.