Friday, September 11, 2015

what can you do for America?

It's hard to believe that it's been 14 years since I was sitting in the family room with my backpack on and my shoes untied, more captivated by a radio than any 10-year-old child in this generation has ever been.
I'm saddened today -- not so much for the loss of 14 years ago, nor by the actions of the terrorists. Those feelings, though still tender upon memory, have been eased to a reverence through forgiveness, stories of courage, and hope in the goodness of humanity as thousands reached out to a suffering nation.
But I am saddened by how in such a short time -- 14 short years -- America has remembered the tragedy, but not the need to stand together as a nation, to fight for the ideals and values which birthed this country, to put others before self. As a whole, America appears to have forgotten the lessons we learned about pride, about ignoring threats, about selflessness before personal gain.
Wake up, America. Remember not just the days of dust, debris, destruction, and death. Remember that events like these serve as a wake up call, an easily forgotten reminder that evil is out there. That evil, given any chance, will rear its head and strike the innocent. Remember your part in this, as you sat rooted to the spot watching the Towers fall, the Pentagon burn, the fields of Pennsylvania fill with smoke.
Remember that America needs YOU, the very best you that can be given. Not our ignorance, our pride, our selfishness, our all-about-me needs. It needs our love, our committment to becoming better every day, our fight for freedom and justice for all humanity.
"God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above."

Monday, August 31, 2015

do we take offense too often because we don't know or care about the facts?

I'm rather confused about the reaction to ‪#‎Auschwitz‬ museum staff installing water sprinklers near the ticket line to keep guests cool while waiting to enter. I do understand that this could be made to appear similar to "showers" that the Nazis sent Jews into -- the gas chambers will never, ever be forgotten. But here are some things:
1) These sprinkler systems are meant to keep people from passing out in line due to extreme heat, which is mentioned in articles about the issues as happening several times this summer. The sprinklers are nowhere near the gas chambers at the memorial site. They're not even inside the complex -- they're located before guests can get in. With record crowds this summer (over 1 million people this year so far) from all over the world, the wait to get inside has been longer than ever. It makes sense that the staff would want to keep their visitors safe from the heat.
2) The "showers" look nothing like shower heads. They are literally hoses with holes in them strung across poles to mist over visitors who get too warm. They are much like the misters used at Freedom Festival events here in Provo around the 4th of July. In no way, shape, or form are they similar to the systems used inside the gas chambers.
3) Those who are familiar with Holocaust history know that the "showers" Jews were made to enter had false shower heads installed. No gas ever came from these. Instead, pellets of Zyklon B were dropped through small, re-sealable holes in the roof or walls of the chambers. The gas wasn't sprayed -- you cannot spray a gas like you can spray water. Furthermore, the Auschwitz Museum and Memorial staff are trying to protect their visitors, not hurt them. It's a completely opposite situation, seemingly small in comparison to the outcry against the sprinklers.
I recognize that for some this seems horrific and like a major oversight on the part of the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum staff. However, it seems clear that their main objective is to protect their visitors. Guests come from all over the world, and from all types of environments -- many cannot stand temperatures of 102 degrees Fahrenheit for very long. I certainly can't.
In addition, Poland's extreme temperatures (record highs not seen in decades) are causing power curbs, meaning that public and private sector establishments (including homes) are having their power cut. How can you do something with fans when there is no power or limited power, and the air blowing around is still over 100 degrees? I'm personally trying to brainstorm other cost-effective ways to keep guests cool as they wait to enter the complex, and I'm coming up dry.
What do you think about this? Honestly, I feel that people in our global society choose to be offended about things that were completely innocent. Perhaps it's because I'm not an Israeli, nor am I a descendant of Jews who survived the Holocaust. I know and recognize that horror -- I've studied it so much that I almost wish I hadn't delved as deeply as I did. But this truly seems like an overreaction.
Isn't it important to make sure people can visit places like this, and visit safely, so that these histories and stories and lives aren't forgotten? To shut such a place down because of the heat would be a tragedy. How many wouldn't get a chance to go again?
Thoughts? Rebuttals? Comments? If you are Jewish or have Jewish ancestry, what is your take on this?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

it's because I'm White, isn't it?

I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated that groups of people who preach love and acceptance won't love and accept White people because we are White. I'm frustrated that if I, a White woman, express an opinion about race in the United States, I'm "privileged," "ignorant," "biased," "bigotted," and "intolerant."
Who cares that I've done all that I can to get an outside perspective -- taking classes; reading literature and essays and histories and newspapers; talking to people of other races about their experiences; attending cultural events NOT to say, 'Oh, hey, that Colorfest though,' but to say 'Excuse me? Can you tell me about why this is important to you? Why this matters? What you love about it? What you would like me, someone who is different than you, to know?'; asking the harder, more awkward questions so that I can learn and understand something I've never experienced; attempting to help by becoming educated and active in America in its entirety, not just my White part of it.
It seems that many don't care. Many don't care that there ARE White people who support them, who want to know them, who want to help them, and who want to be equal. Yes -- be EQUAL. NOT be called names. NOT be overlooked for scholarships, jobs, awards, even justice, because we "aren't colored." NOT be beaten down and shoved aside because we "don't understand" and "cause all of the bad things to happen" because of our Whiteness.
Yes, I don't understand completely. I recognize that. I hear stories and I'm shocked. I see the way people get treated and it angers and saddens me. It spurs me to change minds and hearts. It's hard to do where I live, because the population is different. But if I see injustice, or inequality, or meanness, I at least try. Though I don't understand the depth of sorrow and pain that past and present generations perpetuate, I know that many are trying.
Yes. There is racism. Yes. There is inequality. Yes. I don't understand what it's like to walk down a street of white people and be looked at like I'm a freak. 

But I DO understand what it's like to be in a classroom full of minority students and a minority professor and be completely, humiliatingly shut down because of an honest, sincere comment about someone else's experience as a person of color -- and I never spoke in that class again. 

I DO know what it's like to be called a racist because I disagreed with a Latino's opinion.

I DO know what it's like to be called a racist because I disciplined two Black children at the museum where I work when they weren't sharing -- and the only other child, a White child, was following the rules.

I DO know what it's like to walk down a street of full of people of color and be stared at, glared at, and be whispered about because "here come those White kids" with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with our "White charity," with our "privilege." 

I don't understand it all. But I understand a little.
I'm sorry that there are jerks in the world. I'm sorry that there are people who call names, who pass people over for jobs, who give worse service, who won't listen, who continue to express hate and malice based on color.
However. I refuse to be sorry for being White. I refuse to acknowledge arguments that blame Whiteness alone for social problems. I refuse to accept inequality against Whites, just as I refuse to accept inequality towards those of other races.
We are all, first and foremost, Americans. And as such, as Americans, we each deserve things. Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness. Freedom to laugh and love and receive aid when it is needed, from those around us and from higher powers.
No one, not one of us, deserves ANYTHING based on the color of our skin. I, as a White woman, do not DESERVE a scholarship. I do not DESERVE a job. I do not DESERVE anything. I work hard for everything that I have. And I work hard to make this world better for everyone who lives in it, no matter what color people may be. You may not think so, because I am White. But boy, let me tell you. If ever there was an advocate for equality for ALL -- you're looking at her. And that includes EVERY color. Because underneath each color is a living, breathing, thinking, hoping human being who deserves rights simply because they live. Every. Single. One.
If you ever see injustice, speak up. If you ever see inequality, confront it. It doesn't matter who it is against -- raise your voice and question. But do so with the understanding that it might have been a mistake. It might not have been based on the color of skin. It might have been done out of ignorance, instead of meanness. So ask the questions. Get people thinking. Change comes when people's HEARTS are touched, when people's MINDS are opened. And hearts will not be touched, nor will minds open, when there is abuse, rudeness, incivility, and attacks on race.