I read an article last week that deeply disturbed me. It was about Greece, and how, in an effort to find scapegoats for the country’s financial challenges, groups of “undesirables” were being rounded up and put in detention camps. So far, they have targeted immigrants, homeless, sex trade workers, and now trans-gender people. Sound familiar?
Another article about events in Greece referenced a growing fascist group called Golden Dawn, and they openly reference themselves as neo-Nazis. I felt sick.
When I was in high school, World War II fascinated me, in that “this-is-so-horrible-I-can-hardly-believe-it” kind of way. Knowing that my grandparents lived through this time, granted, in the relative safety of the US and its armed forces, made it even more real. I was horrified that people could do such terrible things to other people. And I was grateful that it was over. Surely we have learned from that experience, and couldn’t possibly do that again?
Now, before you tell me, yes, I do know that similar things have been and are going on in other parts of the world to this very day. I know about Bosnia, and Rwanda, and Palestine, and the Congo. I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that I have disassociated these places in my mind. It’s how I cope with the horror and not get utterly depressed and hopeless. I’ve said before, I am not an activist – at least not in that way. I don’t have the strength and the heart for it.
But hearing about this happening in Greece hit closer to home for me. This is not some third world country that I can disassociate in my mind. This is not the Middle East, where fighting has been going on longer than I have been alive. This is Greece, the birthplace of democracy, somewhere I want to go visit some day. This is Europe, for crying out loud. They fought and lived through this already! How can they be doing it again?
And why isn’t anyone speaking up to stop them? To remind them where this leads? I’m sure there are individuals who are trying. I HOPE there are individuals who are trying (please let there be people who are still sane, who still remember, who have read history).
And then I put myself there. If I were living in a country who’s economy was falling apart, in a place where it was getting more and more difficult to earn a living and feed my family, what would I do? If I were living in a place where violence was increasing, and the threat to my life and the lives of my family was real, what would I do? Would I be able to speak out in the face of injury or death? Or would I be quietly angry, and hope to live another day?
That’s when despair kicks in. I don’t know if I would have the courage to speak, if not for the safety of distance. And from this distance, what can I do? (Hence the reason I have disassociated all the other atrocities that are going on in the world.) What can I do to change what is going on in Greece, or the Congo, or Syria, or…
The only answer that comes to me is Gandhi – “Be the change you want to see in the world.” BE a bright light of love and acceptance. Honor those in my world who are different than I am, whether through skin color, sexual preference, gender, beliefs or even just opinions. Send my love to those who are hurting and angry, hungry and scared.
To do anything else is to lose faith and let my light go out.