In Berlin there stands a Holocaust memorial for the Jews killed during WWII. The memorial is a bleak site – a large square filled with gray slabs of concrete, like coffins.
Walking through this monument was a somber and unique experience. You start at the outside edge where the slabs are only about a foot tall. As you begin walking through, the slabs begin to grow taller and the ground dips down, so that by the time you are in the middle the slabs are about 3x your height. You are completely surrounded by them.
As I was standing there, encircled by these walls of cement, I had this overwhelming feeling of: This is how it starts.
It doesn’t begin with the walls towering above you. It doesn’t begin with enslaving men, women and children in death camps. It doesn’t begin with a someone taking a gun into a school, movie theater, office building, or night club. It doesn’t begin with police officers executing someone or a sniper targeting officers at a rally. It doesn’t begin with a man driving a truck into a crowd of celebrating people or with planes flying into buildings.
It begins with hate.
A seed sometimes to small to even notice – but it grows. Hate and fear, leading to isolationism, accusations and degrading generalizations. The seed turns into a sprout, fed by the media (both mainstream and social) and political figures who believe that saying sexist, racist, homophobic things mean they are a “straight talker.” The sprout turns into a tree, and the tree into a forest. Suddenly, here we are with concrete coffins stacked high above our heads.
I remember when we learned about the holocaust in school, thinking: “how could anyone ever let this happen?” I get it now, for I see the mentality behind it in my Facebook friends, patients, and presidential candidates.
I have no grand ideas about the perfect laws to pass or policy to be made to make this all go away, and in truth I don’t think such a thing exists. Our only option is to turn our eyes inwards, recognizing our own fear and hatred and fight against it with everything we have. Reminding ourselves that not every muslim is out to destroy the western world, not every Christian is homophobic, not all black people are gangsters and not all police officers are violent racists.
As unrealistic as it is to believe that we can make everyone in the world suddenly decide to love each other – I do believe with my whole heart that each person who decides to choose love over hate makes this world a little bit of a better place. Let’s be part of what keeps this world remaining beautiful, not what makes it ugly.
In the words of the comedian Jim Jeffries: “Hate doesn’t beat hate… it just makes more hate. The only thing that beats hate, is love.”
Let’s choose love my friends.