We are the ones

When I was young, we had a family friend who had grown up in Germany.  She told me a story once.  It was World War II, and she was a little girl.  She knew things were hard, but she wasn’t tremendously aware at the time of all that was happening.  One day, a little boy came to school with a small pamphlet or book that had pictures and information about what was happening in concentration camps.  She was shocked, and came home and told her mother about it.  Her mother immediately silenced her and told her never to think or talk about it ever again.

This poor mother did what she had to do to keep her daughter and family safe in an incredibly dangerous and dark time.  I can only imagine her fear and her terror living at such a time and place.

Later on in my life, I was in a high school history class.  By that time, I’d learned about World War II so many times that, though the stories still horrified me, I was no longer surprised by them.  I had one teacher, though, who loved a good shock.  And knowing her audience (a bunch of rowdy 17-year-olds), she often found the most “exciting” material she could.

One day she showed us a WWII video in class that had things in it I hadn’t seen or heard before.  It was so horrible that I became physically ill.  I asked her if I could go to the restroom.  I went out into the hallway and tried to clear my mind of what I had seen, but found I had trouble doing it.  I started to walk down the hall, trying to comprehend how any human being could do such things, when I ran into a friend of mine.

He asked me what was wrong, and we slowly walked up the stairs as I told him some of the things I had seen in the class.  I remember my voice shook a bit as I related the material that had so disturbed me.  When I stopped and looked up, I realized who I was talking to.  My friend was Jewish.

As we talked, I couldn’t shake the horrible feeling that had we lived just a few short decades earlier and in another place, those things could easily have happened to my friend.  Suddenly, what had happened to those people became so real to me that I couldn’t shake it.  I still haven’t.  I remember praying silently, right on that stairwell, that if anything like that ever happened again, I could do something to make it stop.

It was a fleeting, impetuous teenage prayer, because I knew that surely things like that would never happen again.  But the prayer was sincere.

I got older, but those two instances in my life always stayed with me.

I often wondered what I would have done, had I lived back then.  It is so easy to judge the past, and the players in it.  Too easy. We never know what people actually felt, what they went through.  All we can know for sure is ourselves, and what we will do.

I think of that mother, trying to keep her daughter safe.  I can completely understand why she told her what she did.  She did not have the luxury of safety.

But we do. 

There are wars everywhere.  But in my opinion, the very worst of them are being ignored and swept under a rug.  The war raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the deadliest since World War II.  It started not long after I stood in that stairwell in high school talking to my friend all those years ago.  Since then, over 5.4 million people have died.

That’s a September 11th every two and a half days

And the worst part of it is that those who have died are the lucky ones.  Those living in the Congo are living a life that is beyond our worst nightmares.  It isn’t the type of war we are used to…it isn’t two armies squaring off and taking their best shots at each other.  It is one side that has power, and they are terrorizing, raping, and torturing a helpless side.  World War II was unimaginable.  But this war is even worse.  So much worse.  I want to tell you why, but it is just so horrible, and today I want you to keep reading.

I guess today, I’m equivalent in some ways to the little kid at school with the forbidden pamphlet.  A lot of times, those who see it or hear about it wish they hadn’t.  It’s so much safer not to know.   It’s safer to sit back and wish someone would do something about it, and to just keep waiting for someone else to invade or take care of it somehow.

But safe from what?  We don’t have to be afraid, like they genuinely did, of Nazis kicking down our door and taking us away or shooting us in the street. 

I’ve been called a conspiracy theorist and a few nasty things since I began to tell people about this.  I have been the recipient of a lot of angry backlash.  Mostly, people are angry at the guilt they feel.

I understand.  That feeling comes from many different things…helplessness and guilt being very common.

But guess what?  We aren’t in Nazi Germany.  We are not helpless or powerless to do something.

There are SO many things you could do.  Today, just think about doing one?

Come help.  Come feel what it feels like to stand up and do something.  You won’t be the same.

Come to Yoga for Congo Women.  If you don’t live here, it doesn’t matter.  You can join us online.  What a world we live in…you can be somewhere you aren’t!  :)

YOU have the power to stand up and help!  It may be safer to never talk or think about something horrible.  But the power that comes when you actually try to help?  I can’t describe it.  You can do it. :)  “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea:

we are the ones we have been waiting for.

-excerpt from “Poem for South African Women” by June Jordan

5 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *