Is this what it felt like in 1933 when you saw that Germany was heading into fascism and there wasn’t a thing you could do about?
Someone reminded me of looking at the German history – a history that I’ve been avoiding thinking about ever since November 8 because it just engulfs me in hopelessness.
I remember reading heroic speeches given in the Reichstag by people who disappeared or were murdered shortly after. They tried to stop the country from going up in flames. They couldn’t. It was too late.
Growing up, my heroes included Sophie Scholl and Janusz Korczak. Both died for their value and their convictions. As a child, I thought this was admirable. Now I wonder if that is the best choice to take. They risked their lives for nothing.
And yet, the questions keep nagging at me: What are the right choices in the situation that we’re in? Should I fight like h*ll even though I know it’s probably too late? If I do that, who benefits from that? Will it just appease my guilty conscience because I was asleep up to now? Or will it give strength to those around me? Will it be like Viktor Frankl suggested: It’ll be what will keep us alive. Giving up means death. And, no, I don’t have the answers. It’s what I am wrestling with on and off these days.
And then someone else reminded me: We don’t know that it’s too late and we shouldn’t assume it is.
Janusz Korczak decided not to abandon the children of his orphanage not because he thought this would bring Hitler down. He chose to go with them into the gaschamber of Treblinka because he knew that his presence would give his children comfort in the last minutes of their lives.
Sophie Scholl simply passed out flyers because she knew that was the right thing to do, that people needed to know what was going on. She also knew that this wouldn’t bring Hitler down. She simply chose to do this because maybe one person would also start resisting or one person would be slightly less afraid.
Totalitarian regimes require our collaboration. They use fear to get us to collaborate because morality and common humanity are not on their side. The more of us refuse to collaborate – big and small – the less total the regime will be.
Plus, Trump isn’t president yet. There are still some things that could prevent his disaster. They are longshots but they still exist (most importantly, supporting the Hamilton Electors and demanding investigations into Trump’s conflicts of interest). We will not know until after we’ve taken action, maybe long after, whether an action was futile or not. The students who organized in Prague had no idea that their demonstrations would ultimately bring down the regime. They might’ve expected the crack downs of November 17 to continue. We never know what will happen until it actually happens. Maybe that’s even the biggest lesson of November 8! Polls are just that – predictions. Reality may turn out to be different.
So, it seems that I’ve found my voice again through all this. The voice that had disappeared when my last coupled relationship ended. I just didn’t have much to say anymore. I was hurt, deeply hurt, and wasn’t sure if any of what I was doing to heal myself had done any good. Maybe it hasn’t. And I can live with that.
I will no longer be silent! And I will not give up because I never know what action of mine will have the desired impact. And this impact might also be too small to notice, yet if enough of us refuse to collaborate, our small (and big) actions will add up. At minimum, we will preserve our own humanity and encourage each other.