Sunday, March 13, 2016

Against Silence

"Es gibt einen Zusammenhang zwischen dem Schweigen der vielen und den Brandsätzen der wenigen."
There is a connection between the silence of the many and the incendiary composition of the few.


Lots of thoughts going around in my head this past week.

My final presentation for German was on xenophobia and the rise of anti-refugee sentiment. Everyone is worried about the rise of Donald Trump and the normalization of what is essentially hate speech. A couple of relevant articles I've read recently: Authoritarian Populism is Rising Across the West, Violence in the American Dream.

For German, we also had to watch the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days [subtitles auf Englisch]. Scholl, along with her brother and several other students in and around Munich, formed an anti-Nazi resistance group known as the White Rose. They produced anti-war leaflets and distributed them around the University. Sophie and her brother Hans were arrested for distributing these leaflets, given a sham trial, and executed the very same day.

Normally I detest watching movies for class (it's a control freak thing), but this one (aside from being magnificent, cinematographically), was a much-needed sucker punch to the gut. Here I am, nineteen years old and enjoying all sorts of educational and class privileges while not even speaking out against the racism and sexism that do affect me--and there, kids in their early twenties, going bravely to their deaths in the face of actual evil.

At the trial, Sophie Scholl is reported to have said that in her belief, many others thought the way that she and her friends did--they were just too scared to say so. And it makes sense that they would be afraid. But what is my excuse? My life will not be put in danger if I am a little more vocal about what I do and do not think is morally reprehensible.

Saturday I went to the city and saw a performance by spoken word poet and activist Andrea Gibson. One of the poems they performed was "A Letter to White Queers, A Letter to Myself," (above) which they explained they had written after posting to social media expressing their outrage about Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and other black individuals who had been murdered without justice, and receiving in return violently racist comments from white queer people who had been long-time supporters of their work. They spoke about their responsibility, as someone who speaks for a living, to speak out against not only the violence suffered by people in their community, but also other communities.

(Can you tell that I love using they/them pronouns? It's great.)

All of this is to say--I need to do better. An approach of "learn and share what you learn" may work. I've proposed that for myself in the past, as a way to get myself to read the news more consistently, with limited success. But this is an election year and I can vote, and that makes the stakes higher.

If this blog doesn't show me researching and thinking through more political and social issues, then consider me as shirking my responsibilities as a citizen.

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