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How far would you go for what you believe in?

Posted in Life & Love

It’s been a bizarre week. On Wednesday, I sat in a hushed room listening to an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor talk about her experience for 90 minutes straight: her move into the Lvov ghetto when she was five; hiding in a basement for two weeks; her father securing fake Aryan papers for her and her mother; the flight to the countryside, then to Sweden once the Soviets invaded; her eventual passage to the United States and all the harrowing details in between.

Then, on Saturday, curled on the sofa with the nose in a book, and an eye to the news, I saw footage of white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, march through the streets, chanting “we will not be replaced by Blacks and Jews”. A young woman died and dozens were injured. And our President couldn’t bring himself to speak out strong words of condemnation that explicitly mentioned white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It took him three days and a whole lot of criticism from all fronts. The perception is that he wouldn’t angered his base.

On the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer, Mr. Trump is described as such: “He didn’t attack us. Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

For the longest time we lived in this fantasy land that the old wounds of the Civil War were a thing for the history books. Instead, it had become so socially unacceptable to express hate and racism out loud that those who wouldn’t renounce their beliefs felt compelled to mask their faces when protesting in public.

The veil has now come off. The removal of a statue of a confederate general has brought to the fore the nostalgia for a genteel Southern way of life that included slavery. And this administration has made it perfectly acceptable to crow about the good old days when inequality was the law of the land.

I really really want to think it’s a passing aberration borne out of difficult economic circumstances. I grew up in the shadows of Fascism, in a country that had to reconcile the War years with the economic boom of the 60s. For the longest time, peace and democracy won. Now those who want to close off the borders and go back to the good old days are on the rise in Europe too. But I believe the European scars are still a bit too raw to leave too much of an opening to hate.

On this continent, we have been blindsided. What we thought was dead and buried and at least half conquered was just disguised. I believe in the strength of American democracy to withstand this assault but there is little room for complacency, even in my privileged corner of the country where we seem to live, more or less, all mingled in peace.

I have been thinking a lot, lately, about what it means to stand up for one’s beliefs. What extremes would I go to, what could I withstand in their name? What if I were about to find out?

All images from the Charlottesville protests

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21 Comments

  1. Charlottesville has proven yet again the complete unfitness for office by this president. I’m never been more ashamed to be a naturalized citizen.

    August 17, 2017
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  2. La situazione mondiale è davvero pesante, e difficile da interpretare anche a breve scadenza. Fin dove andrei non lo so, abbiamo perso la forza di lottare

    August 15, 2017
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      • Che dire … io ero attivissima negli anni ’70 e ho ben chiari i passi avanti fatti con le lotte di allora. Oggi vedo un individualismo, un appiattimento, un’incompetenza che non so dove arriverà

        August 16, 2017
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  3. It’s a sad state of affairs. Makes Australian politics not seem quite so bad.
    Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of strong opinions on a lot of things, but I don’t want to impose them on other people. But I suppose the line needs to be drawn somewhere…

    August 15, 2017
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    • Welcome to the world of the opinionated. Sometimes we don’t have much of a choice but express them.

      August 16, 2017
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  4. This makes my heart hurt so much. When as a child I learned about fascism it was as a thing of the past, a folly that had abducted mankind’s good sense for a little while but eventually the veil was lifted; everyone knew better now, and knowing History is to never repeat it – isn’t it?

    Unfortunately, we’re reverting to an age where aggression and hatred has come out again. How can such a large country elect such a horrible man as president? And how come he’s not being kicked out as soon as he refuses to condemn fascism? I hope I never have to find out what I’m willing to do in the name of what I think it’s right, because I fear the outcome might not be good for me. I also hope this stupid phase of our world history can become a thing of the past very soon, as I now feel we’re all living in a Mad World.

    August 15, 2017
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    • I am hoping there are forces at work that are plotting to unseat him, lawfully. There must be plenty of stuff that can be unearthed.

      August 16, 2017
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      • Here’s my worry: his cabinet will all stay. Pence will be President. How come when the head of the snake is cut off the body gets to stay?!

        August 18, 2017
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        • I am actually starting to worry he will resign and we will be stuck with Pence, who is more evil you can imagine.

          August 18, 2017
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          • Whether he resigns or is impeached, Pence is next in line. I honestly don’t know what is worse!

            August 21, 2017
  5. No, it’s not passing. This is America. This hatred is part of our DNA. Americans elect a racist, sexist, ignorant president whose father was arrested during a KKK march. Fred Trump, Sr. was not protesting against the KKK. Americans knew who Trump was. They heard the dog whistles and didn’t care.

    The fact that these racists felt so bold to not even wear hoods, speaks volumes.

    August 15, 2017
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    • Reading your comment filled me with sadness. For how you feel about your country and because, most likely, you are right.

      August 16, 2017
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  6. I hope I never have to find out. Very sad.

    August 15, 2017
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  7. silvia
    silvia

    I knew you’d write about that. How couldn’t you do it?
    There are many Americas in that continent of yours and you live in one of the golden corners.
    It’s all too sad. Nostalgia for dictatorship can be seen here too. Recently I read an article where they described this summer camp somewhere in Lazio where kids were taught about being a true Italian with symbols and chants coming straight from fascist legacy.
    How far could I go to stand for what I deeply believe in? Hope I’ll never find out

    August 15, 2017
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    • You are the second person saying you hope never to find out. We might not have that luxury anymore.

      August 16, 2017
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  8. winstonmoreton
    winstonmoreton

    The best way to deal with him is to mimic him. Only then will people see the reality

    August 14, 2017
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    • sofagirl
      sofagirl

      Is that not what’s happening already?

      August 15, 2017
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