From the time I was a little girl, my mother told me that I talked too much to all the wrong people about all the wrong things. From the moment I became politically active, my father told me to be careful not to get on any lists (he was graylisted during the McCarthy era) that could "come back to bite me" later on. My parents often made me afraid to speak truth.
My new book, which I am just finishing up now and will be out in February, is -- as much as anything -- my attempt to reconnect with my true voice and be as honest as I can be for the first time in many decades. Writing it has been a knock down drag out fight between my parents' reverberating words of warning and my heart and soul finally wanting to be seen.
But now the Universe has forced my hand. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of the hatred that has not just been allowed but invited by the purported leaders of our country. When we are silent -- about the past or the present -- we are giving in to fear. When we give into fear, fear wins. Not permanently, but enough to inflict grievous damage on our world.
I knew this when I was younger. When I lived in Germany as a teenager, most of the adults never wanted to talk about what happened during World War II. But my generation did. On the 40th anniversary of Kristallnacht -- the 1939 night of broken glass on which the Nazis burned and looted Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses, killed over a hundred Jews, and sent thousands more to concentration camps -- I attended a remembrance ceremony at a Lutheran church. A classmate's father was the pastor there, and my classmate urged us all to come and to bring any adults with us who would attend. There were far more young people than adults in attendance. All of the young people there talked about the danger of silence. To pretend something isn't happening or never happened is what allows it to keep happening, to happen again. The sixteen-year-old me saw this so clearly that night.
A few years later, when I was in college, I discovered the writing of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich on silence, silencing, and being silenced. Audre Lorde, a black lesbian poet whose mother took pride in passing as white (silencing her own blackness,in effect), speaks so eloquently about what happens when we silence ourselves.
Lorde asks us: "What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?" She goes on to say, "In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear — fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live… And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength."
When I lived in Germany, I learned that the willingness not just of German citizens, but of the rest of the world, to look the other way and permit the atrocities of the Holocaust, was as complicit in the murder of six million Jews, and six million more Gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents and others, as the Nazi regime. When I was in college, I learned that for women and people of color not to speak true -- no matter how terrifying it is -- gives permission for a minority of haters to impose the "truth" of their hatred on everyone else that is unlike them. Today, Germany leads the Western world in a more holistic global vision in large part because the younger generation would not be silent about Germany's heinous past. Today women and people of color lead the resistance to "leaders" that believe it is not just okay to hate, but that it is an "equal right".
I didn't want to write this post. I wanted to be quiet. I wanted to write about the joy of flowers and music and food and the baseball game I went to last night. But I can't. I can't pretend that what is happening in our country is okay. It is not. It is never okay to hate. Never. Never. Never.
This isn't an issue of equal rights or freedom of speech. To hate another person and to demand their eradication and take actions to accomplish that is never ever okay. The alt-right that has been invited to the table by our country's leadership is a movement based on fear. Although I still fundamentally believe that Love always wins, if we do not stand up to fear and fundamentally disallow it to dictate our actions and our beliefs, then we are not choosing Love.
Seventy years ago, in 1947, my father recorded this PSA about the dangers of racism and religious prejudice:
Listening to it now, I wonder how it is possible we have learned so little in seventy years. Listening to it now, I feel such gratitude to have had a father who stood up to injustice and prejudice. Who stood up to it for me, when I needed him. I wonder what it would feel like to be Ivanka Trump, a woman who converted to Judaism, who worships as an Orthodox Jew and whose husband and children are Jewish, to have a father who condones a group who marched through Charlottesville spewing hatred toward Jews -- which means her, too. I wonder what it will take for those of us who are comfortable and afraid and historically silent to realize that silence = hatred, silence = fear, silence = death.
Elie Wiesel survived the Holocaust and used the rest of his life to remind us of this. He wrote that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.
I cannot remain indifferent to the escalating language of hate that is being given an "equal right" to speak. But who I am now is so different from who I was when I was younger. The I am right and they are wrong mentality no longer feels true. So what is the answer? The answer is not in a different iteration of us and them: The moral relativism that everyone is nattering on about. The answer is in what is real and what is not. And only Love is real. I am not choosing sides against someone when I speak out against hatred. I am choosing the side of Love.
I can unequivocally say that I believe that the rhetoric and actions of anyone guided by hate and fear will not take us -- individually or as a nation -- where we want to go. Only Love heals. Only Love loves. Only Love sees us as we were created -- in the image and likeness of Love. To hate the haters is not the answer. But to be silent is not the answer either. The only answer is to speak the truth. And there is only one truth. That truth is Love.
The Dalai Lama has said: "All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives."
Desmond Tutu avers: "My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together."
Gandhi knew: "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."
Baha'u'llah believed: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
Khalil Gibran wrote: "I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit."
St Francis of Assisi prayed, "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love."
Tariq Ramadan teaches: “I have learned that one should say "Peace!" to those who shout their hatred for one's being and presence or at one's passage.”
Lao Tzu stated: "Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained."
And Jesus preached: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . Love your neighbor as yourself'."
To speak out against hate IS to love our neighbors as ourselves. To see even the haters through the eyes of Love, all the while denouncing the hate they espouse, is also to choose Love. Because to speak true is to speak love. Love is the only truth there is -- and we have to keep modeling it, and speaking it, even when we are afraid.
But will it ever be enough? I believe it will.
Adrienne Rich wrote:
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
Those of us who who feel terrified and angry by what our leadership is condoning in our country and the world yet who feel that we have no power to change and that those who have power can use it against us -- we have to cast our lot with one another and show up to every minute of every day of every week of every year with only one directive. To stand up for and speak and express the healing power of Love in everything we do. In every interaction with everyone we meet -- show up in, as, of, through Love. Because the only answer to fear and hate is to shout Love from the rooftops and the streets and into every dark corner and crevice of our lives. Because this IS true: Eventually and always, Love wins.
Gandhi reminds us: "It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e. hate, ruled us we should have become extinct long ago. And yet, the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence."
Let us reassure ourselves with the Law of Love and vow to speak the truth to all forms of hate in Love. This is the LAW: Love Always Wins.