Friday, April 10, 2015

What can we do against such hate?

Yesterday, I commented that everything seems to keep coming back to World War II, and last week I promised to come back to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis' exhibit on The Power of Children. The Children's Museum exhibit has been in place for at least 7 years, with one shutdown to reconfigure the exhibit.

We've gone through it several times when Dear Son (DS) was too young to register what it was about. The exhibit recommends it for children 8 and up, so Spring Break was the first time that DS visited for himself.

The exhibit profiles three children who faced intolerance and hate. Anne Frank, whose World War II diary has become part of the literary canon. Ruby Bridges, who desegregated New Orleans schools as a first-grader. And Ryan White, the Indiana youth who contracted AIDS through his hemophilia medication.


My parents are both from Indiana, and talked about it (the state) often. We may have only visited about once a year from Nebraska, but we paid attention to when Indiana was in the news. I still do.

My father watched NBC nightly news every evening, and most days I'd be right there with him. For 7th-9th grades, it was part of my standing homework assignments in Current Events and then World History. So I was aware of Ryan White's story from far away, and I mourned his death.

Then we moved back to Indiana ourselves, and often passed through Kokomo on the way to or from South Bend. That route always reminds me of two things: 1) the Beach Boys' song Kokomo, and 2) Ryan White.

I think encountering the exhibit after our move to Alabama in 2008, in the middle of the election campaign, added to my awareness. We happened to be at the United Church of Huntsville for a sermon responding to the controversy. It wasn't this pastor or this letter, but it had similarities.

As we've continued to live here in Huntsville, I have been privileged to hear from Dr. Sonny Hereford III, whose son integrated the Huntsville Public Schools, and to hear about how Huntsville's integration wasn't like other places. Here it was peaceful, I'm told. Not quite what Ruby Bridges faced.

And then, there is Anne Frank. As a German-American, I've written some of my thoughts. In the Huntsville Feminist Chorus, we have sung a version of this song, "Would You Harbor Me?". It asks a challenging question: who do we stand up for?

It reminds me of the Martin Niemoller quotation.

As a child, I heavily read many of the Star Trek novels. One in particular, Dreadnought!, had similarities in plot to the 2013 movie, Star Trek Into Darkness. But there were also differences. Diane Carey, in Dreadnought!, writes:
"Well... freedom isn't something people just give up one day. It trickles away, bit by bit, without anyone really noticing soon enough." (p. 129)
The writing is a "retrospective" of how the fictional World War III got started, but it's also a cautionary tale. What prevents a new dictatorship like Nazi Germany from arising?

Last night, I found a New Republican article, that discusses how Denmark's response to the Holocaust was different, resulting in a 99% survival rate:
It is a story that reinforces an old truth: solidarity and decency depend on a dense tissue of connection among people, on long-formed habits of the heart, on resilient cultures of common citizenship, and on leaders who marshal these virtues by their example. 
The Web of Connection matters.