Written by John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
I remember being young and thinking the world was one messed up place. Discrimination, pollution, poverty and war were just some of what formed my pessimistic worldview. I contemplated that humans deserved whatever they got for being such neglectful and damaging stewards of such an amazing planet.
I stood up and spoke out. I fought back when opportunities arose. I aspired to never compromise. My moral compass pointed true north.
I was the advocate and activist I thought the world needed.
Then I got older. What once was black and white became red and blue. Good and evil became politicized and skewed. Things were no longer just about a better world.
I became frustrated. I felt my effort didn’t yield tangible returns, and I lost my will to fight.
Instead of protesting and rebelling I watched mindless television and played countless hours of video games. I drank and self-medicated.
I hoped endlessly that one or all of these things would fix my feelings of lacking and disappointment in the world and myself as a member of the world’s community.
Despite these distractions’ success in taking my mind away from reality, none of it produced results in fixing the world’s many problems, so I gave up.
Work became my distraction. The time I spent at my jobs went from forty hours per week to fifty, and finally upwards of sixty. My time off became filled with rest and the occasional familial obligation. I had lost sight of the global picture, and I lost sight of the world I used to want to live in.
The manifestations of my younger self’s activism and outrage appeared pointless. I became bored, tired, and unfulfilled of the fights and causes that had previously given me a sense of purpose. My advocacy and intensity were exchanged for a deep lulling contentment.
The years passed by as they do, and last week I had an epiphany.
At the recommendation of my wife I read the graphic novel White Bird by R.J. Palacio. White Bird takes place before and during World War 2 in German occupied France. It’s the story of a young Jewish girl whose world is torn apart by the intolerances and injustices allowed to propagate in her time..
The book takes an intense look at the heroes, villains, and victims of the time. As the story concludes the author communicates similarities between what is happening in the United States today with what occurred in Europe during the Holocaust.
The author was right. Mexican families are being split up, imprisoned, and abused here within our own “free” country. Internment camps that used to “contain the Japanese threat” in the great war are being repurposed to terrorize again.
Depending on the day and the headline being read, Asians, Middle Easterners, Russians, blacks, gays, and the poor are being demonized by those who are in place to protect and serve them. I can no longer ignore that this still isn’t a proper world to turn over to my daughter and the next generation.
We still burn harmful fossil fuels and pollute our drinking water and the air we breath. We’re still manufacturing goods using dangerous processes and wasting far more than we need to. We’re still hateful and greedy and lack compassion for our fellow men and women, and our planet.
White Bird didn’t remind me that all this was still happening. I knew this all along. I had just buried it so deep within myself; underneath an impenetrable armor of complacency.
Thinking about things like the Holocaust and our nation’s inherent ability to be racist and ignorant reminds me how important it still is to fight back. When somebody is hurting someone else or taking advantage of them it can usually be seen. Right and wrong are easy to discern.
I have to speak up when I see injustices. I have to defend those who cannot defend themselves. I have to remove my head from the hole in the ground I successfully hid it in for so long. I have to teach my daughter to stand up for those who are being abused.
It may be painful, stressful, and costly to do the right thing, but it is what’s right. No one ever said it would be easy, but it’s what I’m going to do.