My father always used to tell me that history repeats itself. He reminded me of this not to scare me, but to educate and prepare me. And also, to urge me to be a change agent in preventing the repeat of some of the atrocities committed in our world’s past.
I would listen to him, and nod. But as a kid, I just didn’t get it. I was naive and lived in a bubble. I didn’t realize just how much hate and “fear of the other” existed in our world, and how people would do just about anything to terrorize, incite fear into, and eradicate those they deemed “different” (and thus, somehow threatening to their sense of safety and security).
As I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize my dad was right. The bubble I lived in has most certainly popped. I was a senior in college when 9/11 occurred- something that even my wise dad couldn’t have predicted would happen. I was friends with several New Yorkers who were personally affected by the attacks, whose parents perished in those Towers on that awful day. After college I moved to New York City, and for the first time ever was surrounded, and invigorated, by tremendous diversity and culture. It was incredible. I felt like I was finally awake and alive, and it inspired my creativity. New York, with all its colorful and varying cultures, was my muse. “How could different ever be bad, or scary?” I would wonder to myself often. Different is what makes the world go round. It’s what makes life interesting and exciting. If we were all the exact same, what an incredibly boring, bland place this would be.
I myself am part of a minority group that has been targeted since the beginning of time, and, sadly, is currently experiencing an uptick in hate crimes. My dad grew up in the US in the 1930’s and 1940’s and experienced much of what we are dealing with today. He was constantly a target for bullies who accosted him due to his beliefs. I admire so much that he never hid his faith, and refused to back down. He made something big of himself–truly built something from nothing–and is a huge inspiration to me.
I call on his courage and determination and faith now. We are living in uncertain and scary times. I fear, not just for myself, but my family, friends, neighbors, those I don’t even know. I have always imagined a world where we “coexist” and learn from each other, and our many unique perspectives, beliefs, and values. Perhaps this makes me an idealist, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I will always wish this for our world. It feels far off now, but perhaps one day we will begin to move closer to this vision. I hope this for everyone – every single person – on the planet.
In the meantime I will continue to live my life, and try to infuse compassion, hope, positivity, love, and acceptance into the world wherever I can. I will try not to let fear override. I will channel my father, who, in the face of fear, carried on. So too shall I carry on.