I was born in 1963. I grew up in a world that lived with the horrors of the second world war still in vivid memory.
I heard sporadic stories from my dad about growing up in a large city, besieged. He told me how he had to walk from one end to the country to the other for food, in the horrible winter of 1944.
I heard about a family member sent to work in Germany and about neighbors of my grandparents hiding people in secret spaces in their house.
I heard about the soldiers standing on every corner of the street. I heard about living with fear every single day, and about worries to feed the children, and to keep your head down and not saying what you thought. Everyone who heard you could betray you, that is what my grandmother once said.
Every year in May we saw people on TV who talked about life during the second world war, as that was the time of memorizing the sacrifices made. Every 4th of May, to this day, we are silent for two minutes to honor the fallen.
I read books and old newspapers about the war, about the way propaganda worked and about that one man with a name still so hated just the mention of it made others weep.
I heard about the many dead. I saw the houses where some of the dead used to live, whole families torn from their neighborhoods.
I grew up believing that —as so many people had told me— we had all learned a lesson, we would never allow that sort of thing to happen again. The war left deep wounds, lasting wounds.
Now, most of the generation that lived through the war has passed away, and the technical revolution has progressed so far that we all have access to the internet.
And right now, the internet causes things that took years to simmer during the 1930’s to happen overnight. So much fake news is spread and so many people speak in war-like tones my family talked about fearing.
The collective memory has forgotten all about the second world war and how the world suffered. The collective memory is now locked in the same divisive patterns.
We however, also have the internet to unite. We have the internet to collectively gather at and make sure that the voice of peace is heard amidst all the divisive, hateful speech.
I for one can no longer stay silent. I have to speak up. If I don’t, I become one of the silent majority that wants to say no, but by its silence says yes to hate.
“But, I am only one person,” is the thought that screams through my mind as I re-read that last line. How can I help change the world?
My answer, right now, is to keep writing about peace, and to keep spreading loving kindness.
What is yours?