A memory from childhood.
Visiting the cemetery to put flowers on my grandfather's grave. It was a sunny day. We walked past the Garfield memorial and there were some special flower arrangements and displays. My mother looked, turned her head away. Almost seemed to shudder.
"What are all those things about?" I asked her.
I could tell she really didn't want to tell me.
And then, hesitating, she told me a very carefully worded story about Germany. And Hitler. And what happened to the Jewish people during the war.
I felt a chill of dread come over me. More than anything, the sight of my mother being afraid to tell me about something was the most terrifying of all. How horrible it must be if my mother shrank from naming it: Holocaust. For years I had nightmares about that day.
We walked past the displays, and the small groups of people who had come to show their respect. There was a placard that read, "Never again."
My mother said, "We can't ever let that happen again. The world didn't do enough."
I thought it could never happen again. Not in America. Americans stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We celebrated our diversity.
I was wrong.
Since the election hatred and intolerance have been seeping daily into the national conversation. The prejudice that my childhood self didn't believe existed in America is crawling out from under rocks. Attacking under cover of darkness. The memory of the dead is desecrated. Children in their schools are threatened.
The nameless dread of that childhood day has come back to me. It could happen again, it is happening, and there are those in power who would rather look the other way or keep silent. We can't let them.
We can't keep silent.
Persecuting people for their religion is wrong and it is not American. And it is not lawful. There is a reason we have those laws. And we, the people, must demand that the rights of our Jewish brothers and sisters are protected.
Childhood fears are made of nameless terrors and unknown dread. Now I am an adult. Now I know what happened and what could happen again. And my fear is the fear of staring something in the face and worrying that I will not do enough. That I will, somehow, be complicit.
That, too, is the stuff of nightmares.