I was at the start of my adolescence when 9/11 happened. A moment in time when our generation was changed forever with the message that nothing is sacred.
I got engaged the year Beirut was bombed and Paris was set afire with bullets in the street. I was hopeful before the storm of war crossed every ocean and had children drowning in the water with dirt from their homeland still stuck to their feet. I was hopeful before I watched the land of my ancestors dominated by aggressors still standing at the doorsteps, there to terrorize people of color at the steps of their education. What is learning if it is not for everyone? What is this land if it is not ours? I found myself not knowing what to do when the doors were locked on those who needed cover. I found myself not knowing what good I could do in a world that was begging for just that, each of us to do the good we can do.
I grew up with Holocaust stories, promises of “never again” like an image of what not to do if it ever came down to it again. It is history, but more accurately it is alive and running through the blood of people still walking this earth. Survivors, and their children. My heart broke as that promise of “never again” was broken over and over as neighbors locked their doors on people because of where they come from, or what name they call their god… What are we if we are not one? If we are not one, we are all lost.
The Gay flag wasn’t always rainbows; it was once the Vietnam flag, during the war, to show solidarity with an oppressed people. How quickly we forget the fight against any oppression is the fight against all oppression and that there is safety in numbers. There is a connection to everything.
Open your door to your neighbor; open your heart to someone different than you. Do not dare think your life is more valuable than your neighbors, or that in the end, the same fate will not become you. The label you have given the stranger just magnifies this consumer society. What is the cost of a people? It is everything. I am not willing to give up everything with the false notion of saving myself from the same beast. Introduce yourself, they will no longer be a stranger to you, and you will see this is the life we are all just trying to live. Do not break the promise we made out of a tragic history.
I made a promise to myself to grow up to be the person I always hoped to have in my life . . . I am always growing, but what is a garden if there is no one left to smell the flowers?
Photo: Getty Images