Do not be the one to sound the alarm.
Do not be the one to ask questions.
Do not be the one to say such words.
Do not be the one who risks everything for the sake of another.
And again in 1975...1994… 1995... 2004… 2016.
And again and again and again and again...
History is the storyteller that holds all truth, and yet when she speaks, much of mankind closes their ears. Is it that we are too afraid or too selfish? Is it that our own worlds are all too small or too large–– that we are too consumed with ourselves to notice the pain of others, that we are too overwhelmed with the madness of the world to even know where to begin. Perhaps we are both, all at once aware and unknowing.
To be evil is a challenge, to be kind is easy, but it takes nothing to be complacent.
We are growing up in a world where it is possible to see everything and feel nothing.
Where we can listen to words and hear no meaning.
Where we can understand without empathy, our minds full but our hearts hollow.
Where we can make a conscious choice to allow history to repeat itself if we tell ourselves it is not our responsibility to speak up, for to stand up is to stand out.
But there is an or.
If knowledge is power, then our potential as a generation to create change is limitless. It is not a matter of human nature or behavior, but of access–– for we literally hold within our hands the ability to forge a world conceived in accountability and responsibility. Compared to those who came before, we have unparalleled access to the words of others, our peers and global leaders alike. We are inundated with content of violence and injustice at home and abroad, of images and videos of mass atrocities in the making, and of posts from individuals of power that target someone for no reason other than the religion they practice or the color of their skin. We can choose to treat this as a virtual reality, to keep scrolling and scrolling until hateful words said in spite become national rhetoric, until isolated instances of intolerance become political agendas, until extremist minority parties with prejudiced platforms become the majority, until plans becomes actions, until what could never happen again happens before our eyes….
Crimes against humanity do not begin when the first drop of blood is shed, but when the first words of hatred are said and all that follows is silence. As a global community, we have only begun to become more comfortable talking about the world’s worst injustices––– words such as genocide, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing holding meaning beyond the professional realm. But we make one grave mistake: we discuss how they end, but rarely how they begin. I do not believe that we are naive, but that we are scared. Scared to venture beyond our comfort zones, scared to try to make a difference when we fear we can make no difference at all, scared to call out those who have made themselves out to be above us.
Words unspoken become lives unsaved.
Your voice is never powerless; if you cannot find words of your own, use your voice to condemn the words of others. Because while words are where wars begin, they can also be where they end. Without righteous individuals to speak for those who have been silenced, a humanitarian crisis can become a crisis of humanity. In the darkest of times, there have always been those who were willing either privately or publicly to use their voice as a force of resistance. This is for them and all they have taught me––– that we must never wait for the little things that make us turn our heads to manifest into something much graver. That our obligations to one another extend far beyond our race, religion, or ethnicities, but to our human core. That what we do not say can never be heard.
But most of all, that it may take nothing to be complacent, but it means absolutely everything to be kind.