Archive - February 2016

20.02 20160

Up standers

Recently, I accompanied my son’s 8th grade class on a field trip to a local Holocaust Museum. The museum is small and focused, and its primary emphasis is to educate people about the dangers of propaganda and the complacency of bystanders.   How could an entire society become complacent in the torture and murder of millions of human beings? Hitler’s power evolved from people’s desire to protect their own interests and unwillingness to oppose him. Hitler was elected, and then used propaganda to gain popularity and ultimately absolute power. Power that grabs selfishly without benefit to humanity leads to atrocities. No amount of money makes a society run by tyranny and greed worth living in. To maintain freedom, we must defend it… not only against enemies foreign to us, but also from the enemy within.  These are all very noble thoughts you say to yourself, but how many people have the opportunity to stand-up against tyranny in their daily lives? Everyone does. The oppression of groups of people-- whether at work, at home or society at large-- does not happen by large acts, but by an eroding away of “just” behavior. The eradication of oppression and the empowerment of positive change also happen in small ways on a daily basis. It is the ripple effect of casting a small stone into a large body of water. The stone impacts its immediate surroundings, but the environment impacted moves outward. The museum has a memorial area, where visitors are allowed to place a small stone on the monument in honor of the victims of the Holocaust. In Jewish tradition, a stone is placed on a grave rather than flowers. Whereas flowers fade away quickly, the stone is enduring protection to the person. Flowery words and actions carry little meaning; place a stone in protection of those around you by standing up for what is right instead of standing by watching oppression destroy lives. There is a tremendous value in small local actions that billow out to have large global impacts. We all are responsible for creating the environments in which we live. Individuals in a group of people will either promote empowerment or tolerate oppression. At the end of our tour of the museum, a 92 year-old Holocaust survivor, Mr. Jack Repp, spoke to our group about his transformation from a bright, fifteen year-old school-boy into a tyrant’s slave for 6 formidable years of his life. The survivor endured many abuses, but his final comments were that Hitler did not win; he did not defeat him because he still had his mind. Our minds and our thoughts put forth into positive, purposeful actions are what can defeat oppression, both abroad and within our own society. On a daily basis as we interact with those around us, we make decisions to conform to base standards or to try to rise above them. We create home and work environments that are inclusive and productive or are riddled with tyranny and distress. Become an up stander for just behavior for humanity in your daily life. Use the power of your mind and intellect to elevate the situation of yourself and those around you by promoting the collective good in all that you do. Move forward in your life knowing that it is a daily choice to be “up standing” or “by standing.”

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