Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Other N Word

A few months ago, my son and his friends took his nerf guns to the playground. A bullish group of kids rounded them up, took the nerf guns and started calling them Nazis. My son came upstairs quite bothered about the incident - and rightfully so. But he also did not completely understand why those children were behaving the way they did, and why they were calling them Nazis. He did not even know what a Nazi was at the time.

"Mom, what is a Nasi?" he asked. The term was so new he didn't understand how to pronounce it correctly.

A Nazi. The other N word. After the first N word, I think this one is also pretty bad. It should be pretty straight forward, but yet I find it complex. Wars always are, but this should be one of the easiest political terms to break down for a curious soon-to-be-fourth-grader.

Not only could he be proud that his great grandfather was in the US Air Force at that time, but he could be sure the Nazis were very bad people. They believed they were better than everyone else, hated Jews - and probably others - and killed many people. The countries known as the Allies came together to defeat them.

Our high level discussion was enough for him at the time, as the bigger, rougher kids on the playground were more a more pressing issue in his world. And frankly, those other kids probably didn't really understand what it meant either. They knew that Nazis were bad. They wanted an excuse to use some cool nerf guns, and to to play out that my son and his friends were the bad guys was their way to do it.

Fast forward to a few months later. Now we see people proudly calling themselves Nazis. Only they are not misunderstanding a word on the playground. They are running around in my country, the one that my son is a citizen of, and most identifies with in his third-cultureness using the word properly in its full context. Nazi. Wearing swastikas and demanding that everyone but them be a lesser citizen. It is shocking and horrifying.

I do not know how to tell my son about this, or why this is happening. How do I explain it to a 9 year old? I can't even get my head around it. I had to check the calendar to make sure I did not time travel.

Fast forward again to Friday morning Facebook scan. One of my black friends I have known since childhood posted on his wall that if you are white and do not stand with him in the fight against racism, you could unfriend him.

I have had this a lot on my mind lately.. and not just since Charleston, but since, gosh, forever - whenever I see a social injustice.

Most of my African American friends are pretty quiet. I am sure they are speaking out in other ways. And I don't think everyone has to overshare their opinions on Facebook either, unless they want to. What is happening right now is pretty unbelievable and outrageous, and I am surprised that more people are not speaking out.

I am a firm believer that complacency is just as bad. And I see so much of it. I keep thinking of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, that said "The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference".

This is what I feel I am observing. No one wants to get involved. No one wants to say anything. "It is happening over there." "Those people are crazy". "Not my circus".

And to some level I get it. Who wants to get engaged in some social media battle about who is right and who is wrong because everyone seems to listen with their political ego rather than listen with their hearts. When there are a million "ya buts" and "but Obama" and "but emails" and "both sides" responses that have nothing to do with the actions of what is happening right now, I get it. But right now, for me, not saying something looks like indifference and that I do not care.

So why the long post then? Because I will say this one time, and I felt it needed some background. This is why I don't do well on Twitter because expressing something so complex should be done in more than 140 characters.

I feel pretty helpless. What can I possibly do from abroad other than write "my" politicians and continue to vote. There is no Facebook post profound enough to express anything that would not have already been said.

But be sure my dear friend, I would absolutely stand up to a crazed racist in any second. I am with you and I stand beside you. I have no idea what it is like to walk in your shoes and what you are feeling as you watch this unfold is probably so much heavier than what I am feeling.

Although I feel pretty helpless, I have decided there is one more thing I can do. The best thing I think I can do is to continue to raise my blond-headed blue eyed child to know what is right and what is wrong. Continue to send him to a school that values kindness and respects everyone there. Continue to teach him to respect all religions. Continue to expose him to the injustices of the world so that when he is older he will be part of the solution instead of a part of the problem, or not indifferent to it.

While his father is from a predominantly Muslim country, he will never really "pay" that price as many Muslims do in the US due to his physical appearance. He is proud of his heritage, but no one ever stops him in an airport because of his skin color or father's origins. Instead, as a Type 1 Diabetic, he gets stopped for juice boxes and wearing a "suspicious" insulin pump that they think is a bomb. I don't share this with you for sympathy, or even empathy. I share this with you so you know the depths that the absurdity runs.

This is no where near the outrage that you have had to endure my friend.

I am not optimistic that all of my countrymen and women are raising their children with open hearts and open minds. This worries me - for my son's future and yours.

However, be sure that I will continue to do my best to counteract the violence and hate that comes from those using the other N word.