Life is an empty canvas, and your soul is an artist’s tool.
I just got back from a short vacation with my husband and two kids. I was excited to go spend some time away from home with my loving family, but had an ache in my heart the whole time. An ache for the babies and children who were forcefully taken from their mother’s arms at the border of my beloved country. My country that used to accept the tired, poor and huddled masses who longed for a better life.
My paternal great grandmother came over from Poland, my maternal great grandmother came from Germany. My husband’s roots stem from Scotland and Italy. We are all children of immigrants and/or slaves. We are all the descendants of those searching for a better life for their children. Our ancestors fought hard, worked hard and never gave up trying to provide for their families.
Some had to walk a much harder road through slavery, famine, prejudice and civil rights struggles. But all of them deserved to be treated equally. I had hoped that after the Obama Presidency, in the year 2018 that all people would be.
But I was wrong.
While I was lounging out in the water park, I spotted a man with lots of tattoos. I didn’t think much of it because I think tattoos are cool, but then my husband told me what the tattoos said. The man had a Nazi cross, and the words Nazi and White Power on his back and upper arms.
I was shocked when he told me because of the family setting we were in. I was also shocked because his wife also had a Nazi cross tattoo which poked out of her bathing suit upon which her cute baby lay. They had two other beautiful blond haired, blue eyed children who were running around in the sprinklers having a blast.
Two blond, blue eyed children just like mine, except for the being raised by Nazis part. If they were wearing shirts I would have never known they were White Nationalists. It sickened and saddened me that they were there so close to us, and that they would probably raise their adorable children to despise people who do not look like them. For no particular reason as Forrest Gump says.
I could not move my chair because it was the only one I could find on the crowded, hot day and I felt like I was going to pass out. So I sat there watching my kids run through the sprinklers, trying to get the media images of the Holocaust and Charlottesville out of my head. I was also thinking of the Nazi symbols vandals sprayed in my town last year, and of the Nazi flyers that had been passed out in a neighboring town recently. I thought how appalling it was that so many repugnant symbols were appearing lately, and that such groups were coming out of the shadows more now- emboldened by the Trump Presidency.
I closed my eyes for a moment and the quiet was interrupted by a young African American couple with two pretty young girls. I held my breath as they sat down right behind the white supremacists. I felt uncomfortable and worried that trouble may arise, and not the good kind that John Lewis often speaks of. I hoped and prayed that the young black couple would not see the words of hate that appeared right before them. I hoped and prayed that their innocent daughters eyes would also be spared.
I watched them get up and walk through the sprinklers, as the white supremacist muttered words under his tongue and looked at them with disgust. I wondered why he held such contempt for people he never met. I wondered what awful things may have happened to him to make him want to shut down his heart to those not like him. I thought of how unfortunate that was and how much of the world he and his family was missing.
I looked up at all of the children of many different ethnicities smiling and laughing as they cooled off under the water jets. The children that are not born hating other races/people unless they are taught to. It was a beautiful sight to see, and for a moment I forgot I was sitting among Nazis.
I held my breath once again as both couples sat down. I thought of the tiki torches in Charlottesville, and how violence often erupts around white supremacists. I was glad my children were not there at the moment. Thankfully no words were spoken, no conflict occurred.
The light of the sun was very illuminating as I watched the young African American family walk away. They have every right to enjoy a Sunday in the park without seeing racist symbols. Just as the migrant families approaching our borders have a right to seek asylum from the violence and oppression that they are running from, without being caged and called horrible names.
The United States has come a long way from its dark past. We are evolving, but still have a long way to go. If we can only come together and realize that we have much more in common then we think. We are all created equal, we need to start acting like it. We should all help each other on this difficult road, instead of making other’s lives harder. We should teach these lessons to our children. There is enough bad trouble in the world, no need to make more.
I will try my best to raise my children to be kind, compassionate, open-minded and charitable. I will hand them a blank paper or canvas, and tell them to paint something glorious.
And hopefully in the future, when they take their kids to the park on a Sunday, all of the hateful symbols and rhetoric will be washed away.
There will just be people of all sizes, shapes, and colors enjoying a post-racist America, where the possibilities are endless, and the love rises from sea to shining sea.