Today’s blog post is a little different than most. I want to cover both a personal and public aspect that relates to this topic. I’ll start with the personal.
Last Saturday, I moved back up to Muncie to start my second year of college. In fact, I moved into the exact same room. However, I have a different roommate this year. Some of my stuff is different too, but for the most part, my side of the room looks the same. But with my new roommate’s stuff, the room itself feels totally different.
I was thinking about this as I walked across campus the other day. While campus itself doesn’t look too much different, the people there make it so. There are a whole bunch of new students, and ones that aren’t here anymore. It’s just the same as I remember it, but I’m probably not the same as it remembers me. My hair is different, my body is different, my confidence is different, and my personality is different. I have red highlights, I’m healthier than I was, I know my way around campus better, and I’m no longer a freshman. In fact, I watched all the freshmen going to convocation on Sunday, and I was “disgusted” with how many freshmen there were (I wasn’t actually disgusted. Just they were all walking the same place and I really just wanted to get back to my dorm so that people didn’t think I was one too). I’m stronger than I was last year (physically and mentally). The truth is: I’ve changed. I still look the same for the most part, but I’m not the same person I used to be. And you know what? I’m happy with who I am and the changes I’m making.
I mentioned my room feeling different, but it’s not just my room. My roommate is so different too. I have nothing against either roommate I’ve had, they’re just two different people and I am trying to learn to adjust to it because it is a change. Where my first roommate was loud and hardly in the room, my new roommate is a little quieter and in the room more like me. What one roommate was nitpicky over, the other couldn’t care less. They are just entirely different people.
Obviously, my classes are different. But in a sense, they’re the same too. Most of my classes are in my major. I know at least one person in every class. I’ve had similar classes in my major. Even still, my Honors class is the third in a sequence and I am friends with most of the people in there. Different class, same people.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been looking/applied for a job on campus this year. I will find out by the end of this week whether I get it or not (I will keep you updated. Look for it in next week’s blog), so that’s obviously different. I’m also Vice President of History Club. While VPs have a record of not doing much as a job, it is still a different responsibility.
I mentioned that I wanted to talk about something public, and here it is. I’m sure you’re aware of what happened in Charlottesville a little over a week ago. I don’t like to get political, so bear with me please. Since that happened, I was thinking I wanted to say something about it but wasn’t sure how. I knew that with both sides screaming at each other, just my voice would get lost in the crowd. Therefore, I want to take a different approach: a historical approach.
See, when this country was founded, the first Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” Now for those of you that don’t speak 1780s jargon, allow me to translate: “The government is not allowed to deny or accept any religion or any religious practices. The government also cannot make any laws that stop you from speaking your mind…” Now while this country was founded to be MAINLY Christian (or a form of it), there was nothing legally stopping people from worshipping anything they so chose. Prejudice and peer pressure were a whole different story, however. You had to be “Christian” to be accepted in the community, and honestly that drove people to see religion as a routine, habit, or custom rather than a personal conviction. (Now I proclaim to be Christian, but I make it a point not to discuss my beliefs on my blog because I know that not everyone believes the same as me and I want to respect that. I am happy to talk with you in private though. However, publicly is not the best option, simply that if things were to get heated [not that it would, just being cautious], it needs to remain between you and me. Everyone does not need to see that.) Honestly, this still persists some to this day. Christians get a bad reputation because there are people who see it as a habit, or they use “Christianity” to think they are better than others. We are all equal people. However, the quote “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch” rings so true. There are people (such as the Westboro Baptist Church, for instance) that feel the need to use their “religion” to do more harm than good, giving good Christians a bad name just because of association. But ISIS does the same thing. Not all Muslims are terrorists. A classmate even first made this juxtaposition, and it really stuck with me. It’s not that I assumed that all Muslims were terrorists, I had just never made a connection like that before.
So why did I bring up all this stuff about religion and the Constitution? Well, legally, both of the protesting groups in Charlottesville were well within their rights for the most part, at least while it was briefly peaceable. I hope, though, that you’re still with me after that last sentence, because I’m not done. Once the white supremacists and counterprotestors met and started throwing punches and other sorts of attacks, that’s when it became illegal. While both groups were legally entitled to their beliefs, it might be a different story ethically. It is not my place to condemn or praise either side. That makes me no better. I’m not trying to be better, I’m trying to be different.
The background to this violence was that city officials were trying to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee because he was a Confederate general. The white supremacists did not agree with this and were marching to the park where the statue was to do a rally.
Before I continue, I need to say something. I’m a Civil War buff. I know a lot about it, but I’m still learning. Anyways, BEFORE the Civil War, Robert E. Lee fought for the United States in the Mexican-American War. He actually served with Ulysses S. Grant, his opposing general for the majority of the Civil War. Also, when Virginia seceded, Lee was heartbroken. He wanted this country to stay together, but his loyalty was to his home state. That was why he decided to answer the call to fight. He was always for the reconciliation of the country. That was what he wanted.
Now, I’m not saying he was perfect. I’m sure he made mistakes like the rest of us. But the Civil War aside, he was a distinguished man and fighter. In fact, in his antebellum days, he served as the Superintendent of The United States Military Academy at West Point. West Point, first of all, is in New York (a Northern state); and secondly, they named a barracks after him.
It is not my place to decide whether the city was right or not in deciding to tear down that statue. All I’m saying is that he was a great general and respected in all parts of the country. He did a lot more than fight the losing side of a war. (For more on Robert E. Lee, here is his Wikipedia article. I use Wikipedia when looking up historical things because it is a little more obscure to mess them up.)
However, those carrying Nazi or even Confederate flags in this protest are an entirely different story. First of all, the Confederacy no longer exists. You don’t see people carrying the Yugoslavian flag anymore. They carry the flags of each individual country that now exists instead. Why? Because Yugoslavia is no longer one country. Now that area is eight countries. So why do Americans think we are so special? What gives us the right to display and sell a flag for something that no longer exists. That’s like Britain selling a European Union flag. There’s no point since they are no longer affiliated with that.
It’s the exact same thing with the Nazi flag, but even bigger. Let me give you some World War II history to get my point across. Even before Hitler came to power, there was a racial hierarchy being set up with those looking like Nordics at the top. This was the Aryan race. They were the “master race” and everyone that didn’t fall into the category of being “characterised physically by fair colour of hair and skin and eyes, by tall stature and dolichocephaly (i.e. long shape of head), and mentally by great independence of character, individual initiative and tenacity of will.” Source With that description, I don’t belong. Fair color of hair: no. My hair is dark brown. Fair skin: yeah… Fair eyes: probably not. I think my eyes are fair but not in the same way. Tall stature: hahahahah! No. Not at all. Dolichocephaly: not really. I have an ovalish face. The last three I have but that wouldn’t matter.
Anyway, once Hitler came into power, he continued to use this system. It didn’t start out as prison camps where they murdered hundreds of thousands of people. At first, it was just for people who opposed Nazi Germany. These eventually became “holding cells” for people who were “unclean”: Jews, criminals, homosexuals, and Gypsies. In a sense, Hitler was trying to “purge” his country. It was a form of survival of the fittest, but Hitler and those in charge in the regime were the ones who determined the fittest. These concentration camps were even made public. They were to hold political opponents (such as Communists or other parties) and the people were assured this was for their own good. The extermination camps came later as a result of a plan called Action T4, where doctors would diagnose patients, specifically elderly or disabled. If there was “no” cure for these patients, the doctor would administer a mercy death instead of trying to cure anyone who might be cured. After the success in hospitals, Hitler decided to implement this in camps. The extermination camps, which are more famous, are the product of this experiment. In the same way, anyone not in the Aryan race became “unclean” for the progress of the country.
I don’t think I need to bring up the stats of the Holocaust to make you see that Nazism is BAD. It sounded appealing in theory to Germany. They needed a change, and that was the way Hitler sought to implement that. But things like that have no place here in America. In fact, we fought that very idea 72+ years ago. So why on Earth would anyone want to bring that back? That is an incredibly dark mark on Germany’s history. We don’t need that here on ours.
In a perfect world, tolerance would abound and everyone would get along. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in one where people carry flags that cause pain to each other and where the color of your skin can get you killed. I don’t want to take sides, because I don’t think anyone handled the situation well. But I will say this: the Nazi flag should NEVER be on American soil. We took in countless refugees who were fleeing that very flag. We fought against those that carried that flag. We helped to liberate those that opposed that flag. Once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, we declared war on the Japanese. Do you know what happened next? Germany declared war on us because they were allied to Japan.
It’s ironic to me that we never see anyone carrying a Soviet Union flag or even a North Korean flag. Why? Because those were/are threats to these United States. So why is it okay to wield a Nazi flag? The simple answer is that it should never be okay.
These white supremacists that were marching in this protest are supporting a losing cause yet again. It’s a different group of people in a different country, but the ideals are the same. And honestly, in accordance with my theme of this post, the outcome isn’t going to change. These protestors, whatever they stand for, do not speak for me. I love every person equally and do my best to be respectful to everyone. I know with the media focusing in on this event, it makes it sound like a lot of people. But there are just as many, even more who do not stand with these white supremacists. Those of us against these ideals are found throughout the globe. Whereas the first time we fought the Nazi flag and the ideals behind it was a physical confrontation, this one is not that way. It is up to each and every person to make sure that hate and prejudice like that has no place. I don’t care where you’re from. I don’t care about your background. What I care about is that you treat ALL people with respect. Police, those of color, those in government, those you don’t agree with, and everyone else. America has stayed in this same rut of racial prejudice for way too long. It’s time we stopped being the same and started making a change. I want to end with this quote from Mother Teresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” This is my stone. Go cast your own. Hatred, especially hatred for people, has no place in my life. What about you? What about your life?