52 Ancestors – #42 – Conflict – What Has Happened to the UNITED States?

Once again, I am skipping around the weekly prompts for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge to respond to the Week 42 topic – Conflict. It’s not exactly typical genealogy, but consistent with my goal of documenting my generation’s story.
I was searching for a way to connect to this topic when one sadly presented itself. On October 27, 2018, 11 people lost their lives simply because they were Jewish.  I am not a political person. I rarely post anything on FB other than genealogy, family life, or food. I generally steer clear of anything incendiary or demeaning. But, I am Jewish. I feel the need to at least express my concern for this country and the world in general.  My grandfather survived two years in a concentration camp before emigrating to the United States to join his family. Their lives were never the same. (Yet, I always feel the need to apologize for the fact they survived.) This past summer, I, together with my husband, my sister, and her partner, visited the site of Hitler’s parade grounds. It was easy to imagine the crowd listening, desperate for better lives for their families.
When I was teaching full-time, I created a unit on Mob Mentality. It was the early 2000s. Many of my students were (or wanted to be) gang-involved.   Almost all struggled with a variety of issues that resulted in poor decision-making. The majority were “followers” or otherwise disenfranchised, searching desperately for a group and a feeling of belonging.
 9/11 was a fresh wound at that time. Understandably, there was a lot of confusion and fear. The “us” against “them” mentality was becoming noticeable. I decided to take my class on a “journey”- exploring why good people can sometimes do really bad stuff. (Something almost all of them had experienced, either as the victim or the victimizer.)
We read about the Salem witch trials.

We read. “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, one of the only stories to have stuck with me from my high school years, almost 50 years ago. In the story, the residents of a small town observed an honored tradition.  Every year, all the townspeople would gather in the square for the annual lottery. The winner’s
prize? Getting stoned to death by your neighbors and loved ones. 

We read “The Wave”, by Todd Strasser. This book, based on a real event, tells the story of a teacher who attempted to help his students understand why so many people stood by, silently, while the Nazis murdered millions of people, just because those folks didn’t meet a certain standard. The teacher created a scenario within his classroom that quickly spread throughout the school, creating a culture of “us” and “them.” (The book was made into an ABC After-school special in 1981)

I have no idea if my lessons had any impact but it was important to me to share the repercussions of intolerance and mob mentality with these teens who faced an uncertain future. 
When people become concerned about meeting their basic needs – food, shelter, safety – they can become desperate for a solution.  I get that. 

But this feels different. The divide is growing. I was taught this is the UNITED States. E Pluribus Unum. The melting pot. 

Tomorrow is Election Day. Perhaps the tide will turn.  For my grandchildren’s sake, I hope so. 

NOTE: This post is NOT meant as a political statement, nor in support of a specific person or party. It is simply my hope that we can all become more tolerant, understanding, and accepting. 

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