I wrote my first term paper in the 8th grade. It was on the Holocaust. I rewrote it again in 10th grade and one more time in college, partly because it was easier to build a paper on earlier work and partly because the Holocaust fascinated and horrified me and birthed an intense desire to work out why it happened, how it was possible that people could allow it, and how we might ensure it never happened again.
It was the first time I heard the clarion call of Good versus Evil, and it was the first time I suspected there may come a time in my own life when I would have to choose between championing the outcasts or protecting myself.
Eighth grade is an odd time of self-discovery and trying on new selves to find one that might fit. Rapid growth, of course, ensures nothing, not even our favorite clothes or selves, fit well for long. They get ripped and torn, threadbare, or suddenly too small to contain us anymore, and so we let most clothes and shoes and selves go, picking only a few bits to remain with us always.
In 8th grade, I was kind, and fierce, and funny, and creative, and a liar, and in love with Certain Boys after my friends and I had divided them amongst ourselves, careful to allot crushes the same way we divided treats, as equitably as possible. My hair was permed and feathered, my teeth were askew, my legs were perpetually covered in bug bites and scabs from scratching, and I longed to be pretty more than Just About Anything. Studying the Holocaust didn’t change that, but it added a depth, perhaps; a dimension I didn’t previously understand with only 13 years under my belt.
I waited during my teen years for the Crisis of Our Age to come. It would be war, I thought. Or the persecution of Christians, which the Church promised me was inevitable. I watched, and I waited.
I thought it had arrived when we went to war in Iraq in the early 90’s. I sat in my little Toyota Tercel hatchback, and I heard the announcement on the radio. But, as is true for so many of us without close family and friends in the military, it affected me very little.
And then the Twin Towers were hit on 9/11. I was a mommy by then, and I watched the second tower fall while my toddler slept in the next room. This is it, surely, I thought. But again, I wasn’t directly affected, and, well, life proceeded as life does. No gas lines. No rationing. No concentration camps. I mean, I don’t like taking my shoes off at the airport, but all things considered, no real change for me and mine or, I dare say, the majority of my countrymen and women.
I thought I would recognize it when it came — the Time I Would Have to Stand Up for What Is Right at Great Cost to Myself — but it came slowly, and I didn’t see it while I raised my babies, and went to the grocery store, and fought with and loved my husband, and went to church, and volunteered, and started writing. I didn’t see it, and I don’t blame myself much, because I’ve learned as I’ve aged how subtly Evil moves. How quietly. How insidiously. How it masks itself as Rules and Righteousness and Right Thinking. How it plays on our need for Belonging, afraid, as we are, of being Cast Out. How it cows the Questioners and shuns Those Who Will Not or Cannot Subscribe or Conform. How it creates Tribalism and Exclusion and Fear of the Other, lest we be infected or destroyed by the Them.
But here we are.
Here we are, living in a world where Evil has arrived. Where we turn away widows and orphans and refugees at our borders. Where we steal healthcare from the sick. Where we mock our young as immature and entitled while we steal their educational and financial future, and they beg us not to keep letting them die at school. We live in a world where our churches truly believe that their 20th century interpretation of the Bible is the One Correct Reading of Scripture and use that to excommunicate people who love God and love their neighbors as themselves, because that last is, somehow, no longer the litmus test, no matter what Jesus said.
Here we are, friends. And I’ve heard it said that people who compare this current time to the Holocaust are overreacting. Being dramatic. Being hysterical. While we let the world’s largest refugee crisis continue, millions suffering and dying. While we refuse to listen to our children. While we stand stalwart behind the closed doors of our churches and use Jesus to justify our rampant nationalism, our goal of self-preservation, our hoarding of weapons, and our lying leaders.
Here we are, and I can’t help but feel that the world right now is covered in a shroud, like the alien planet in A Wrinkle in Time. We’re covered. The heartbeat of Evil is loud, and many have believed Evil’s lie that it is Good or that it is Necessary or that it is the Best Way Forward. It feels… opaque right now, like trying to see through ash and move through mud. No wonder we’re exhausted. No wonder we’re sad. No wonder we’re groping about in the dark, trying to find our people, tentatively, by feel. We’re living in the darkness we all suspected may come.
The time has arrived. Our Crisis is upon us. Millions are dying — our refugee neighbors, our minority neighbors, our LGBTQ+ neighbors, our children in school — physically and emotionally, literally and spiritually, we’re dying.
It seems horrific, which it is, and hopeless, which it’s not. Evil is winning, as Evil does, but Evil doesn’t win forever, and I keep coming back to this one thing: we know that it is dark. We’re living under the shroud right now, and it’s oppressive and disheartening, but there are many of us who can see it. Who know that it is Not OK. Whose eyes are wide open to see that this is Wrong. Who are resisting. Who are fighting the crawl of Complacency and Compliance. Whose hearts still beat to their own wild rhythms which echo the image of God and who listen for the heartbeats of others, which is the way of Love.
Oh, friends, it’s hard right now. Just… hard to be under cover of darkness with only pinpricks of flickering light in the sky. It’s hard to be Betwixt and Between and to wonder when — when, dear God — the dawn will arrive. It’s hard not to feel helpless tumbling in the tidal wave, trying to stop its destruction. It’s hard not to give in to its power and be swept away. It’s hard, always, when the old is passing and the new is not yet come.
But this is our time. This is the one. This is when we Stand for Good or Fall for Evil. And the world needs us even though it’s hard. The world needs us especially because it’s hard. The world needs us to see through our fear stricken societies and find new ways of living. To lead the charge. To keep reaching out for each other.
All of which is an incredibly long way to say, I’m waving to you in the dark, friends. I see it. I see the dark. And I see you, too. Together, we’ll beckon the dawn.
P.S. In case this post is too heavy for you, here are some pictures of our latest foster puppy. Her name is Nikki, she’s 4 months old, has survived parvovirus and pneumonia in her short tenure on earth, and she’s partially blind, but the darkness doesn’t stop her. Not ever.
P.P.S. And this…