January 19, 2021

To the Woman who Gave the Nazi Salute: I See you But I will not Hate You.

I will not lecture you on the horrors of the Holocaust and the brutality of the Nazi regime.

Nor will I tell you about those in our family who were enslaved, starved, and gassed to death in the concentration camps.

I will, however, say that I saw you at the march you attended. You were proud and self-assured from a distance—your bold posture, your unflinching gaze.

Your feet planted themselves firmly into the earth, right arm outright, and your palm turned down in the name of white supremacy. And, although I tried, I can’t unsee your presence.

My stomach turned inside out and upside down on that warm autumn day. I don’t know if that’s called nausea or fear—or both. Maybe, it’s called incensed. I just know that I’ve never felt anything like it before. I wanted to yell and holler at you—for my grandparents, for everyone.

And I thought to hate you right back. But, as I came closer, I saw something unworthy of animosity. It was in your vacant, dulled eyes. They looked as if no life had been swimming in them for some time. Your heart too—it was dark and thick like mud. The woman I saw was without a soul.

I wondered if you realized you’d lost yourself, and if you would remember the child you were once—the girl who sang and danced outside with the stars. The little one whose eyes shined bright with the secrets of the universe; love and light. I’m sure you’re missed by someone.

That’s the thing about hate: it takes hold of your spirit, little by little. It poisons your thoughts with stories of blame and deprivation. And it sucks all the joy and radiance out from you. Eventually, your eyes turn lifeless and your heart no longer beats outside your chest.

No, I’m not interested in meeting you there.

I’d rather come to understand what provokes the rise of populism, harmful rhetoric, and hateful organizations. And I’d like to reckon with why so many have turned against each other.

I want to be informed of the economic disparities, the lack of opportunities, and the effects of automation and technology that have altered livelihoods. And, consequently, I’d like to make better consumer and personal choices.

And like others have done for centuries, especially when met with intolerance and antisemitism, I intend to stay grounded within my Jewish values; the ethos of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam.

They teach us to give generously, to share, even when we have little to offer and to share and share more. They instruct us to leave this earth far better than we found it—to create meaning from chaos and stillness from unrest.

I say, then, to the woman who gave the Nazi salute: I see you, but I will not hate you.

I have too many beautiful things to do.


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