I have not been looking forward to this week. But, as I’m fond of saying, time only marches forward. And so, here it is. The time has arrived.
But, does time only move forward? This week is bookended by events that make me question that very notion.
Yesterday, my family attended Sunday morning services at a local Baptist church along with some other congregants from our temple, as part of our two communities’ annual MLK weekend. I love going to this church, as much as I can love going to any church. Churchgoers pray and celebrate their faith with boundless energy and joy, and it’s simply infectious. This year, however, there was a looming specter that couldn’t be ignored.
After all, how do you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory when so much of what he fought and gave his life for has not only not yet been realized, but is today more threatened than ever before in the nearly 50 years since his death? The service closed with us singing, “We Shall Overcome,” a song that felt right when we sang it last year, but didn’t come close to comforting me this year.
Less than an hour after we left church services, I was back at our temple, attending the funeral of a 93 year-old member of the congregation. The service was crowded — she had been well-loved, and rightly so. She was a Holocaust survivor who had escaped Germany on the kindertransport to England. Her brother got out the same way, but their parents weren’t so lucky. She had quite a story to tell, and she told it often, to ensure that history wouldn’t forget. I shouldn’t have been sad, even in the face of death, considering both the quality and the quantity of her life. But the funeral still left me with a feeling of loss that I couldn’t shake.
This week feels like an important crossroads in history. As we roll toward the presidential inauguration on Friday, followed by countrywide Women’s Marches on Saturday, there is a feeling of stasis: of collective breath holding. There is no crystal ball. We don’t know what the future will bring.
But there are enough echoes of the past to hint at lessons not learned — whether those of the Holocaust or those of the Civil Rights Movement. I imagine, somewhere in the Great Beyond, MLK sadly shaking his head and Eli Wiesel cradling his in his hands. What do we learn? When do we finally learn it? What will happen when there are no Holocaust survivors left to tell their story firsthand? When will our sons and daughters NOT need to learn the words to “We Shall Overcome”?
I’ve been asked by several people about my decision to participate in one of the Women’s Marches in six days. At first, I decided to march simply because I wanted to add my voice to the masses — to make sure the new government knew that we were here and we weren’t going away anytime soon. And that reason still holds true. But there’s more to it now, as I fluctuate between sadness and anger in any given moment.
Why am I marching? Because I’m done simply sitting down and shutting up. Because activity is far better than passivity. Because I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.
Because if history is going to repeat itself, I’ll be standing up to help change its outcome.