This semester my honors program began studying the modern world. In doing so we recently read excerpts from Victor Klemperer's diary during the Nazi years titled "I Will Bear Witness 1933-1941". Victor Klemperer was a German Jew and a Romance language scholar who taught at a university for many years. He wrote a diary of his day-to-day life during the Nazi years and provided us with a much deeper insight into changes that were huge as well as subtle.
As we began discussing his writings in class I began to think about how important it was that someone keep writing through the good and bad of the world. Not only over the huge news and world problems but write also over the mundane. If there is no memory of the past how can we ensure it is not repeated? After the title, the first page is one simple quote from Klemperer. He says, "I shall go on writing. That is my heroism. I will bear witness, precise witness!"
That being explained I was once again struck by the horror that had occurred during that time. Upon further thought, I was again moved to tears at all the evil and bad that we've known to happen. Not only the fact that it happened and continues to happen upsets me but the idea that mankind is capable of things like that. I think sometimes people forget the atrocities we have committed and are capable of. The depletion, destruction, and death that mankind holds at its fingertips.
We are a loaded gun, always prepared to fire at any threat or offense. We talk like we remember, but do we understand? We act big and bad to our friends and family. We dare those around us to fight. Always on the edge of chaos without the true understanding of the extent of our capabilities. We go without the true realization of the fragility and value of human life. Do we not remember the mass bombings? The mass shootings? The genocide?
While I am frequently left breathless by all the dark and hurt, I am also awe-struck by the unbridled compassion we can hold in our heart. The intensity of our evil can easily be matched by the intensity of our good. I am inspired by our ability to come together for those in need. Although it is a little harder to find times where the good outshines the bad, it still is enough to keep my hope and faith in humanity going when I feel bogged down by the bad in the world.
So, if you feel like the world is beyond saving remember that even the smallest acts can impact those around you. Never forget the good and never forget the bad. Be a witness to the struggles of today but also be a witness to how far we have come from helplessness. No stand is too small to make a difference. There is so much light to be shared and so much hope to create. Even when Victor Klemperer's job, car, home, friends, and family had been ripped away, he found a way to be a hero. Not through political news channels or controversial social media posts but through keeping an account of his mundane daily life. He wanted the truth to be shared and to never be forgotten.
Share your truth and don't let anyone forget. Bear witness to our past and present so that our future can grow.