by Karen Topakian
When my partner Peg and I were hunting for a house in 2001, I announced we needed one with a secret hiding place for Jewish people, god forbid. Peg pointed out that the people who might need hiding would be us, lesbians.
At times, I have wished I had lived during those ugly, dangerous Holocaust years so I could test my commitment to nonviolence, my values and my inner strength. To see where I stood in the face of fascism. I questioned whether I would have summoned up the courage required to protect and defend Jewish people, gypsies, queer people, people of color, leftists and many others targeted by their government.
I have frequently read about the people who reached out during those harrowing times to help those scorned, harassed, targeted, rounded up and killed by their government, despite the great personal risk. Often, they didn’t hold important or powerful jobs, but they felt the moral imperative to act. I asked myself, would I have risked my life for others?
My better self answered, Yes!
I also wondered how good people could do nothing to stop the attacks? How could they stand by? How could they let it happen?
Up until November 8, these questions lived in the theoretical world. But no longer. Now I believe we stand on the cusp of that exact time. I see it on the horizon – the need to personally protect and defend people of the Muslim and Jewish faith, undocumented immigrants, people of color and other groups singled out by the President-elect. I ask myself, am I ready?
Am I ready to stand up, take on and resist the President-elect’s plans for incarcerations, deportations and roundups?
Am I ready to march, sit down, lockdown against threats, intimidation, increased bullying and intolerance toward the people vilified by the President-elect and his supporters?
The answer is Yes.
I’ve spent the last three decades protesting against war, nuclear weapons and environmental threats to the planet without incurring serious threats to my health and well-being. But the current climate may require a whole new commitment level. Because the ominous tone will increase once he’s in office.
Now I feel the urgency to commit myself to acting with greater fortitude.
I ask myself how much am I willing to risk? My livelihood. My home. My freedom. My life…
How will I know when to take those risks?
If I act too soon will I make myself an unnecessary target? If I wait too long will I miss the opportunity to stop the President-elect’s actions?
What do I need to do to protect others at risk? Do I even know how?
Am I ready to wear a headscarf in solidarity with Muslim women? Even though I loathe religious customs that control women’s appearances.
Am I ready to oppose the threatened Muslim registry, by registering as one, even though I’m an atheist?
Am I ready to chain myself to the railroad tracks or trucks or lie in the road to block deportations?
Am I ready to stand up to the face of fascism with all my might?
Will my actions be enough?
Am I ready?