Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Let us never forget

Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks), discreet cobblestone memorials embedded into the sidewalks outside establishments owned by Jews in Germany before the Holocaust, serve as reminders that “this may never happen again.”

Marion Blumenthal Lazan was just 4 years old on Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) – the night in November 1938 when Nazis broke windows in Jewish owned homes, businesses and synagogues. She was 9 years old when held, along with her family, in the Bergen-Belsen German concentration camp.

By her mannerisms it was obvious that her story was not easy to tell. Yet she acknowledged how important it was that she tell it to us, that we hear a first-person account of the atrocities rather than read about it in a book or watch a documentary.

I’ve heard it said that we are just a generation away from the farm and from Christianity. That it takes just one generation to not pass on the lessons learned from living on the farm and being involved in the church… One generation for those lessons to be lost for all future generations.

In the United States, only four states require that the Holocaust be taught in school. Four states. No wonder there are people who believe that the Holocaust is a hoax – that it never really happened. In Germany, according to Mrs. Lazan, all schools are required to teach it.

It is a painful story. It’s so hard to fathom that people would actually treat other people like that. It’s easy to understand why one would prefer to say it never happened instead of acknowledging it as part of our global history, learning from it so that this may never happen again. To any group. Ever.

>>> Forum review
>>> Mrs. Lazan's web site

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Political correctness run amuk?

"Words have power."

Guy Jones, co-founder of the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, spoke about the power of words in yesterday’s Forum. I think we sometimes get so caught up in being so careful with our words, being so politically correct, that it gets in the way of clear communication.

Case in point: Yesterday I received an emailed news release from another organization announcing the replacement of its president. "The Board...has unanimously decided to transition... from the position of president." Really? Transition from the position? Please.

But then there are other times.

There has been much made in recent years and months about various sports teams known as “Redskins.” PollyAnna here always thought that this was just another example of political correctness run amuk. You know the Sunday School song: “Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His site. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Red skinned… Redskins.

Jones, a Hunkpapa Lakota, told the origin of that word. I had no idea…

There was a time when hunters and trappers would be paid for animal skins, for beaver skins, for coon skins, for red skins… The price was higher for female red skins, lower for child red skins. Certain body parts needed to be brought in along with the scalp in order to receive the correct “pay.”

He is correct to ask how one can honestly say we are honoring Native Americans by retaining the Redskin moniker once you know the word’s origin.

Words have so much power.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Words of wisdom

Things I would tell my 20-year old self.
  • The grass isn’t always greener…
  • Don’t be in such a hurry…
  • Invest as much in platonic friendships as you do romantic relationships…
  • Embrace opportunities…
  • Being seen as one of the “smart kids” isn’t a bad thing…
  • Push yourself - don’t just slide by…
  • Choose wisely…
  • Learn to say no when necessary…
  • Make time to take care of yourself…
Wonder if these are the same things my 60-year old self would say to me now?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
1905 Bluffton football team
This quote from MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech of 50 years ago came to mind as I drove in to work last Tuesday. Later in the day, Professor Perry Bush and six students from his African-American history class were going to present at Forum about race relations throughout Bluffton University’s history. I thought it might make for a good blog topic.

And it was a good presentation – the panel shared the good, the bad and the ugly from Bluffton’s history. More >>>

Stories were told of high points in Bluffton’s history.

Guest panelist, alumnus Ron Lora, told of the football team’s bus stopping at a buffet in Northern Kentucky as they were coming home from a tournament game in the mid-1950s. When it became apparent that the restaurant manager was not going to allow the African-American members of the team to eat, the entire team left their trays and got back on the bus without eating.

“We were not civil rights activists,” said Lora. “We were just teammates.”

Stories were told of low points in Bluffton’s history. As one student told of an especially ugly racial incident on campus in the late-1990s she said with amazement, “This happened in our lifetime.”

As Perry spoke at the faculty/staff luncheon, he reminded us that Bluffton students are all coming from differing backgrounds. It takes just one student coming from a biased background to cause a lot of hurt. It’s then up to the rest of us to say “That is not acceptable here.”

How long will it take until we achieve King’s dream? When will be all be judged by the content of our character - not by the color of our skin, or the bumps on our chest, or the religion we practice, or to whom we are sexually attracted – but by who we are? Will we ever see the need fade away for the extremely-wordy EOE (Equal Opportunity Employer) statement to be published?

When asked why the student panel did not include any students of color, Perry responded that every member of his African-American history class is required to complete a project of their choice. He offered the opportunity to all of his students to present with him at Forum. “These six expressed interest. I wasn't going to twist anybody’s arm.”

I’m thinking that’s a good step toward equality.