When I was 13...
my parents and I visited my brother and his wife and daughter who were stationed in Germany. This was the 2nd summer we went over there, and I pretty much loved every moment of it. Beautiful country, beautiful people.
But among the places we visited was Dachau. It was a powerful memorial, the value of which, presumably, was to remember that at some point along the way, we actually did this to each other.
Millions of people disrespected, dismissed, and dispatched simply because of who they are.
I wondered, at 13, how so many good people could be brought under the sway of such a cruel and misguided leader.
In the next thought, I wondered if anything like that could ever happen in my country. It seemed then, in 1970, highly implausible, virtually inconceivable.
But I knew deep down that if it could happen there in that place, with all those good people, it could happen anywhere. I've never gotten very far from that question, and since the nation's response to the 9/11 event, it has haunted me more viscerally.
Like most of us, you may have been presented with the question of what you would have done if you had been there in 1930s Germany.
I don't know many people who have answered that by saying they would have done nothing to try to face and counter the ever-growing movement toward Hitler consolidating more and more power.
Even though many in various parts of society saw benefits for themselves from Hitler's policies, were frustrated by previous policies, or just in not being visibly critical, others simply weren't aware of the power of their own voice.
But it's cliché now that a significant dynamic in that time that allowed things to proceed in the way they did was that so many people who were concerned about Hitler remained silent.
Is this moment the same as that? Of course not. Nothing is ever exactly the same.
But no parent would ever recommend to their child to ignore the truth in some lesson from a particular situation that could end up being helpful later in life.
The conservative part of me simply wants to say that I care deeply about conserving the American experiment in government of, for, and by the people.
At the risk of being trite (because this is no moment for platitudes, but rather a pivotal moment from which to live into the deepest truths), I'll end with these...
We have met the enemy, and it is us.
We are the ones we've been waiting for.