What Just Happened

At some point last night, we all had that moment.

That moment you tell your grandkids about, like where you were when Kennedy was shot or when the first tower was hit.

Last night, that moment was, “Oh %^&!, he’s really going to win.”

I was on the couch with my husband glued to our phones because we got rid of cable.

But that’s not the moment I’m going to tell my grandchildren about.

I’m going to tell them about the moment I heard the most frightening words I’d ever heard and then proceeded to do nothing.

It was 2 years ago at a dinner party. I was talking to a friend about her upcoming vacation.

She said that she and her boyfriend weren’t going to visit the killing fields on their trip to Cambodia because “we don’t want to be sad on vacation.”

I knew it then, but I was in disbelief.

Guys, that is what the banality of evil looks like.

It doesn’t look like Trump. It looks like those who cannot be bothered to be made uncomfortable. Those who choose to ignore hate, bigotry, and intolerance for the sake of a “pleasant vacation.” Those who have forgotten noblesse oblige.

When we buffer against feelings that are unpleasant, we forget that they are real.

When my grandfather left Czechoslovakia, his parents told him he was crazy. They were a wealthy family with high social standing. Business owners. Job creators. “Something as crazy as Hitler can’t happen here. These are our friends.”

They all died.

The story I will tell my grandchildren will be when I allowed the banality of evil to exist in front of me and in an effort to be “polite” I said and did nothing.

I will tell my grandchildren that I helped to elect a tyrant. (Not a republican who we do or do not agree with. A tyrant.)

If history has taught us anything, this is the point where we need to step up (actually, it was before, but the best time after that is right now).

Do not wait for the checks and balances to do it for you. For the “activists” to take care of it. For it to be someone else’s problem.

The greatest lesson of the Holocaust was that people who do nothing are as guilty as the perpetrators.

Do not let us be those grandparents who tell their grandchildren of how America used to be. Do not sit politely at dinner parties because you’re afraid of “ruffling feathers.” Do not hold back your freedom of dissent. Do not think that this is anyone’s problem but your own. Do not put your head in the sand and wait for it to go away.

There is no question in my mind that the man we just elected will target people like me. But that’s not the part I’m most afraid of. I’m Jewish. I’m 3rd generation Holocaust survivor. My family has been kicked out of every country you can think of or killed. I will bounce back on my feet; it’s in my blood.

The part I’m afraid of is that we fell asleep at the wheel.

We got comfortable. Complacent. Wealthy. Insulated. We forgot that we have a collective social responsibility to each other.

For the first time in my 30 years on this planet, I feel the kind of fear you read about in books but don’t believe is real. I was afraid to post on Facebook. For the first time in my history on this planet, I was grateful I look Arian even though my family emigrated from the Middle East.

What just happened was that we forgot that this CAN happen.

The government didn’t fail us. Big business isn’t killing us.

We failed us.

But that ends today.

I am a millennial — entitled, idealistic, winner of many participation trophies — and I’m here to ask the rest of us to step up.

Let us rise up against anti-intellectualism. Against hate and bigotry. Against intolerance. Against click-bait and sound-bites. Against fear of discomfort. Against complacency.

Rise up and demand more. For yourself. For your kids. For the future of this country.

We still (from what I can tell) live in a democracy. So help me god until they kick me out and take away my rights, I’m going to uphold those virtues.

Don’t pretend like this is someone else’s mess to fix. We all did this.

Now let’s go clean it up.

 

Margo Aaron is pioneering a new kind of entrepreneurship. The kind that vacations (not works) at the beach. Join her tribe.