The year 1989 brought changes in Europe that shook the world. This was a year when
communists’ governments in Europe fell and there was a rebirth of hope and freedom. This happened in a dramatic way in the Communist country of East Germany.
One night, millions of people from the countries of East and West Germany gathered together. They stood before the Berlin wall which had long separated the German nation. With hammers and picks, the world watched on television as people torn down the dividing wall. The separation was now over, and in a nation was once again unified. The wall had come down and bridges of unity had been restored.
It was wonderful to have watched this event on television. It is always good to see walls of separation crumble and fall. However, there are many “wall” that still exist today. These walls are different then the Berlin wall. They exist in the hearts and minds of people. They are built over time and can be difficult to remove. Some people find it hard to change their attitudes and to move past their prejudices and engage others. They just cannot get past their walls.
The acts of discrimination and hatred demonstrate that the work of tearing down these walls must continue. It is sad that some walls of hate and bigotry which have started to come down are now being rebuilt through actions and by the words of people who build upon the fears of others. People of good will should not stand for those who commit actions or use inflammatory rhetoric to prey on the fears of other people. Those who want peace and justice must take a stand and let their voices be heard.
Some people generalize and stereotype others by saying; “They’re all that way.” This attitude comes from ignorance and a failure to see that people are different, no matter their backgrounds.
One afternoon, a old Jewish man and a old Taiwanese man were eating lunch at a restaurant. Without warning the Jewish man left his table and walked toward the Taiwanese man. He hit the Taiwanese man, sending him down on the floor.
“What gives? Why’d you hit me?”
“That was for Pearl Harbor.”
“Huh? That was the Japanese, not the Taiwanese!”
The Jewish man just shrugged.
“Japanese, Taiwanese, they’re all the same to me.”
Two men returned to their tables. Later the Taiwanese man got and walked over to the Jewish man. . He hit the man in the face sending the Jewish man down on the floor.
“Why did you hit me?”
“That was for the Titanic.”
“What? It was an ice burg that took out the Titanic.”
“Goldberg, ice burg, they’re all the same to me.”
This a humorous story with a message worth thinking about. We should be careful about generalizing and putting people into one category. Would it be fair to say that all Hispanics are illegal and bring crime? Would it be fair to say that all police are corrupt or that all African American males are criminals? Would it be fair to say that all Muslims are terrorists? No, it would not be fair to say these things nor to judge many be the actions of a few. Those who say such things only show their ignorance and cause division.
There are too many issues which divide people and cause strife. Those who stir the fears of people with their words and actions will cause even more division and mistrust. Rather than building walls of bigotry and hatred, let us commit ourselves to dialogue and building bridges that educate, inform, and bring people together.
Bigotry and discrimination will always exist.This does not mean that we should accept it.
Each one of us can help to make a better world if we strive to treat each other with respect. We won’t always agree with each other concerning the issues of the day. Dialogue is important so that we will listen and learn from each other. This helps to build bridges and to tear down the walls of bigotry and hatred.
If you want to see a better world, if you want see a world where people are treated with dignity and respect, don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t sit and grumble about how unfair things are. Get up and make a difference. Shake the foundations so that the walls of bigotry, injustice, and hate will come down.
There will be many lessons we will pass on to our children. Let these be the lessons of faith, respect, love, and unity. Together we can build a better world. Through works of faith and love we can tear down the walls of bigotry and hatred and build bridges that will lead to a beloved community.