Forty years ago at this time I was preparing for my first year teaching at Saint Vito’s in Mamaroneck, New York.
I was nervous as you might expect but I was also filled with hope and faith and optimism. I was going to change lives. I was going to open the eyes of young people and encourage them to read and to be lifelong learners. It wasn’t always easy and it took a while to realize some of my goals.
I worked with great people. people I admired and I aspired to be like them. Teachers, nuns, priests, were all so influential on my life as they were on the children who attended Saint Vito’s. Teaching there for four years was the defining moment of my life.
The students and the parents were extraordinary.
Despite leaving there in 1981, I did, as Father Peter suggested, “Take Saint Vito’s with you wherever you go.” I did that and I like to think that the places where I worked were all the better for it.
We all know great people like the ones I was blessed to know starting in 1977 on a hot September morning. We all know people who bring out our humility just thinking about their greatness. Hopefully, we are still able to earn the blessing of knowing such people.
My question is a simple one. Where were all the good people for the members of the hate groups?
I remember one day teaching history at Saint Vito’s. We were learning about World War II. I also had the class read Animal Farm and 1984. They may have read Brave New World as well. Anyway, I began the lesson talking about the Nazis. I started by saying, “Let’s remember that the Nazis were good men, believed in God, went to Church, and celebrated Christmas, and were good fathers to their children.”
The uproar that erupted was spectacular.
“But Mr. Newell, they were monsters. They killed millions of Jewish people.”
“Didn’t you see all the horror and hatred they produced?”
I let them go on for a few minutes and then I said, “That’s the whole point! Good people did monstrous things and allowed them to continue. Just because it happened over thirty years ago, don’t think it can’t happen again. When people hate they are capable of doing terrible things.”
Hatred consumed these people back in 1930’s and 1940’s Germany and it may well be consuming America in 2017.
Good people cannot allow this to continue.
I put a picture up on Facebook of a sticker on the window of a pick up down here in Florida, It read, “Rebel Lives Matter.”
I understand that people get upset by the notion of Black Lives Matter thinking that it’s an assertion that White lives don’t matter.
I think this failure to understand the viewpoint of Black Lives Matter is a result of a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding of our own history.
To think that we are still fighting the Civil War is amazing to me. It’s why the Second Amendment is so important to some. There are those who are afraid of losing their right to wage war against America when things get out of hand. This is not about survivalists fearing Armageddon. This is about Supremacists getting ready for the Great Race War.
We need good people to stand their ground, not some knucklehead with an AK-47 and a confederate flag.