Historically in the United States and across the globe, the circumstances and cultural atrocities we have endured have made it clear we are not in control. Systems have been developed over time to herd and subdue the populace. Even as citizens of a republic, we are being denied certain inalienable rights—slowly at first and then big events, up to and including genocide, usurp us. We feel powerless to reclaim these rights, so we quit trying. We give up hope and concede to the powers that be. Often times we vote for the lesser of two evils, or we don’t vote at all. We have learned throughout history that many of those in power have little interest in the betterment of mankind or the preservation of the planet. Hopelessly we tune into our preferred news broadcast and observe the calamity and disparity of our current politico. This not where our story ends, however. On the contrary, we have been granted an invitation to begin. We are being invited to rise to the occasion and vote A New Congress into office in November.
Fires rage in the Western United states, and the current leadership responds with bizarre tweets instead of proactive solutions. Scandals pervade the oval office. Hateful rhetoric and accusations of our Commander-in-Chief using racial slurs are a regular occurrence. There seems to be no accountability for blatant crimes against the people by their own government. All the candidates who inspired us to unite and challenge the corrupt establishment in the 2016 elections were cast out, overshadowed by these money-mongering, malicious madmen, and it seems the blinds have been pulled down over the nation’s eyes.
The current administration and those who have been placed in power have bought their entry and are using dirty dollars to manipulate political outcomes. Things are absolutely bonkers in Washington D.C. So, what’s next? Where do we go from here? They have money; we have numbers. Something new and meaningful is on the horizon, and the midterm election of this year will be the experiment we can use to prove this. We were witness to an incredible alignment in 2016. A spark ignited a fervent togetherness that we have been collectively longing for. For a moment, change was an attainable notion. In spite of the reality and what we think to be the new normal, we need not give up hope. Divisiveness is our demise. We must not lose sight of the power of the vote—especially when we show up in multitudes, united by the same vision. We must exercise our rights as citizens of this and other great nations. We must vote for change. As anthropologist Margaret Mead so eloquently reminded us, we must “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Are You Okay?
“Before a race, we store up spirit.”
—American Track and Field Gold medalist
When one nation indivisible is a pipe dream and liberty for all seems like it never existed, one may feel neck deep in the swamps of sadness. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness sets in. For some, it is debilitating. We must not, however, let these overwhelming feelings steal our stamina and joy. We are certainly living in uncertain times, but in spite of it all the truth is becoming a driving force in many people’s lives. There is a hunger to resolve conflict, to make amends and make sense of the chaos. We long to find our way back to homeostasis and be free of the worries that have been perpetuated by our unstable environment.
I have been tired this week. I let some days pass as I took time to gather my sensibilities. Andreas and I spoke several times this week, and I felt better. I asked him several questions that were obscure to me, questions that arose from Holocaust groups on Facebook: “What’s a Zionest?” “Why is there tension with Palestine?” “What proof do Holocaust deniers claim?”
His peaceful demeanor brought me resolution rooted in compassionate understanding, and after our conversations I came to the realization that I don’t need all the answers. I need only to keep faith. I need to return to the familiarity of myself and my core values, and remember the things that bring me joy. When we become the victim or the oppressed, we give away our power. It is in our best interest to preserve energy and begin to align with our fellow citizens. Walt Whitman reminds us that “whatever satisfies the soul is truth”. That maxim is our motivation, the polls in November are our weapon.
Do not be dismayed. United we stand, and divided we fall. Source reliable news reporting and check facts, read books, get educated. Above all, though, take care of yourself. Remember joy, and laughter, and wonder. The Earth is supporting you on the journey to whole heart, mind, and body wellness. Fortify. It’s going to be a long process of sorting all the messes we are in--globally, in the United States and in other nations rapt with conflict, but we can do it.
And we will.
There are some acts of rage in this waking life that are so diabolical that it is incomprehensible they occur. From the beginning of time, history is full of these stories, and now, sadly, it seems that hate rears its ugly head again. On May 20, 2018, Thessaloniki mayor Yannis Boutaris, who is widely known for his multiculturism, humanitarianism, and liberal leanings, was brutally attacked at a remembrance ceremony which marked the killing of ethnic Greeks by Turks in World War I. “It was a nightmare. There were several people that attacked me. They were hitting me everywhere,” he told one reporter. Boutaris was hospitalized overnight.
The extremist nationalist party Golden Dawn in Greece and others across the world are organizing, energized by Donald Trump’s election in 2017, and strategically advancing on liberal policymakers. Anti-Islamic rhetoric eerily echoes the epidemiological bombast of Hitler’s regime. Although each generation brings with it a new set of ideologies, the persistent themes that are the cornerstone to these violent protests and senseless beatings have remained the same: hate, power, misunderstanding, close-mindedness, and fear. Men have died on the battlefields. Families have suffered through atrocities. Children have grown up without parents, and all the while the world spins madly on in fervent protest to these war games of hate and violence.
There is a growing polarity between those who understand the moral repercussions of such acts of violence as the beating of Yannis Boutaris, whose eyes beam with love and compassion, and those who don’t. The ones who don’t grow bolder in their hate rhetoric. As this nightmare unfolds, we can only stand bravely with our eyes and hearts open to face this waking reality with deep understanding of the human condition and benevolence in our hearts. As we do this, we will feel that still, small voice beckoning us toward a certain action in our own sort of protest to evil. We will find our place among it all, serving in love, and ultimately morality will prevail. We will no longer be in hiding, lost somewhere in a nightmare, but we will emerge as beams of hope to a senseless world riddled with pervasive darkness.
RISE UP AND SPEAK
The world is at times harsh and uninviting. It is imperative and wise to find a source of comfort in the genuine connection we cultivate with one another by the telling of our stories. Stories like “600 Days in Hiding” ground us in the present by connecting us to the past and to each other.
I met Andreas Algava as if guided by a timely Force, and I quickly became aware that his story of harrowing survival in a time not so politically different from today must be heard. My name is Hannah White. I am not Jewish. I have never survived a genocide nor have I had to survive in hiding from a crazed mass-murderer hell-bent on destroying an entire people. Instead, I spent my younger days among the trees and flowers of a small, conservatively Christian, southern town on the river in the Ozark Mountains. Every experience has shaped me, as yours have shaped you, and now I arrive with humility and honor to assist in the telling of his story.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently reminds us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” So, as America enters a time of political unrest, and the dark corners of the world become emboldened by deranged and hate-laden ideologies, it is with great pleasure that Andreas Algava, myself and those close to him help tell stories that will empower us toward compassion and a greater understanding of our own journey outward and inward. This world is better because we exist. It is our collective stories of perseverance, triumph and hope that can make the change humanity needs so desperately.
Please join us on this incredible journey as this blog of sharing unfurls. Your story is important. You are important. It is our time to rise up and shine.
ARE WE KIDDING OURSELVES?
Is this our country or is the country we have known gone forever?
How do we get our vision back?
I am writing to let you know about a “Movement School for Revolutionaries” in Boston, MA this Sunday, April 8 11am - 4pm at 9A Hamilton Place in Boston. It will be hosted by Green Rainbow Party and Encuentro 5.
“It’s a day-long political education and strategic orientation workshop for change agents who recognize the need to restructure society to meet human needs and address the social, economic, and ecological crisis facing our world."
My family was five out of 55,000 who, after 600 days came out of hiding when the Germans left Salonika. My father said it this way, “they came on tanks and left on donkeys”.
The book 600 Days in Hiding is the “adventure story” of what we lived through. It became the catalyst for me to express my fear that there are signs that what occurred then is happening now in the United States.
Let us not allow history to repeat itself!!!
We agreed he should come with me so if you are caught, he will have his freedom. Is he prepared to play the game we talked about? Being quiet and not paying attention to you?’
‘I think so,’ Allegra replied. ‘He’s old enough.’ Marcos looked at the sleeping child and knew their fate rested with him.
…‘Remember,’ whispered Marcos, as they were about to open the apartment’s door, ‘stay in three separate groups. We’ll gather at the trolley stop on Martiou Street. When you’re out of the ghetto, tear off the stars and put them in your pocket. We’ll get off at Saint Sophie as planned. Whatever happens, just stay calm. We’ll be all right.’ He looked at each of them, and made his face relax with a little smile to reassure them. ‘They look ready,’ he thought.
...A knock on the door and a thin narrow face greeted them quietly. Quickly the six travelers entered. Allegra saw it was a small room in a poor house with a dirt floor. …‘Welcome, welcome,’ said Pachis. ‘It isn’t much, but we can shelter you. Your room is over here,’ and he walked to a room with a curtain as its door. ‘We have some blankets you can use,’ Pachis said, indicating a small pile of old wool blankets.
…‘Good night,’ said Marcos. ‘You’ll be safe here, for a while at least.’
‘Thank you, Marcos,’ Allegra said. ‘We are grateful.’
‘I’m glad to help.’ Turning to go, he said softly, ‘I’ll return tomorrow with a few of the things you said you wanted. It may take a few trips, but I’ll get them here. Get some sleep,’ and he stepped through the open doorway, drawing the drape across the opening.
Quickly setting up a sleeping area, soon everyone had settled down. Henri took his place beside Allegra and his son, and though he was very tired and drained, he stayed awake, still edgy. Eventually the sounds of slumber lulled him to sleep as the night yielded to the dawn of their first day in hiding.”
The events in Florida are a manifestation of society and its violent nature. That violent nature has been armed with weapons that are designed to kill groups of people with a single pressure on a trigger. The ability to walk into a gun store and purchase automatic weapons that kill large numbers indiscriminately are more suited to the battlefield. The question is how do we prevent this from occurring???
To the families of the innocent people who lost their lives due to an unspeakable wrong in Parkland, Florida.
As a survivor of the invasion by Nazi forces, of my home country Greece in 1941, I grieve with you for your loss. I lost family too, in 1943, when they were captured and sent to concentration camps where they were killed. Perhaps we share an inability to comprehend what has occurred; there is confusion and no place to stand.
We are from different communities and different times and perhaps we can align with others like us who care, and through unity and effective actions, we can bring the day closer that these senseless deaths will be no more.
With my condolences,
The theme of 600 Days in Hiding is to articulate events that exemplify the heroism exhibited by the heroes of Thessaloniki, Greece who risked their own lives to save the lives of my family.
We have as of last week an example of heroism occurring now. “The mass shootings” that took the lives of 17 human beings, students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The heroes are appearing in the form of teenage students who are demonstrating a call to action with compassion and resolve to stop the senseless slaughter. The students are taking the lead confronting the “powers that be” who for profit and ego continue to dominate.
What if we take advantage of the power THAT WE POSSESS? We have the numbers. Collectively we live committed to good will for ourselves and others; let us consider putting into practice this lesson currently offered to us. Join behind an idea whose time has come, CHANGE THE GUN LAWS. Write your congressional representatives to let them know you will not support them in the next election unless they support this cause.
This is an opportunity for us to get into the mode of taking responsibility, through action. Our leverage is our numbers. What would be the effect if our “silent majority” took a few minutes today to EXPRESS OUR WILL to support the students?
We act, we win, end of story
TAKE ACTION NOW!!!
My intention in writing this blog is to seek and to suggest solutions in contrast to perpetuating habituated hostility.
Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece, the city of my birth and the place where the events of my family’s story occurred, presented the following eloquent Foreword to the book. I present it to you here because it represents for me a declaration for a way of being that was demonstrated by the heroic citizens of Thessaloniki, Greece to whom the book is dedicated.
Mayor of Thessaloniki
This is more than a remarkable tale of survival against overwhelming odds. This is the story of courage, compassion, and character.
The story you’re about to read describes events in the lives of a single Jewish family who hid from Nazi persecution and escaped deportation on the trains to Auschwitz, defying the fate of about 56,000 Thessalonikan Jews.
The theme of man’s inhumanity to man runs throughout this book, and sadly we notice it in our lives today, even coming to accept it. In a sense, many of us have built resistance, an immunity, to taking action and serving those in need.
However, there are also many historic exceptions which exhibit honor and portray humanity’s higher values, and one of them is this story of heroism, personal risk, and sacrifice in our city during the Nazi occupation. These Greek heroes risked their lives and the lives of their children to protect this desperate family.
In addition to those in this story, many citizens in Thessaloniki saw what was happening and became Greek heroes, but not by choice. Acts of heroism are not born from deliberate, conscious thought but rather from the essence of a person’s character. Heroes become heroes because it is in their nature. In reality, the heroes you will see on these pages had no choice because they could do no other.
There was no choice between commitment and betrayal, no choice between character and barbarism, no choice between courage and cowardice. There was no choice, even, between life and death.
These great men and women of Thessaloniki are examples of the capacity for greatness in every one of us, living up to the best attributes of our humanity. Today we have similar opportunities to be moved by the suffering of others, to take action with courage and compassion and relieve their fear and torment.
As the mayor of Thessaloniki, I am proud of the many citizens who, in the past and again today, step forward to guide us through difficult times toward an uncertain future. Like the heroes in this story, we now have the opportunity to live more honorable and more charitable lives that express kindness and embrace compassion.
I offer you this message with my best wishes to all of you to take to heart the lessons in this story.
Mayor, Thessaloniki, Greece
Andreas Algava is the author of 600 Days in Hiding.