Nonna and The Nazi

Sometimes I fear that once a hashtag stops trending, it leaves our hearts and minds. Lately I feel compelled to make sure that doesn't happen; as an artist, and as a teacher, and as human.

Throughout my childhood, I always heard the story of Nonna and the nazis. 

My grandmother grew up in the hills of Italy during World War II. Save the images of Under the Tuscan Sun for another day, for her earlier years were far from glamourous.

There was no running water.

There was no indoor plumbing.

They worried about food, constantly.

They worried for their lives, for the Nazis ransacked and soiled everything they touched, and everyone they loved.  

Growing up I always remember the story of Gina and her neighbor. Gina was my grandmothers donkey. Perhaps you could say that Gina was even her first friend.

One day, the Nazis eventually came to her home. 

They took what they wanted.

And then, they shot and took her donkey.

She yelled at them, and they shot at her.

76 years ago, she's still here.

And one week ago, the Nazi flag was paraded around Charlottesville like it was no big deal. As if it stood for anything other than hate and terror and the death of 11 million people, and the attempt to wipe Jewish people from this earth.

AS IF.

I cannot shake Charlottesville. 

And honestly, I don't know how anyone can shake that. 

My mom showed my Nonna the footage of Charlottesville, and it shook my grandmother to the core.

Please let me die before they ever come back. Please.

Just this week she told me of how her neighbor was killed in front of her face. Shot dead. Just like that. 

I don't know why she never shared that until now. I can only think that it's hard to talk about the ghosts. Perhaps some pain never really fades, perhaps you just get used to living with the hurt. 

I wonder how many ghosts stick with her from that time. I can't imagine what she went through, and I hope I never have to. 

But I know that hope will not always be enough. Words are beautiful, words have meaning, but words of love and justice met with action - that's what matters. That's what counts. That's what prevents the history books from flipping the pages backwards and reliving the darkest times all over again.

So stand up and show up and speak up when you see hatred and bigotry.

Make sure love is a louder voice on your screens.

Take the time to educate people about what they do not understand, for hatred and prejudice is brewed in a pool of fear and ignorance. 

The time in which we live allows all of us to have a platform. Think about how you will use yours. Love is always a choice. Hate is always a choice. The life that stretches before you is made up of a billion and one choices - some big, some small  - all with meaning. All there for you to take.

You just have to choose.