This past week I spent the day in New York with our one son. We had a fun day poking around in consignment shops, bookstores and areas in the city where we hadn't spent much time before. Walking down one of the streets there was a large sign affixed to a church wall. It read "We are Orlando."
The sign made me think of a story I had recently read about Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds. Master Sgt. Edmonds was a non-commissioned officer in the US Army during WWII. He and his men were in the Battle of the Bulge and were taken prisoners. At one of the Stalags, the prisoners were told that the Jewish POWs were to fall out to be counted. When the time came, all 1,275 prisoners stood together in formation. As the highest ranking officer in the camp, Master Sgt. Edmonds was the one in front. The commandant was furious. He came over to Edmonds and yelled at him, "You can't all be Jews." Edmonds looked at him and said, "We are all Jews here." The commandant took his gun, pointed at Edmonds' head and demanded that Edmonds tell him who were the Jews or he would shoot Edmonds. Edmonds replied, "According to the Geneva Convention, we are only required to give our name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us and when we win this war, you will be tried for war crimes." (Read more about his story)
His son knew his father had a harrowing war experience but never knew the entire story. It was only after his dad's death, going through old diaries that he started putting the pieces together. He discovered his dad's name referenced in a New York Times article about Richard Nixon trying to buy an apartment in New York after he had resigned and left office. The article spoke of Lester Tanner, a lifelong Democrat who in hearing about Nixon's predicament, sold him his Manhattan townhouse. Even though Mr. Tanner did not share Nixon's political beliefs, Tanner believed that a person should not be blackballed like that.
Mr. Tanner had served in the Army with Master Sgt. Edmonds and had witnessed Edmonds' bravery. Because of it, Mr. Tanner said that he decided that for the rest of his life he would always do the right thing.
In the wake of the horrible tragedies of Baton Rouge, Orlando, Nice, Dallas (the list seems to go on and on) I wonder if we can remember that we are all humans here. By the grace of God go all of us. At any one moment, a certain group can be singled out. Isn't that what those who are intent on doing harm want to do? Cull the group? Pick on the most vulnerable? Force each other to turn on one another?
We need to stand shoulder to shoulder against the forces of evil, prejudice, and hate. We need to decide to do the right thing and not allow this divisiveness to wedge and split our society. We need to be wiling to speak out when injustice occurs. We need to be willing to work together with those with whom we disagree. We need to be willing to listen to one another. We need to have the courage to say to those who are intent on harm, this is the wrong way to go about getting your point across. We need to have the mindset of Master Sgt, Edmonds that we are all one here.
I have never been in a life or death situation where my beliefs have been called into question. I pray that if I ever did I would do the right thing. But every day I do have the choice whether I will treat the person who doesn't look, speak or think like I do, with respect, dignity and love.
What about you? What choices do you have to make?
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". ~Edmund Burke