Seneca County Fair Pulled Us Together

by sr. Paulette Schroeder….published to give tribute to Elie Wiesel, to speak of the possibilities of communities pulling together…to speak of the Nonviolent Cities Campaign…….

Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, wrote 57 books  including  Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.  Because I heard Wiesel speak in person at Central Catholic High School in Toledo in the 70’s, I wanted to read NIGHT and again experience to a small extent how human beings can lose sight of the dignity of each human being as happened in the concentration camps.

Even after his horrid experiences in the camp, Elie said: “We must not see any person as an abstraction.  Instead we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasure.”

I have experienced the truth that when such a conviction becomes the mindset of individuals, violence virtually ceases.  That hope and dream alive in our society and our world stays with me as I continue to reflect on my most recent moments of huge crowds assembled at the Seneca County Fair!  The 1100+ people who visited Project Peace and Pax Christi’s booth “Nonviolent Cities Campaign” were no doubt aware of the thick cultural darkness surrounding us here in the United States.

However, in countering the darkness,  I wish I could bundle up all the energy, all the goodness of the fair goers I met as they supported their children trying to master skills in booth games, in agriculture, animal husbandry, housekeeping, and in sewing. Numerous times, I saw people greeting each other and stopping to chat with friends and neighbors.  At the end of the Fair Week it seemed to me that we’d all want to say: “Let’s continue this kind of kindness and compassion, this neighborliness.  Let’s make it the rule of our town and county.”

I think the annual Fair is truly a gift to Tiffin and to Seneca County.  This year’s 175th. celebration did, I think, what the founders of the first Fair must have dreamed of doing—i.e. bring people together to know each other, to celebrate all the good things happening in our towns and county.

I think, too, that the Fair is an example of the hopes of the newly founded “Tiffin Nonviolent Cities Campaign.” This campaign is going on in 50 cities across the United States, and it is our hope that Tiffin will be the 51st. city to be an intentional city of hospitality and peace. We hope that Tiffin becomes that beacon of light on the hill for all people—a town where residents and visitors will experience peace as the core of who we are and what we do as we offer hospitality to all. In time, it is our hope that there will be efforts made by the various entities of Tiffin, i.e. industry, schools and universities, the town’s merchants, police, firemen, people in recovery, the Sisters of St. Francis, social services, people with mental and/or physical challenges, and people having economic difficulties to work toward deeper, stronger relationships with each other. Everyone will be in a real sense on a level plane raising one’s voice, coming to know each other, and sharing life together.

So much good can be envisioned when the goal for our town is appreciating each other mutually—growing in respectful relationship, looking out for each other so that no one falls “through the cracks.”

Project Peace and the Nonviolent Cities Campaign

Sr. Paulette Schroeder                                                                                                                            For more information, 419.447.0435 ext. 136

 

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20 Lessons from the 20th Century on How to Survive in Trump’s America

A history professor looks to the past to remind us to do what we can in the face of the unthinkable.

BY TIMOTHY SNYDER

“Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.”

This article first appeared as a post on the author’s Facebook page.

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from across the fearful 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf.  Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the Internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps The Power of the Powerless by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting.  Consider using alternative forms of the Internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble.   Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend.  And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

Come to the corner to express yourself

No one can adequately express the horror erupting so visibly in our
country with racisim and white supremacy going crazy in places like
Charlottesville.  We as citizens must speak out of our deep conviction
and moral necessity.  Racisim is objectively, morally, humanly—WRONG.  We must call it for what it is.

Please come to the Tiffin corner (the courthouse corner) on Friday Aug.
18, 4:00-5:00 (or any part of that hour) to express your outrage and
conviction.  I’m almost positive we’ll get lots and lots of honks.

I will have some signs.  Make your own if you wish. sr. Paulette