Why Tolerate Intolerance?SERENE KAUR SINGH
After a vigil my community held in Colorado Springs (Colorado, USA), I invited many of my friends to visit the Gurdwara, and pay their respects to those lost in the recent Oak Creek- Wisconsin tragedy.
It was then that I was struck by a comment of one of my friends: "Isn't it all done anyways? Why bother? It's already gone ..."
My heart ached as I reflected on her comment. She genuinely couldn’t see the point of remembering what’s already gone. But in the last few weeks I have also realized that my dear friend isn’t the only one to think this way. It seems as if we’ve forgotten the
important notion that we need to remember so that we don't allow it to repeat.
It cannot be “yesterday’s news.”
It is in fact so much more than that.
We know that we can’t know where we are going, unless we know and remember where we have been. Wasn't it just "the past" with 9/11? And the hate crimes that followed that year? And what about the next eleven years?
We recognize those lost and we pray for their families, and then we move on with our lives. Until the next tragedy. Then, the cycle repeats. Our tolerance of intolerance has instilled a passive mindset in all of us. A mindset that says, “Oh well, life goes on.”
It was first the Aurora shooting, then came the Wisconsin tragedy, then the Muslim mosque in Missouri, then the graffiti on the church by my house, the shooting at the Texas University, and the murder of fifty-six-year-old Dalbir Singh, who was shot when
working at his store.
Sikhs around the country have been using Oak Creek as fuel for activism and change.
But the general momentum of support around such activism has been waning. To all those who are convinced of these tragedies to be less worthy now, I want to share one of my favorite quotes by Stevie Wonder:
"We all have ability. The difference is how we use it."
Being a quote that can inspire, and motivate; it also proves the power of an individual.
It is time to use all our ability to respond to the cascade of violence around us, by simply speaking, discussing, and acting out to what surrounds us.
I used my ability as a Sikh high school girl, growing up in America, where there is freedom of expression, to speak up after Oak Creek. I received the opportunity to bring awareness to stamp out hatred and intolerance and spoke for five TV channels, various newspapers, and anyone with questions, for all those who lost their lives to ignorance and hatred. Because the truth is, we are all humans, just in search of humanity from those around us.
I didn't have personal connections to any of those attacked, but somehow they all feel like close family to me. To merely remember that feeling even a month after the attacks, is what’s lacking in today's fast-paced culture.
If I could ask for any one thing in this world, it would be to simply understand others at a deeper level than just how they appear. Sikhism stresses the importance of everyone being part of The One. And through tragic times like these, I’m sure I’m not the only one praying for a more accepting world.
A world that is willing to learn about other cultures, people, and how they truly are.
A world that isn't focused to benefit from the harm of others.
And a world that has the willful desire to learn, appreciate, and grow without resorting to hateful acts against any person or group of people.
And until this world is achieved, we must never forget. Because only through remembering can we protect against these things being repeated. Through writing, speaking, and acting, we can change the lives around us. Each of us has a profound
impact on those who we surround ourselves with, and each of us can have just as strong of an impact on the lives of complete strangers.
But the key to tolerance is to never let the intolerance pass. We can only move forward when we know where we are starting from. And so, these are the words, hopes, and dreams of a Colorado Springs Sikh-American girl; remembering, re-directing, and re-immersing ourselves to the acts around us -- good or bad, in order to brighten up a future for ourselves, and those around us.
The author is a 15 year old Rampart High School Colorado student. Born and raised her whole life in Colorado, USA, she's the youth president at her gurdwara, as well as a national champion in speech and debate, a published artist, poet, author and contributor. This year, she is also a Special-Education student teacher, working with kids.
September 18, 2012