On the surface, this question makes little sense – one movie is about the first openly gay man to be elected to major public office in he US and the other is about the horrors of WWII – but to me they both speak to some core aspects of humanity that seem to persevere regardless of era.
My first reaction is that the more things change, the more things stay the same. 50+ years after the end of WWII and 30+ years after the assassination of Harvey Milk we still see the same hatred and discrimination illustrated in these stories. People were killed, attacked, shunned, hurt, and mistreated because of who they associated with, who they loved, or their religion, nationality, or status in life. They were attacked in their homes, in their place of business, worship, or school. For what? Because someone decided they are less than someone else? Because they were different? Some aspects of this we will never understand – or at least I never will.
It pains me to see the stories of people just trying to live their lives and have to constantly fight against a constant barrage of people saying they are wrong or bad. Harvey Milk fought for equality for all people in society. He wanted to live in a city, a country, a world, where someone would not face discrimination based on who they loved. Oskar Schindler worked to help save and protect over 1200 Jewish people in Poland from sure death. He spent his own money and risked his own life to protect the lives of people that were viewed by others as an evil not worthy of living.
I will never understand why we have had so much hate throughout history. We seem to be continually fighting the same fights, trying to right the same wrongs, trying to create peace throughout the world. While we may never see these issues ever completely “solved”, I truly believe that at least in our small part of the world, we can cause real change and limit the negativity around us.
From the end of “Milk”: “. . .Because it’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power… it’s about the “us’s” out there. Not only gays, but the Blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s. Without hope, the us’s give up – I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you… You gotta give em’ hope… you gotta give em’ hope.”
It is about the us. As I’ve said before, we’re all different which makes us all the same. When faced with hatred or negativity we should rise above and be the better person, even if it isn’t the popular thing to do. Help create hope for all of the “us’s” out there. Be a positive force against the hate.
How can one do this? Well as was seen in these two movies, it sometimes manifests itself in grand actions, however it can be something small. It can be a hug or kind words shared after someone has a bad day or negative encounter. It could be donating your time or money to causes that fight against hate and discrimination. It can be through being a mentor for someone to help them see it does get better. It can be through a simple smile. We may never know how our actions may help create a bit of hope for someone, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
At the end of “Schindler’s List”, we learn that there are only roughly 4000 Jewish people left in Poland today, but over 6000 descendants of the Schindler Jews. Through the actions of one man, entire families were saved. He gave these people hope when they were quite literally looking death in the face. While this is a unique situation, one I hope doesn’t ever have to be replayed, it shows the impact of one person standing up to hatred and negativity.
As of late, I’ve been trying to be a more positive person. This does not mean that I was a hotbed of negativity before, but I’m trying to be more aware of my actions. When I feel frustrated or angry, I try to spin it around and thing of a positive or at least neutral thing. I try not to let my frustrations spread to others or let the frustrations of others spread to me. I try to thank people or do kind things to make a small impact on someone. I do these things, not for me, but because I do believe that being positive helps the greater good as a result of the interactions we have with others. I’m ok with thinking that sharing love and kindness with others is a good thing, and can have a larger impact.
Stay positive. Share love and happiness. Be kind to others. Foster hope.
Together we may just be able to make things a little bit better.