“What can man do against such reckless hate?”
Theoden, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
When I was in college, I would bring my computer home on winter break. Because it meant that, even though we weren’t able to hook it up to the internet (it took a long time for high speed to come to where I lived…) I could, at least, play with photo editors, write, and listen to music.
The winter of my freshman year, I brought my computer home and my dad asked me if it was possible to hook the printer/scanner/copier up to it. I said of course it was, because I was up on all these things now. I understood computers, how they worked, and a little thing like a printer/scanner/copier was something I could manage.
He had a project for me.
He had recently gone to the home of a women who had lost her husband, a World War II vet. In the process of going through his things, his wife had found a folder of his files from the war. She had turned over the file to my father.
My dad asked me if I could scan the contents of it, because he wanted to send a digital copy, along with the original photos. I said that, sure, that was easy enough.
He then told me its contents.
This woman’s husband had been one of the first men through the gates at a concentration camp and had taken pictures. I don’t know which one, to be fair, at that moment, I was trying to process what, exactly, my dad was asking me to do.
He tried to explain that, I probably didn’t have to look at the pictures, if I thought it would bother me. But I might see things that I didn’t want to see. He was going to send it to a museum, but thought that, due to how old the photos were, it would be helpful to have them scanned.
I said I could do it.
I didn’t think too much about it. He was asking me to do a favor for him, I didn’t have to look, I just needed to scan, drop the files in a folder, and burn them to a CD. Easy.
He left me alone at the dining room table, where I had just been photoshopping my face into Lord of the Rings posters because that’s what you do when you have a computer and are learning the joys of how to play with photo manipulation.
I took the folder, and got to work.
At 19, I thought I could handle anything. And handle it, I did.
Gates and Fences.
Hands and feet.
I think I processed what I saw in pieces.
Sometimes, I don’t think about what I saw at all.
But I dreamt of what I saw, in second hand grey photos. I dreamt of what I saw, first hand accounts of history.
I finished it. Burned it to a disc. Gave it to my dad.
I thought of those photos today. As I read each post from the St. Louis Manifest twitter account. I thought of those photos as the names were read.
I thought of those photos as we, as a nation, shut our doors.
Because of fear.
Because what we hear outside those doors scares us.
But perhaps, it does not scare us as much as it should.
What should frighten us more is what these men of reckless hate, do.
What should frighten us is when we hear of “protecting our homeland.”
Of thinking of ourselves first.
And I feel so helpless.
And I call to God “What can man do against such reckless hate?”
“What can I do against such reckless hate?”
Because when the time came for me to face an ugly day in history. And to preserve it so, in case something should happen in transit, at least a disc remained to bear witness. I looked, instead of turning away.
And now I look.
Theoden: What can man do against such reckless hate?
Aragorn: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.
Theoden: For death and glory?
Aragorn: For Rohan. And your people.