Has your Dark Side Been Awakened?
I remember walking up the hill from the bus stop the day I learned that there was a Wall separating Berlin. I was in Junior High. The class taught that day moved me, I felt happy to be American and free. After school, I couldn't stop talking about it. A girl from my neighborhood listened to me going, "Ya, I know, ya, it's awful!" She didn't seem as absorbed as I was with this "Wall," and how lives were separated because of it.
The desire to travel and my passion for Europe was awakened that year and has stayed with me. When I was nineteen, I packed my bags and headed to Europe. In was August of 1989, a dream was becoming a reality. I was going to Berlin to see the wall, with no knowledge that a few months later the Berlin Wall would fall.
Cruising West Berlin in a black convertible Karmann Ghia, my hair flying in the breeze, I was in student paradise. On day two of my trip I went to East Berlin. The guards made me take my glasses off, turn around, they took my passport and examined it. I was terrified. As I walked the streets of East Berlin reality hit me. I was in shock walking those streets with my mouth gaping open as little Trabants put-putted by me.
A few months later, a few lessons of German later, on the night of November 9th, I was home alone in Kiel, Germany; I was lonely, with no internet and bored. I flicked on the TV to see people jumping on the Berlin Wall and thought, strange movie, I flicked to the next channel to find the same thing with reporters excited and speaking rapidly in German. I repeated this, and all the channels were showing the same images. I called a German friend who turned on his TV to translate, and he just started saying, "Oh my God! Oh my, God, the wall is down!"
One day before America swears in a new President I am asking myself daily, "Really, are we going to build a wall? Are we truly going to do this? Are we going to stop listening to each other? Do we want that kind of separation?"
I have lived the last 27 years as a foreigner, an expat and in five countries. I have seen skinheads and neo-nazis and been scared, I have had people insult me and tell me to leave their country, to go home, and I have been terribly homesick. Living abroad is hard as an expat, now imagine it as a refugee, as someone searching for a better life or escaping a horrible regime; even more challenging, and I know, I spent hours talking to refugees. In 1989 I was poor, and the cheapest German classes were those for refugees. It was an enlightening experience that taught me about the realities of life as a refugee. I listened and learned.
Today I feel as if someone turned a clock back. We have forgotten who we are and all the progress we've made. I'm not a posh New Yorker; I am not a liberal Californian. I am a girl from Farmington, Utah, I have lived my life as an outsider at a near professional level. A global nomad and a foreigner.
The idea of building a wall at the Mexican border upsets me but what upsets me most is the wall we are building of hatred, mocking, and rudeness. We are essentially creating an invisible wall within the country, the Trumpeters, and the others.
The hate articles and posts against anyone who dares say something are becoming a daily part of my newsfeed and my life. I don't hate anyone; I won't mock anyone, I am willing to listen but ask yourself, are you? Are you a hater? Has your dark side been touched and awakened by this wave of hatred?
We are in this together, and if we don't want a repeat of history we need to stand for what we believe in but also listen and learn, and that goes for both sides of this debate! May the force be with us!!
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife