International Holocaust Remembrance Day was January 27. The United Nations urges people to honor the victims of the Holocaust by helping to prevent future genocides.
As people, sometimes we make bad decisions and do terrible, horrific things to others because we don’t like them or we think they are different from us. This is called prejudice.
“THE TRUE MEASURE OF ANY SOCIETY CAN BE FOUND IN HOW IT TREATS ITS MOST VULNERABLE MEMBERS.” — MAHATMA GANDHI
The way people with disabilities, those with chronic illness and older adults are treated is one of the first signs that something might be wrong in society; that there might be an ethical or moral crisis.
The Nazi party starting getting bigger around 1925. They controlled Germany between 1933 and 1945. The Nazi party lived only about 20 years, but created scars that will last hundreds of years.
The Nazi party thought that people with disabilities and people with sicknesses were not useful, were not important, were a waste of resources, and didn’t deserve to live. They thought people with disabilities and people with sicknesses were “useless eaters” and “life unworthy of life” — basically, parasites of society. They didn’t let people with disabilities and people with sicknesses go to school, work, or be part of the community. They didn’t let them be the best they could be. They treated them unfairly because of their illnesses and disabilities. This was because of the bad attitude they had, called prejudice.
This kind of thinking — this kind of prejudice — spread to other groups of people, like Jewish, Polish and Gypsy communities. They were also treated unfairly because of who they were.
It’s estimated that nearly 300,000 people with disabilities and chronic illness were murdered under the Nazi government. The total number of people murdered is estimated to be somewhere around six million people.
PREJUDICE IS BAD FOR EVERYONE. PREJUDICE IS THE ENEMY OF HUMANITY.
We must encourage and empower the health, safety and dignity of others and ourselves. We must find creative ways to work together, to support each other. We must do the best we can in each moment to practice compassion, wisdom, and persistence, for others and ourselves, given our challenging circumstances, with the limited resources we have available. By doing this, we can help each other to be the best we can be, so that we can all contribute to improving our communities.
Editor’s note: Lance Hegland is a person with a disability living in the Twin Cities relying on hands-on support for most activities of daily life. He advocates for improved direct supports and healthcare for all Minnesotans. He is a former Access Press employee.