They didn’t run. Those counter-protestors in Charlottesville stood their ground. They stood in the face of fear, in the face of hatred, in the face of ugly bigotry and human ignorance. In the moments after, in these moments after, we must stand together.
Living in Rwanda I’ve learned a lot about pain. Let me tell you what I’ve seen. I’ve stood between rows and rows of human skeletons in a crypt. Bones upon bones upon bones. I saw children’s skulls, clearly marked with the death blow of a machete, or a single, cracked hole from a bullet. I’ve seen the clothes of those dead: Faded jeans and a tee-shirt with a maple leaf on it. Hanging inside a memorial, piled high in a church. People who ran from their executions only to be betrayed by those they thought they could trust most. I’ve seen the only pictures parents had of their now-deceased children, donated to a memorial site so others can see their child’s face. So we can see them. Why couldn’t we see them before?
Doctor Who has always been one of my favourite shows; a Time Lord who travels through space and time, going on crazy, bittersweet adventures. I love the Doctor because, despite all his flaws, he never stops fighting for humanity. We mess it up essentially all the time, but he sees the goodness in us despite our darkness. He sees opportunities for light to prevail. He never gives up on us. In one of my favourite episodes that I re-watched today (SPOILERS), “Let’s Kill Hitler”, the Doctor is dying and he turns to the woman who killed him and says, “I know you’re scared, but don’t run. Rule number 7: never run when you’re scared.” As a white person, I can’t run from this rise in white supremacy. We cannot turn from this, we must face it. Racism is not dead in our country. But it should be.
Living in Rwanda I’ve learned a lot about the slow rise of hatred. Let me tell you what I know. I know that the belief that your neighbour deserves to die because of who they are or what they believe doesn’t happen overnight. I know that it grows, inch by inch, minute by minute, moving slowly like molasses. I know it seeps into our lives in small ways and small choices. I know that it comes from fear. Fear of loosing a perceived power or fear of loosing control. I know that it’s easy to say I am right and they are wrong. I know that as the hatred builds and builds there will be signs. Markers showing us which way we are going. In Rwanda, years before the genocide, there was a war. There was overt oppression against those who would later be victims of a mass killing. I’m not saying that oppression leads to genocide or war, but I’m also not saying that we are better than that.
In “Victory of the Daleks” the Doctor is talking to Winston Churchill about fighting Nazi Germany. Winston wants to use alien technology to win the war quickly, but the Doctor says no. He says, “It doesn’t work like that. It’s gonna be tough. There are terrible days to come, the darkest days. But you can do it. You know you can.” He knew the light in us would never go out, even in one of our darkest hours. We don’t have the Doctor to fight with us, but we don’t need him. I’ve seen a woman stand next to a man who murdered innocent people during the genocide. I saw him speak about his own admission of guilt, his direct role in her pain. I saw her stand with him, both in their own pain. I saw them give their testimonies and then sit, quietly, next to each other. Together in pain and justice.
We don’t need the Doctor to remind us that we are made of light and dark, good and bad. That humanity is as capable of horrifying acts as it is acts of immense good. We don’t need the Doctor because we have you. You, and me, and them. People who won’t run when they’re scared. People who will stand in the face of fear, in the face of hatred, in the face of ugly bigotry and human ignorance.
It’s gonna be tough. There may be terrible days to come. But we can do it. I know we can.