My wife and I finally took the kids to the famed Museum of Tolerance here in Los Angeles last week. Oh my God, what a wonderful experience. If you ever get a chance to go you really must.
The funny thing about calling it a wonderful experience is that the museum is anything but what you would call lighthearted or “fun” in the normal sense. What it is though is extremely moving, engaging and well organized. And though it deals with the Holocaust, the ugliness of Jim Crow laws in the South, awful worldwide discrimination and abuse against women, and prejudice in general, it is basically impossible to come out of there and not have a whole new motivation to fight prejudice and racism in any form. The stupidity of what man has done to man throughout time essentially is just overwhelming when hit with it in such a way as they do so well at the museum. None of the atrocities were new to me but even I learned a whole lot of things I didn’t know before, especially about the rise of Hitler and how ordinary people helped him get to where he was largely because they did nothing and really didn’t believe he would do what he clearly set in motion to do.
For my kids, the experience really made a difference. Both our kids were already cognizant of racism and were open-mnded kids but I know being confronted with the Holocaust and seeing the images and video, seeing the hoses being turned on Blacks peacefully demonstrating during the Civil Rights Movement, seeing how Mexicans in California also couldn’t go into certain places, these were things that really made them understand how much the world has changed even though they don’t see these things today. But I think it also reminded us all that we must be vigilant and pay attention to the fact that we still have a long ways to go and that the world is still not free of horrible atrocities as well as subtle and overt discrimination.
I am still amazed how much I enjoyed such a heavy and saddening exhibit. Sounds strange, but if you ever go you will know what I mean.