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What Prague, Lidice, Aleppo and the Death of Philando Castile have in common

By Brandon E. Campbell | Originally Published June, 2017

What is it in our humanity that tells us we’re superior someone else not by deed but by sheer existence?

As I worked from and lived in Prague in April, something struck me while learning about how Czechoslovakia (subsequently, Czech Republic and most recently Czechia) was affected by World War II and the Nazi stronghold on Europe.

This is a picture of me on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague.

It was during a trip to a small town of Lidice which sits about 10 miles outside of Prague that I began to dig deeper. In 1942, just after the Anthropoid mission in Prague that resulted in the assassination of Reynard Heidrich, who was thought to be the number two in the Nazi army, Hitler ordered the town of Lidice to be wiped off of the map. Lidice was chosen because a piece of “suspicious” mail was intercepted that was sent by one of the assassins. In fact, the note wasn’t suspicious at all but it was all Hitler needed to carry out his vengeance. He wanted to make an example out of Lidice. As a result, all men in the town were killed in the morning of June 10th. The women were rounded up and separated from their children. The women were sent to one concentration camp and the children to another. Out of 105 children 88 were killed by gas and 17 survived to be stripped of their identity and Germanized.

Up until this point, the world had known what Hitler was doing but it was the propoganda he created that showed the massacre including the children that sparked and invigorated nations to act. A memorial of the lost children of Lidice current stands on the land where the horrible act took place as a visceral reminder of those events.

I got a chance to walk through old Lidice where the events took place. I saw the river that had been diverted, the buildings destroyed, and topography of land that was changed so that it would be purposely unrecognizable to anyone that visited. I stood in front of the memorial of the fallen children of Lidice that representing each individual child that was lost.

The memorial to the children of Lidice.

It disturbed me. And did so in more ways than one.

Again, I ask what is it in us as humans that tells us we’re superior than someone else by sheer existence? In such a way that a person would want to erase all evidence of your existence? To take the children you deem “acceptable” and “Germanize” them by forcing them to change their names and threatening to kill them if they spoke their native language? And when it come’s to human tragedy, why does it take our children’s peril in these instances to invigorate us to act?

Pondering on the history of Lidice brings me to another atrocity.

Since 2011, we watched from the comfort of our homes while various factions of Syrian rebels fought against the Syrian government since the Arab Spring uprisings in opposition to their leader, Bashar al-Assad. In an attempt to silence the uprising, Assad authorized violence by the Syrian government with assistance from Russian airstrikes against Syrian citizens. After four years of fighting, its estimated that at least 33,000 citizens were killed but it wasn’t before a photo emerged of a child pulled from the rubble after an airstrike with a bloodied face that the masses turns our heads towards Aleppo and questioned what was really going on. And I’ll admit I was apart of that group. Although I knew there was something going on the barrage of media we’re fed on a daily basis without clear explanation tends to assist in our tuning out and become numb to real world events.

What is it in our society that attenuates our ability to relate with other humans because they live in different lands? Because their experience or their government may be a little bit more unstable than ours? Why does our inability to be able to relate to their personal experience minimize their humanity?

While I was walking through the chilling town of Lidice and looking at the memorial of the children, my mind went to Aleppo and then landed on our current troubled reality in the United States.

Since 2014, a glaring light has been cast onto the shootings and killings of unarmed American citizens by the hands of police officers. In many cases the body cam, dash cam, surveillance video, and witness video reveal the disturbing details of these accounts where it is all but clear to any reasonable viewer that these unarmed American citizens were unjustly killed. Although the United States has a well documented and tattered history of minimizing humanity by way of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (which enslaved and shipped over 12 million Africans [approx. 400,000 of which were brought to the United states]), Japanese internment camps, social and legal misogyny towards women, Jim Crow laws, inequality for the LGBTQ community and much more is seems that we still fail learn from our own history and the history of other well established atrocities to act. At large, we fail to even acknowledge that these tragedies that take place are a result of the atrocities perpetuated by our forefathers that created a legal and social precedent for these events.

Most recently, a police officer was acquitted after killing an American citizen by the name of Philando Castile. He was killed in his car, with his finance’, a toddler in the backseat of the car and after he told the officer he had a license to carry a firearm. After the trial, the dash cam video was released along with a video complete with audio of his fiancee’s daughter terrified and consoling her mother pleading and hoping that she would be safe. In addition to the unthinkable tragedy of a life being lost for being courteous, doing exactly what you’re asked and complying with the police, the resolve and presence of the little girl was especially invigorating. It made me think about how American’s have failed to see the value in the life of not only American citizens but our children. If Tamir Rice, this little girl who could have easily been killed by a stray bullet while in the backseat, and Sandy Hook cannot invigorate American citizens enough to stand up and unite against injustice than what will?

Again, I ask what is it in us as humans that tells us we’re superior than someone else by sheer existence? Are we that naive to think that our humanity is that much different than another American? Why does our inability to be able to relate to their personal experience minimize their humanity?

You’ll notice that while the scenarios articulated may be different the same questions apply. For a society that thinks itself above the tragedies that happen in “foreign” lands, the mirror can be detestably revealing.

Watch the video above as I speak with two Czech citizens from different generations about some Czech history, their experience and would should unite us all in Extended Family Episode 4.

To become part of the Extended Family, join the journey with me on Instagram @bcamboss.

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