Happy Valentines Day! My original intention for today’s blog was to compose uplifting flowery prose which might inspire love and connection. However, as I delved into the complicated and muddled past of this whimsical day of adorations, I soon discovered there was nothing whimsical about Valentines Day. Its curious beginnings have been studied by various historians sifting through the dusty realms of the past, but unfortunately, rather than locating a precise origin, the beginnings are vague and incomplete. According to some, our designated day of love began with animal sacrifice and ended with a lottery in which young virgins were raffled off. Other chroniclers surmised February 14 was named for St. Valentine, a Roman priest, executed for secretly marrying young lovers against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II, and thereafter was named the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers.
If you find the history of Valentines Day tragic, I would agree, but that said, haven’t we done something amazing? We took a historically horrific day and turned it into a day to express our love for our families and our friends. Each time we gape at our history with distress in our heart it’s an opportunity to revisit and become aware of the tribulations of the past thereby creating a brighter future.
Let’s consider the years of 1933-1945, when Adolf Hitler, the German dictator sought war and hate instead of peace and love. His leadership was directly responsible for the deaths of six million Jews and five million noncombatants. Many of those died in the concentration camps, and thousands of deaths were attributed to medical experimentation by Nazi doctors. During Hitlers war campaign the rape of innocent women and children were common occurrence, and he actively persecuted homosexuals and people with disabilities, and went as far as authorizing a euthanasia program for disabled adults.
Today, we look back and wonder how this devastation could have happened, the survivors tell us it occurred quite gradually, it began with a propaganda campaign, a stealthy layering of words resulting in a slow twist of the mind. The government sponsored media used radio, newspapers, posters and flyers, to dehumanize their fellow Jewish citizens and dissidents. Eventually they considered those people enemies that needed to be dealt with, debate was not allowed, disagreeing voices squashed and demonized.
Around that same time period from 1922-1953, Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, became responsible for over six million peoples deaths and perhaps as many as nine million if you take into account death by starvation and concentration camps for dissidents. A historian, Norman Naimark, penned the book, Stalin’s Genocides, to illustrate the dictator’s horrific deeds.
It’s ugly. It’s terrible to read, and it’s difficult to consider those times, yet if we turn away from the bloody history of our world we dishonour the pain and suffering of the dead. A forgotten history is a repeated history. Out of all the mass murdering leaders of the 1900’s, the Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, reigned supreme at killing his own people. His rule led to the deaths of 45 million people. Forty-Five Million. Rodgers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team can hold 20,734 people for a concert. You would need approximately two thousand-one hundred and seventy Rodgers Places to hold all the bodies that Mao Zedong was responsible for killing.
People are complicated creatures, our egos and fears sometimes lead us into unreasonable actions. In the 18th century around twenty percent of all woman died from the Black Death of childbed. Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, sought to solve the reason. Fairly quickly he established that the mid-wives had a much lower rate of mothers dying after childbirth than the doctors, therefore he concluded the mid-wives must be doing something different than the fully trained doctors. After spending time observing the mid-wives verses the doctors, he eventually came to the conclusion that the doctors did not wash their hands between seeing patients and delivering babies. In short order, Dr. Semmelweis instructed his staff to begin washing their hands and cleaning the instruments between patients, and in response the rate of Black Death in his delivering mothers dropped off dramatically. Incredibly, the other doctors did not immediately follow his solution and actively shunned and mocked Dr. Semmelweis’s suggestion. It took years before hand washing was implemented and in the meantime many more woman died.
History holds so many warnings in the crotch of its bloodiest years. Looking at history we can see, the first sign of a government gone astray can be found in the wording used by their media and its leaders. It utilizes disparaging language, singling out a particular group through blaming and name calling. Cultivating emotion through the use of certain phrasing is a the most powerful tool a leader can use in addressing its citizens. It can either bring people together or drive people apart.
Do you tolerate me? Do you think I am racist and misogynistic for making a personal choices for the only thing I truly own on this earth—my body? Dividing citizens has never proved a peaceful path into the future. Love and unity is the only way to move forward. Consider this, ordinary civilians are not the instigators of an oppressive and tyrannical society, however, through fear and manipulation the majority of citizens do grant their leaders that power. Our history is being decided now. I am an unvaccinated healthy citizen on the side of freedom— love me or hate me, it makes no difference to me, I still consider you a potential friend and ally in a world that seems to have gone over the edge. Happy love day to you.