Today while strolling through Amsterdam we experienced quite a bit of sunshine (which is very rare for this city) followed by some rain, lots of wind, rain, snow, and more rain. Felt almost as crazy as Kansas weather!
Through all of the rapidly-changing weather, our group visited two very significant monuments in Amsterdam that, unlike the weather, you will not find anything like in Kansas. We learned a lot about tolerance, and two pieces of history that strongly impacted Amsterdam, as well as the rest of the world.
First thing in the morning, my group visited the Homomonument (yes, I know the name sounds a little different). The Homomonument is a memorial in the center of Amsterdam that celebrates and pays tribute to all gay and lesbian men and women who have been discriminated against, hurt, or killed because of their sexuality.
Amsterdam was one of the first cities to legalize gay marriage, and since then their example has spread to twenty other countries around the world, including the United States last year. You can see this in their culture here, everyone is so tolerant and accepting of one another.
This monument was also the first in the world that memorialized the gays and lesbians killed by the Nazis during World War II. Many people don’t realize that this group, along with so many others, were discriminated against and murdered in the 1940s, other than just the Jewish population.
This monument was very moving and beautiful, and it was a great precursor to spending our afternoon learning about Anne Frank and the Jewish extermination.
The Anne Frank House was so much different than I expected. It was small, quiet, and very moving. We went though the whole house, saw Anne’s diary, and learned how it became the prominent, celebrated story that it is today.
We ended our afternoon at the bottom of the Anne Frank house, watching a short film on the meaning of tolerance. A quote from that movie stuck with me the rest of the afternoon: “The only thing we have to remember is: all her would-haves are our real possibilities. All her would-haves are our opportunities.” -Emma Thompson.
If there is anything to be learned from Amsterdam, the Homomonument, and the Anne Frank House, it is that oppression can occur anywhere, in any size or form. Regardless of all of the negativity in our world, we all have the opportunity to make a change in our own lives and communities. Learning to be tolerant is the first step, and the Dutch seem to lead a pretty great example of that.
I will leave you with one last quote I heard today, “One doesn’t have to be a great hero to change the world.” -Unknown