Have we changed?

Illustration by Susan Seddon Boulet

Sanne Burger

11 June 2021

When the church announced the inquisition
We were all complicit
We told the executioners where they could find the witches
The gypsies
The wise men and women
The free spirits

We reported our grandmother
We betrayed our neighbors
Just to save our own skin
We did not look away when a woman was drowned
weighted down by stones
We did not look away when a woman was burned at the stake

On the contrary
We would all go to the marketplace
Because we wanted to watch the witch burn
We would laugh at her screams
The smell of burning flesh

We would justify the executioners
And abandon the victim
Even when she had helped us deliver our child
Even when she had cured our cold
with fresh herbs from the forest
Even when she had consoled us after we had lost a dear one
Even when she had held us in her arms
So many times

We would justify the injustice
By repeating what we were told
‘She was sleeping with the devil!’
We knew it wasn’t true
We didn’t even know what it meant

We were too scared
Too selfish
Too opportunistic
to doubt the rulers
We were too afraid to be next

Have we changed?

When the government announced World War II
We were all complicit
We told the nazis where they could find the jews
Even after we knew where they were going
Even after it became crystal clear
They would never come home

We didn’t think about it
We even took a job in the camps
Collecting valuables from the dead bodies
Shoes, jewelry and golden teeth
Swallowing a golden tooth if we could
When nobody was watching
Feeling so content with ourselves

We would even take their houses after the war
Putting them in our own name
Pretending no one ever lived there before
We would justify the injustice
By saying we didn’t know what took place in the camps

It wasn’t our fault, we said
We had nothing to do with it
We were playing innocent
Even towards ourselves

We would do everything
Everything to not look at our own darkness
Our own selfishness
Our own cowardice

Have we changed?

When the World Health Organisation announced the pandemic
We immediately submitted
Again, fear and self preservation got the best part of us
We followed the rules
Just like before

We chose to trust the culprits
Once again
We bought matching mouth caps for our children
And told them everything would be okay
We let our parents die of loneliness
And told them it was for their own good

We told ourselves our ridiculous actions were necessary
Even heroic
Everything to not feel the shame of our stupidity

Have we changed?

Have we become mature enough to be honest now?
To own our selfishness
Our fear
Our opportunism?
Or will we deny everything again
Will we hide behind our correctness
And our wellbehavedness?

Are we going to justify our actions again?
‘We just did what we were told.’
‘To obey is to be a good person.’
Will we own our mistakes
When more people start dying?
Or will we find another scapegoat
To point at?

The man who refuses to follow after he is arrested
The woman who refuses to stop healing people
The people speaking up
The people going into hiding
The people hiding them

Who will be the scapegoat this time?
Let me guess
Will it be the disobedient ones again?
Those who choose not to be part of a medical experiment?
Those who try to warn others?
Those who keep their children close?
Those who are not willing to give up their sovereignty?

Let’s see whether we have changed
If so, we will get through this
If not, we will get through this too
It will just take longer
And there will be more casualties
Many more

Who are you?
What do you stand for?
Can I trust you?
What would you do?
Did you change?

What will you do this time?

Sanne Burger


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