Located in Los Angeles, California, the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) is one of the most unique establishments of its kind in the whole world. As an educational entity dedicated to the examination of racism and prejudice amongst the human race, it is also closely allied with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the celebration of Jewish human rights. Opened in 1993 for a cost of $50 million, the main exhibit focuses on the tragedy and history of the Jewish Holocaust, but it also places great emphasis on the general concerns of human rights throughout our global society – including the closely associated issues of bullying and hate crimes. The overall educational goal is to challenge each and every visitor to confront prejudice, ethnic narrow-mindedness, and inhumanity while also promoting worldwide racial and cultural tolerance. Since its inception, the museum has hosted over 4 million guests from every corner of the globe, including Jordan’s King Hussein and the Dalai Lama. The message is intended to be universal in nature, because it “is not a Jewish museum — it’s an academy that broadly campaigns for a live-and-let-live world.” In recognition of its dedication to peace and intercultural dialogue, the Museum of Tolerance has been the recipient of the Global Peace and Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations. The success of the MOT in Los Angeles has led to the establishment of similar entities in New York City and Jerusalem.
Since the concept of tolerance is a very abstract ideal to communicate through display, most of the exhibits in the museum are very high tech and interactive in their delivery, with the intention of touching the heart and mind in dynamic fashion. One of the most distressing and heartrending sections of the museum is the area actually dedicated to the Holocaust, which includes film clips depicting actual deportation scenes and simulated concentration camps. Upon entering this area, each visitor is issued a “passport” imprinted with the name of a child whose life was dramatically altered by the Nazi regime that governed Germany in the 1930s and during World War II. The fate of each child represented on the simulated passports becomes evident as the visitors make their way through the exhibit, which also presents an outdoor Berlin Café of the 1930s, Simon Wiesenthal’s office, and a “Hall of Testimony” dedicated to the courage and sacrifice of Holocaust victims and survivors. In another area of the museum, the Tolerancenter features a 1950s diner with video jukeboxes that “serve” an interactive menu of scenarios on subjects such as bullying, drunk driving, and hate speech – with ability for the visitors to vote their opinions and question the main characters in the vignettes. The “Millennium Machine” is another facet of the Tolerancenter that confronts the worldwide need to end human rights abuses, including the threat of terrorism. A “time machine” not only presents various forms of intolerance, but also engages the visitor to find the solutions – thereby indicating that humans might create the problems, but they also have the potential ability to prevent them.
Other facets of the museum addressing the advancement of tolerance in the world seem endless, but here is a smidgen of the possibilities. A state-of-the-art video with 16 screens presents a “Civil Rights Exhibit” – an archival documentary chronicling the struggle for civil rights in America. Inspired by actual ongoing research conducted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, GlobalHate.com is an area of the museum sporting touch screen computer terminals that expose the alarming escalation of hate on the internet. Another gripping film entitled “In Our Time” speaks of present-day hate groups throughout the world in places such as Rwanda and Bosnia, where intolerance, human rights violations, and hatred have led to tragic consequences involving genocide similar to the Holocaust. “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves,” the most recent “multimedia immersive addition” to the museum, is a celebration of the plurality in ethnic backgrounds that make up the rich fabric of American society. A special exhibit entitled “Para Todos Los Ninos” (For All The Children) traces the history of discrimination in California against all non-White citizens, including those of Mexican descent.
So, just how integral to ending the scourge of terrorism is the concept of tolerance? In answer to such a question, the relationship is huge, because intransigence in thought and belief lies at the very heart of terroristic violence. In a world ruled by intolerance, narrow-mindedness stands supreme – meaning that differences in religion, wardrobe, personal opinion, cultural protocol, body language, and verbal accent become points of extreme difference that can lead to hatred and violence. In such a state of affairs, concern over the differences that separate one culture from another become an obsession in which there is a lack of respect for the basic commonalities that bind us together as humans, leading to a tragic breakdown in empathy and respect for the qualities that make each culture unique. Fostering the level of tolerance in the world would go far in lessening the prevalence of cultural tension, hatred, terrorism, and war. As stated by the present Chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace, Frederico Mayor Zaragoza, “let us educate for tolerance in our schools and communities, in our homes and workplaces and, most of all, in our hearts and minds.” All the more reason for the establishment of a monument such as the one sponsored by this web site. Please join us and sign the petition by clicking on the link below.
You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.
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