No Shades of Gray

To: My children, who will most likely find this post someday as part of a school project looking back at their parent’s social media history. There are many political and social issues that are nuanced, having valid points on both sides, that could rightly be compared to other instances, events, or even movements.

Charlottesville isn’t one of them. Given the opportunity, fight back against Nazis.

From my wise and eloquent friend and colleague Brian Journey.

Travel Journals and History Books

Are awesome. Other than reminding me that for one summer “Crime and Punishment” was my favorite all time book (times have changed!), they support my swiss cheese memory with facts.

Prague

A number of year ago in Prague, I toured the Jewish Museum: a collection of synagogues and the jewish cemetery where 12 layers of 20,000 jews from the 14th to the 18th century were buried…in a very small space. One of the synagogues listed on its walls over 100,000 names of jews who died in camps in WW II. There were a bunch of ‘Edelsteins’ listed, including “Mirjam Edelstein 1908-1944.” I never entertained the notion that “it could happen here,” until that moment. My sister’s name is Miriam Edelstein.

czech-republic-prague-pinkas-synagogue-the-names-of-victims-of-holocaust-DRCXH9

Dachau

Back then it baffled me that the holocaust occurred in such recent history, and that similar genocides continued around the globe where the free world (the US in particular) had not yet stepped in. On the same trip, while visiting Munich I hopped a train to Dachau, because I just had to see. I had to see the barracks that contained flat wooden boards for beds where people slept (or didn’t sleep) side by side with nothing separating them, stacked in bunks three stories high. The washrooms: two rows of six toilets on either side of a fountain – facing each other – no walls. The crematorium. The mass graves for the end of the war when Germany ran low on coal, and had to find another way to dispose of murdered bodies. Men, women and children, like my family, like every family I’ve ever known, were forced from their homes into these cages to waste away awaiting execution. It sickened me. I come from a jewish family, but I’m not a practicing jew. Being jewish is not an active part of my life. I’m not queer. I’m not a lot of things the victims of the holocaust were. But visiting Dachau hit me as if I were. I felt “very jewish” while visiting that camp.

I eavesdropped on an English-speaking tour for students. The tour guide was a German woman in her 50’s. At the end of the tour she said “When I was your age I too thought nothing like this could ever happen again. But it has. And it continues to happen. Maybe people are just too stupid. But maybe after your visit to this concentration camp, you’ll find it within you to be more tolerant of those who are different from you. More polite. More welcoming.” But her tone told me she’d lost faith in people.

Once we left the camp, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Dachau. That train couldn’t come fast enough. That’s about when I stopped reading books like Crime and Punishment, stopped watching dark films and soon stopped watching the news.

Some Things are Worth Fighting For

Life is hard. Work is hard. Both are great, but because they both dig deep, in my free time, I usually like to keep it chill, fun and happy. Getting smiles and giggles out of my 3-month old human baby, running, and cuddles from my pups are three of the five best medicines that can be prescribed. But in these times when the president of the United States doesn’t immediately condemn neo-nazis and the Ku Klux Klan and the specific group and individuals responsible for the Charlottesville disaster; in times where the president of the United States says there are “very fine people” who label themselves white supremacists, laying the groundwork for neo-nazis to feel energized, justified and supported by the white house, chilling is gonna have to take a back burner to fighting. The president of the United States is unambiguously on the wrong side of history. Many leading Republicans agree, including Paul Ryan: “White Supremacy is repulsive. There can be no moral ambiguity.”  Sean Patrick Hughes, Special Ops Vet says it simply and better than me: “Stand up for others.” And Jimmy Kimmel coats it with a dash of humor, easing the pain, but not beating around the bush: “If you’re with a group of people who are chanting things like ‘Jews will not replace us,’ and you don’t immediately leave that group, you are not a very fine person.”

“This is not a moment, it’s a movement.” (Lin-Manuel Miranda) A movement to fight for the ideals that built this country; a movement to figure out impeaching a dangerous president who would be fired from any other post in government and most jobs in this country for saying and doing what he’s said and done; a movement to teach our children and our parents about tolerance and acceptance, that all lives matter, and to reject hate; a movement to make it right for our children and our neighbor’s children.

And to always fight back against nazis.

 

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