11 June 2009

Hate is still with us

I am not a student of political science. I don't have a deep understanding of how the American government works ("I'm a doctor, Jim, not a poli sci professor"). I love my country, though, in a non-worshipping, pragmatic kind of way. I am thankful that I have grown up here, that I was given many opportunities to succeed, that I am able to work and raise a family in relative peace. But given my upbringing/background, I have always felt that it could be taken away. You see, I have family members that survived the Holocaust. Not close family members, and I have never heard their stories, but they are there in the background of my life, reminders of how truly evil people can be. And I believe that this sort of evilness can happen anywhere, even here in the US. It is the kind of evilness that begins insidiously, infects a few people, then more and more, until it is epidemic. I also believe that most people can get caught up in that kind of situation. Mob reaction, crowd psychology, call it whatever you want. People can incite each other to perform actions and do things that they may not otherwise have done alone. To me, this sort of behavior manifests by targeting a smaller group, a different group, and making them a scapegoat or a sacrifice. That group is isolated, their difference is magnified, and then once a group is "different" enough, then it is just a small step to violence.

I am sure you know what prompted this post -- the shooting at the Holocaust Museum yesterday. It really bothers me. "Bother" is too weak a word, actually. It makes me afraid. To me, the purpose of the Holocaust Museum is to teach those who have no connection to it and to remind people that this can happen and does happen. And to have such a person perform such an action (for whatever reason might have crossed his mind) at that place upsets me almost beyond words. For you see, I am a member of a religious minority group. I live in a country where 76% of the population identifies themselves as Christian. I have worked with people who literally didn't understand that when the US is referred to as a "Christian Nation", it makes me uncomfortable and uneasy. My daughter has been proselytized while at her after-school program.

Please don't read this post as being anti-Christian. It is not, and I am not. I am not a believer, but I am not the type to judge what other people believe, as long as they don't try to convince me that their beliefs are the "right" beliefs. I am not anti-German, not by a long shot. My best friend is German; I have been there several times and found the people to be just like anywhere else. (And the scenery where my friend lives is much nicer than mine...).

But it can happen here. It can happen anywhere. There are people who hate others because of the god they worship, the color of their skin, their country of origin. It shouldn't happen here. We shouldn't let it.


ExpatMom said...

I'm sending you hugs, dear.

Me, I'm all tied in knots b/c this guys has German ancestors (immigrated in the 19th century). How truly twisted is that?

I wished I was there to go eat sushi with you.

neurondoc said...

You shouldn't be tied in knots because of his Germanic ancestry. For goodness sake it was like 200 years ago that his ancestors emigrated. He, I suspect, considers himself an American.

Celeste Long said...

Wow, where to start.

I was eleven when I read the Diary of Anne Frank, at the same time our family had been transplanted to Huntsville, Alabama as my Dad worked on the Apollo Project with a team that included Werner Von Braun, and my best friend was a shy Jewish girl, whose father in someway worked on the same project as my Dad. Her parents were very protective of her and limited her activities.

As a child I had no way to connect all these circumstances together. As an adult, I learned that Werner Von Braun had blood on his hands, wondered whether my friend's parents were Holocaust survivors, and more fully comprehended the horror belying the Diary of Anne Frank.

I come from German Ancestry as well. Part of my family came to the US in the early 1800's, members fought in the U.S. Civil War, and during World War II my great grandmother was harrassed by blindly patriotic American men who she fended off with a baseball bat. She was 4'10".

We share a very entangled history, don't we? Filled with shared experience and unwitting participation in events we don't fully comprehend.

I also cringe at our country being described as a Christian nation. So few people realize why most of our ancestors came to this country and why our Constitution is a drafted as it is. The Pilgrims were a persecuted sect of Christians. The Palantines came as the result of bloody Protestant - Catholic conflicts occurring in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The early Britons came to this country after the royalty decided it would be cheaper to free the serfs from bondange than to provide for them. They came starving to America. This is just a sampling of the reasons why people emigrated to America - but most came to escape something life threatening. It had to take a lot to motivate folks to come here, since the mortality rates on the voyages were astounding. We also brought the abuse with us in the form of indentured servents, slavery, and genocidal elimination of the native people.

It's really a shame that people lose their histories and become doomed to repeat them. It's a shame that the persecuted often become the persecutors, because it's easier to pass on abuse than to deal with the internal turmoil that exists as the result of being abused.

Yes, above all, it is very scary. Today people contemplate leaving the U.S. for this very reason. After the years, we have become more like the places we've come from, and we have a majority that feels no qualms in forcing their views and beliefs on others. Confronted with facts, like the Holocaust museum, they are still unwilling to yield and they seek to destroy anything that conflicts with their world view. We have Holocaust Denail, very scary.

Celeste Long said...

oh - i might have implied tht the majority share in Holocaust denial. This was not intended. There are plenty of other things to deny - effects of slavery, the existence of prejudice, evolution... everyone has a weak spot somewhere.

Lorraine said...

{{{{{wishes there was some quick fix to ease the fear; gives hugs knowing there isn't, really}}}}

Yes, "bother" is too weak a word. "Horrified" fits my feeling a little better. "Outraged" that this guy was on everyone's radar and still didn't get stopped. I do take some comfort, however, in the fact that the majority in our country were outraged by the act.

I get very afraid when I see footage of modern, young Neo-nazis and White Supremists marching. It makes me wonder what they think their world would be like if they had their own little hate-filled country. I suspect that they would soon be hating each other in little groups...

Although I can't completely *feel* with you about the fear over being a member of the Jewish minority here (yes, I can feel it, but since I have not grown up in a religious minority, I respect that my understanding is limited to knowledge and empathy, not experience), I can somewhat relate since my children and husband belong to what those idiots would call "Mud people." When I hear them sound off on people of darker skin being inferior and people of mixed races or ethnic groups needing their version of "ethnic cleansing," it makes me want to tremble. How could anyone look at my dear family and think that? How could anyone look at your dear family? Why are they so afraid of a different religion and ethnicity that just the existence of same makes them want to arm themselves (worse than they already are)?

I know they have freedom of speech, but there are ways and *ways* of calling "fire" in a theater. These acts always seem to inspire other nutcases. It's a slippery slope, but hate speech is a special case, I think, that really can lead to hate acts.

This touched a nerve, obviously. [wry g]

neurondoc said...

[sigh] You do understand for real, Lorraine, if only because The Teflon Spouse and your kids have faced that kind of prejudice.

The whole you're inferior because your skin is darker / you worship the wrong (or worse, NO] god / you walk differently / you don't have much money literally makes no sense to me. And as for a "Mud" person -- that would be TPT -- it rained today and they played outside. She is mud-encrusted. :-)

Lorraine said...

Nor to me, either.

LOL re TPT as a li'l mud person :)

I bet she had a lot of fun! With your backyard looking like my idea of Kentucky horse fields (g), I'll bet there is much grass and mud to be made much of!