A few thoughts

You grow up learning about WWII and you wonder what you would have done if you had been in Germany as the Nazis come to power. Especially if you were a white skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed non-Jewish (thus privileged) kid. What would you do to stop the rise to power? What would you do when they started rounding people up and sending them to camps. And later, would you help people escape? Would you flee the country? Would you turn people in? How would you balance fear and your moral compass. Would you break unjust laws? Would you convince yourself that you were just following orders and obeying the law, or would you risk your freedom, your life, your family?

We’re not in the latter stage yet. But we do have concentration camps. The government is rounding up people. The conditions in the camps, even for children, are appalling. What can we do?

Turns out it is hard to do anything.

You try to do more within the system. But it seems like the system doesn’t care. It doesn’t respond.

(So many people give up. They do less. They stop protesting. Things are getting worse, but they don’t realize how much faster things would have gotten worse without those protests, calls, letters, canvassing.)

(note the date on this tweet)

But still, you try to do more within the system. It still seems like the system doesn’t care. It still seems like doesn’t respond to your individual efforts. It only responds to group efforts.

You can’t ignore injustices. You can’t ignore atrocities. Because if you ignore things, if you don’t do things, there is no group.

But it’s not just you. Each person does their bit. It’s the group effort that makes things happen.

You can’t do it alone, but if enough people do it alone, you have a group.

And if the group is large enough, it can’t be ignored.

Do something to fight US concentration camps — make it so we can’t be ignored.

Children’s lives and well-being depend on us speaking out and doing something.

Call (or fax)

Donate

Shame

Protest

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You need both: How to change (#notall) bad guys’ minds: A deliberately controversial post

Important notice:  today is a national call about saying no to the wall and yes to end the shutdown day.  We need phones to ring or our senators of every hue will think that the only people who care are the Fox News viewers who have been telling them to build the wall.  Here is the 5calls script https://5calls.org/issue/end-the-government-shutdown-with-no-strings-attached- and here is the indivisible script and explainer  https://indivisible.org/resource/trumps-latest-temper-tantrum-and-showdown-over-wall .

Now back to your regularly scheduled blogpost.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether it’s better to punch Nazis/shun Trump supporters, or whether it is better to listen and gently try to change them.  It’s always presented as an either/or.  The NY Times and other publications write article upon article about how the left needs to be more tolerant.  (Narrator:  It doesn’t.)

Here’s my no-research-done opinion.  We need the majority of people out there shunning Nazis/Trumpists and a much smaller number of selfless souls willing to be the “good cop” to gently listen to their feefees and to explain to them how to make their way back into society as non-racists.  We need people yelling at politicians in restaurants and throwing pies in Nazi faces and dis-inviting racist uncles from dinner and we need a lot more of them than we need that one empathetic person that picks up the pieces later.

At a recent faculty retreat, one of the professors made the point that our students don’t realize their writing is bad until they get bad grades on it.  Only then do they start listening to how to improve it.  Gently correcting comments are ignored if there’s an A on the front of the first page.  In the same way, we need a strong front of letting people know what is unacceptable in society, and then a little bit of gentle direction on how to fix it.  But not everybody has to be the teacher.  In fact, it isn’t any good if there are no social consequences and everybody accommodates the missing stair.

So go out there and be intolerant of racists!  Do it without guilt!  If you see one that has reached the bottom and wants a hand up, go ahead and listen (#DeliciousNaziTears) if you want to, but don’t feel obligated.  And certainly don’t feel the need to be nice to one who isn’t already questioning.  It’s not your job to be the Nazi Whisperer.  These people don’t deserve more time than the people that they are hurting.

Book recommendation: So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo.  Give it to everyone you know.  Then resume yelling at racists and telling them to get on up out of here with their wack opinions.

Grumpeteers, what do you think?

My family and WWII

Nazis suck.

My father was a child in one of the countries the Nazis trampled.  He doesn’t talk about it.  He still has an odd fascination with fire that shows itself with birthday cake candles.  And he’s 5’2″ because although he never went hungry, he didn’t get a lot of nutrition either.  His mother and siblings moved to the US after the war.

I found out recently that although my bonmama was Catholic (along with most of my family on both sides), her father was Jewish.  Her husband (I’m not clear if this would be my grandfather or my step-grandfather) moved to Argentina with his mistress after the war (taking all the money, and triggering Bonmama and her children’s migration), and it is thought that he was a Nazi sympathizer.  Funny what one learns when Nazis are in the news again.

My mother’s mother joined the war effort as a nurse.  At her (Catholic, military) funeral, this time period featured prominently as the most important time in her life.  She rose up the ranks in the air force to become a Captain.  When she taught me how to knit, she gifted me with the knitting needles she’d used to while away the time flying towards a battlefield.  On the way back, the needles would be put away while they tended the wounded.

She met my grandfather during the war.  He wasn’t an enlisted man.  I’m not sure why not– whether it was preference or a medical condition.  He was a counselor for the American Red Cross.  While my grandmother treated the physical consequences of war, he treated the mental and emotional consequences.

My maternal grandparents’ commitment to public service filtered down to most of their children (I guess technically my horrible Trump-loving uncle is a forest ranger).  My uncles are veterans, one aunt is a federal judge, the other is a nurse practitioner who ran a hospital system.  My mom, the professor, was elected to our local school board for several terms.

We can’t let Nazi values of hatred and fascism take hold in the US.  We need to honor the ideals of this country that fought against evil in the second WW.  It is true that our own history is full of horrors like slavery and internment and xenophobia.  But we can’t let those forces win.  We must keep fighting.  Concentration camps didn’t start killing people overnight.  Germany didn’t start out evil.  We cannot tolerate injustice.  Keep calling your representatives.  Keep protesting.  Keep recruiting people to vote and donating and encouraging campaigns.  It’s a long slog to freedom.  But the alternative is something our grandparents lived.  They fought with their lives.  We should fight with our time and money and words so that we don’t have to get to that point.

What did your family do in WWII?  How was your family changed by it?