President's Day Edition - Pardon My Anti-Semitism but....
February 20, 2017
Pardon my anti-Semitism, but I once argued that Hitler was the single greatest catalyst for positive change in the 20th century. The idea being that without Hitler, there is no Civil Rights Movement, there is no Gay Rights Movement, etc.
Obviously, the argument is flawed - mostly because Hitler is garbage. Period. But also because it was not Hitler who brought about these sweeping societal changes but the good people of the world who chose human kindness and decency over hate and said no, never again, and while we are at it, not this either.
This has crystallized for me in a new way because of all of you. We are not coming together to protest, today, because of our hate for Donald Trump but because of our love for each other. We do not pick the car up off the baby because we hate the car. Who cares about the car? We do it for the baby. There is no reason to credit the car or fool that unwittingly created the opportunity and space for us to be heroes.
My overwhelming indebtedness and personal gratitude belong to the resistance and the far too many victims of the Holocaust: the Romani, the Poles, the Slavs, the gays (in a new and profound way since joining their ranks, the gays), the disabled, the opposition, and (last, but certainly most) the Jews for suffering an injustice and a sacrifice which galvanized the world.
I am because of them.
While we are at it, I have always been a little jealous of the complete demonization of Hitler. No one ever says, but he was so great on the environment. What an orator! What a community organizer! On the contrary, Hitler’s government no longer exits and the Jewish people don’t live within the borders of Nazi Germany. It is straight forward. Hitler bad. Nazi Germany poof, gone. There were trials, there were apologies, there are monuments. No ambiguity. If anyone lauds Hitler, it is a clear indication that they are unbalanced or dangerous.
For crying out loud, Courtney, where is the black history? Okay, here we go. Bear with me. The people who enslaved us, killed us, and raped us for hundreds of years? The men who codified the murder, rape, torture, and enslavement of black people into law? Well, we still live in their country. We celebrate them. In fact, their country is our country. We take ownership, pride, and responsibility in it. We go to war for it. We march to keep it whole, intact, to make it better, stronger. We essentially say, every day, "But he was so good on the environment."
An even more troubling, avoided truth is that many of us – oh hell, I’ll just say it – all of us (some more visibly than others) are the descendants of the people who perpetrated this upon us. Most white people in this country are not the descendants of slave owners but most black people (all aside from the B. Obama variety) are. But the thing is, we have inherited each other’s privilege, and I guess that turns out to be thicker than blood.
Can or should the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of rapists own them and forgive them for raping their mothers? Does it help? Does it make any difference that the rape was legal and normalized?
Another thought with respect to Jewish Americans is this: I am so jealous of the Jewish anti-defamation concept which is so unbelievably tight that anything that could be deemed anti-semitism is deemed so just to be safe. There is no taking chances. No deferring to possible alternative explanations. No room for dog-whistles. No accusations of playing the religion-card. There is no blaming the victim. There are no calls to stop being victims and get over it already. Jewish Centers and schools have armed guards and no one blames them. No one credible blames them when they organize, create their own schools, community centers, and events, patron each other, and look out for each other.
How did they manage this? Did relocation to another country and the ability to blend in as white people allow this? How and why did Jews chose to define themselves as white people in the first place? White people are the very people they were killed for not being. So really, how and why? From what I understand, people of color have accepted this definition of them. Have white people? Do American WASPs see American Jews as white people? Similar to how the Irish became white, were the Jews able to become white because they can simultaneously be Jewish (culture/religion) and white (race)? I do not think this would work for black people. Would I want to be a white person if I could? I don’t think so – then again, it would make things a lot easier – and now that black is culture as well as color - I can always be black at home. Or maybe we can eliminate the “white” designation and exchange it for “human” – assign the same privilege to it - and allow ourselves cultural differences within that definition.
Oh, and I completely understand why people said the Holocaust should never be compared to that lesser atrocity of Slavery. It is born out of self preservation and distances the Jews from the despised. But it was a necessity born of racism against black people and so it is time to give up that ghost. It is racist. Also, that idea that the Jewish Community and others tried to help black people in the 80s through a coalition but the black people just could not see it - just did not want to help themselves. Racist. Like occupying Chicago, being black qualifies you to be HUD Secretary, racist.
And since we probably cannot become white, does anyone know of a colonized country that has successfully rebounded? Really successfully? However small? If one exists, how did they manage it? I suppose it is hard enough to be colonized in your own land but to be colonized in a foreign land – a vast and foreign land. How to begin to heal from this? Truth and reconciliation? A class action? A monument? I am really trying to figure this out. Maybe the U.S. government could start with an apology.
I dedicate this post and my very existence to every direct and generational Holocaust survivor I have ever known, in particular, those two darling knuckleheads I argued the merits of Hitler with in the kitchen twenty years ago – I take it back. As I said at the top, Hitler is garbage. Period. I dedicate this to my childhood neighbor Gabrielle Green who brought the finest silk from Paris to make my wedding dress when I was 2-years-old and who made the most darling little blanket for the boys with that silk five years before they were born with no regard to her aching hands. But the person who most leaps to mind is the Brentwood fine-art dealer, all in black in her little shop on the north side of San Vicente Boulevard. I usually sat on a high stool as she and my mother chatted. I liked looking at the painting of colorful little boats sailing across the ocean on a sunny day. Both the woman and the shop, like so many of the monuments of my childhood, are long gone and, though I can’t recall their names, I can see them clearly. During one trip to her shop, she and my mother conspired to show me the tattoo on her arm. My mother told me it was one of the most important things that I would ever see, to remember it, and that one day I would know what it was.