Having had ones consciousness raised, it’s impossible to unraise it. I suppose that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s inconvenient.
I started reading history when I was very young, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It wasn’t long before I realized that what we were told in school had little to do with real history. I was astonished at how much history is completely omitted from school curricula. I understand that elementary school history is not real history, but even so, it began to nag at me, a mental itch I could not scratch. The more I read, the more it bothered me.
By proclivity and coincidence, I’ve lived an integrated life. My husband is West Indian, my best friend is Native American and I’ve been subject to some serious consciousness-raising. I had to call her this evening and complain. She has ruined westerns for me. I can’t watch them any more without thinking about massacres. I need to remind myself that my people were not even in this country yet. They were still back in Russia dodging the Czar’s thugs.
Which brought me back to my original problem. I can’t read about savage Indians slaughtering the brave settlers without saying “Hey, wait a minute … That’s not right!” I truly can’t help it.
Nor can I watch “Gone With the Wind” and not know behind the big white mansion were slave quarters. I can’t watch our cavalry riding out to kill Indians without remembering the broken treaties, the systematic, state-sponsored annihilation of entire tribes down to the last child. It takes a lot of the fun out of watching those romantic old movies and the worst part is that I also love those movies. I would like to turn off my conscience for the duration of the film, but I can’t.
Cherrie refuses to apologize. She merely says “My job here is done.” We laugh.
So I apologize for sounding overly sincere. I don’t like sounding moralistic, but I can’t turn away. I wish I could, at least for the duration of a movie. I understand the history of the world is one civilization conquering another and taking its land for their own. So it has always been.
Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass. This was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria that took place from November 9th through 10th, 1938. It was carried out by Nazi paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed.
More than 90 Jews were directly killed in the attacks. Another 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps, so the real death toll is hard to calculate. Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone). More than 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed.
No event in the history of German Jews from 1933 to 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening. The accounts from foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world — but not enough to get them to do anything about it. The New York Times wrote: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”
It didn’t inspire the U.S. or any other country to take in the desperate Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis. Of the many horrors that occurred during these years, I find this one especially hard to forgive. It is the epitome of the saying commonly attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The world did nothing. Good men and women tsk-tsked and cried crocodile tears as the slaughter continued.
I think my consciousness is about as raised as I can stand for the moment. How’s yours doing?
- Germans observe 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when Nazis staged wave of attacks on Jews – @AP (bigstory.ap.org)
- Jews are ‘our big brothers,’ Pope says at Kristallnacht commemoration (haaretz.com)
- Germans commemorate 1938′s ‘night of broken glass’ (kansascity.com)
- Germans Commemorate 1938′s ‘Night of Broken Glass’ (theepochtimes.com)
- Pro-Nazi Irish ambassador report on Kristallnacht to go on display in Berlin (irishcentral.com)
- Germans observe 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht (globalnews.ca)
- Kristallnacht: the Nazi’s ‘aha! moment’ (gerryco23.wordpress.com)