If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu
In my undergrad studies, I was obsessed with the Holocaust. The very first class I signed up for was an overview of the Holocaust that met on Sunday afternoons at my local community college. I was 18 years old in 1995 and fresh out of high school. I didn’t know any survivors growing up, so I had no personal connection per se but my mother’s grandfather had been born in Poland, coming to the U.S. in the early 1900’s and we still had family that lived in Eastern Europe.
We have lost touch with our relatives there and the language barrier between us had been a problem. A neighbor of theirs had graciously translated our letters to them from English into Polish in the 1990’s. The photos they had sent us remain chilling in my mind, a family sans smiles, permanently unhappy. Indeed, they were upset that we would not pay their way into the U.S. back then. I often wondered if many people overseas thought all Americans were as rich as Oprah.
I would end up taking two more Holocaust courses, one undergrad at a university and another graduate level course at the same university. Coming to terms with this historical event was something I could never do although it occurred long before I was born in the 1970s. I think now that the act of my high school taking our senior class to see Schindler’s List at the movie theatre in 1994 left an incredible imprint on my mind.
How could people let this happen?
Last night, I dreamed that a new Holocaust was happening in America. My family and I were rounded up by military-esque people with guns and shuttled far to be isolated and victimized in empty rural space. The fear far replaced any anger I thought I might have in such a situation. Fighting back was just not an option but escape I did try but I could not run far enough. The enemy was everywhere.
I haven’t dreamt of this before. I don’t even have frequent nightmares. But I’m not surprised by it.
Last week, I saw a snippet in the media where America’s current President, Trump, said that protesting against the government should be illegal. The idea that an elected official would suggest such a thing in a democratic free society gave me pause for great concern, not just as a poet and artist, but as a human being.
A brief google will turn up many instances where Trump is highly critical of any type of protest. Yes, the guy who represents us doesn’t want us to have a say in our government. You don’t even have to be liberal, crazy, or smart to identify this as a dictatorship in the making.
The incredibly terrifying component of this is that many Americans agree with him and have been increasingly critical of any protest from Black Lives Matter to the #metoo movement to the protests surrounding the roundup and deportation of immigrant children, separated from their parents.
Disagreement or even mere question of the way our political culture is handling things is swiftly being condemned. Often, the people who speak up or dare to testify against wrong doing in the system are grossly punished and also publicly humiliated. These courageous people are standing up for democracy saying things have to change. This is not right. Can you hear me now?
I wish society could hear us now because I feel like America is falling into the trap of dark totalitarian times. This is the digital dark ages. At no time have we been better able to communicate and share truth and yet, lies are prevailing.
This is how Holocausts start. Stripping segments of society from the ability to participate fully in society? Check. Rounding up segments of society to get rid of them? Check. Ridiculing and spreading lies about minorities (women, Blacks, disabled, etc.)? Check. And so on. The danger is walking among us.
Weeks ago when the first round ups of immigrants started to happen, I began e-mailing the White House. After all, they e-mailed me first, so this is a two way street, yes? NOPE. All my e-mails were automatically bounced back. Sorry, we’re too busy making shit up and putting together these e-mails that read more like propaganda than actual notes of progress from the White House.
Even my U.S. Representative stopped writing me back. The lines of communication went down. The government, maybe long stopped listening, wasn’t even pretending anymore. Shoo, public. We are in office now. Go play on Facebook and be glad we aren’t taxing that too.
Regardless of your political preference, the reality that none of these guys were listening anymore rang clear. And I wasn’t hit with a fair trade turnip last week people, I am aware that the richest and whitest and manliest ones pull the proverbial strings here with their stocks and Bentley collections but at least they gave the impression of fairness for a time and now, they are clearly saying not only do they not give a fuck, they would rather we just shut the fuck up now.
The rage over Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court was closely watched by me. I even wrote a blog piece about it but you all are expressing yourselves pretty well without me on this one, so I won’t publish it. Kavanaugh seemed to suggest that he was above public scrutiny at every turn and that was the element that really threw me.
Really? We shouldn’t make sure you are the right candidate for the job? You are going to decide the law of our land and impact the lives of every American in society. So, we shouldn’t look into your past and judge you as a whole? Because believe me….if I am a woman who worked as a prostitute, you would surely bring that up at my rape trial, right? Even if it had no relevance to the case? I wasn’t clocked in at the time?
It’s not just unfairness or lies. The current administration feels entitled to make decisions without public consent or public input. This is not democracy. Not even a little bit. When the illusion falls away, you have to consider the harm the government is capable of with law on their side.
The German government under Hitler made discrimination legal. It wasn’t a closet deal. Everybody knew it. They systematically passed laws allowing it. They had the politicians in place who did it. I’m not going to talk about the repercussions to standing up to a dictator. That’s another issue and honestly, I’ve always thought we have to own up to our own actions at the end of our lives anyway. There is no escaping your soul even if you desire to be an asshole in life because it’s convenient or pays well.
What worries me at present is any willingness to look away or not challenge President Trump, who has shook hands with other dictators, mocked his own citizens, disregarded truth, has no ability to thoughtfully engage with others who disagree, and criticizes often the very nature of how our society was built hundreds of years ago.
It’s no personal attack agenda I have on this stale 80s business brute of a washed up white man. I’m sure he’s terrible at most jobs. But in this one, he is tearing apart the seams of our freedom. For some reason, people have a problem with this, and I do, too.
We have to decide quickly if this is the future we want. Put on the red hats and cheer against the haters while stoking the flames of our dictator or continue to speak louder and louder for the very freedom our country used to symbolize and still can have.
The decision is yours.