Why Charlottesville 2017 is not Berlin 1933

This is my professional blog. I had non-professional blogs once; Facebook takes care of that need now. I do a lot of tongue-biting when something happens in the world and I’ve got this (rather unbully) pulpit from which to vent. However this is a topic that should appear everywhere, in every possible setting, for discussion and calls to action. As the son of Holocaust survivors it would be morally criminal for me not to respond. This is part of my response.

Yesterday one woman was killed and many others injured in Charlottesville. (Two state troopers also died while watching the march, but that appears to have been a tragic helicopter accident.) It’s the events surrounding it that were, with the exception for Heather Heyer’s murder, equally tragic.

The Judicial Response. The First Amendment must be upheld. Except when it generates a danger to the public. US District Judge Conrad was responsible for not only allowing the Nazis to wallow in public, but do so where they did, directly contributed to their feelings of privilege in acting as they did. In this case the Nazis were abetted by an organization that was subverted to this cause: the ACLU. Sometimes one must stand up for the right thing, not the letter of the law. This was one of those times. They’re very proud of their record, however his heinous act appears nowhere in their advertising front page. Anthony Romero, their CEO, and Steven Shapiro, their Legal Director, should pay the consequence for this blind support to the idea, and not the purpose, of the First Amendment. I was a donor. As of today I am no longer contributing to their naive stand.

The Police Response. The police failed in their primary duty. They acted like the fencing in a cage match: protect the bystanders but let whatever happened at the march, stay in the march.

I’m not trying the generalize here: there are photos and stories of law enforcement personnel who did an amazing job in a terrible situation. The African-American officers who stayed on the line, who kept their cool should be models for white officers around the country. They did what many white cops couldn’t do at a simple traffic stop or “quality of life” incident.

My focus is on the city leaders, and Joint Terror Task Force (FBI + state troopers + local law enforcement) that managed the response to the planned event. It was their orders, their strategy, and their actions that allowed this to flare from a meandering of pathetics with flags into a race fiot with all the trimmings. Heads should roll at the top for this.

Religious Leaders. As much as the fascist rabble might want to glom onto it, Christianity is not about fascist, nationalist supremacy. While the idolaters in their megachurches sky grifted, many of the local religious leaders stood as a barrier between the sides. That picture on the right? Those aren’t soldiers, those are Nazis. And the moneyed religious white world was silent. (Yes, a generalization, but an accurate representation, I think.)

Nazi leader response to You-Know-Who inactionThe political response. This is the most obvious, most damning, most egregious part of the riot, more, perhaps even, than the actions of the Nazi thugs and fascists emboldened by their snowflake white privilege. Orin Hatch, someone with whom I have little in common, came through in the style of an old-school politician, as did Senator McCain, who‘s folks wrote a short, sharp condemnation as soon as the events occurred.

Der Amerikanischenführer, the cretin with a finger on the button of nuclear immolation, blamed the “many sides” for this. See note on left from one of the organizers of the riot and murder spree. How the Republican Party, which he leads, cannot bestir itself to distance itself from this blot on American history and culture is beyond me.

My ex had to talk me out of painting “Hail to the Thief” in 2000 after the election fiasco. But for all his flaws, and the many mistakes that cost our country too much “blood and treasure,” W understood what the role of a president was supposed to be. Defend and protect The Constitution. This, this person has not an inkling of his required role.

Yesterday was a sad day for America. Yesterday we learned where our leaders stand when faced with a political base gone gangrenous. Apparently, just standing there is the response.

My heart aches for those injured and the Heyer family. My blood boils at the thought of having to deal with Nazis, a generation after my parents barely survived their encounters.

Nazi Anything

Sometimes writing takes a back seat, as it should, to reality.

We spend a lot of time, in this Trumpian, Facebookish era, endlessly macerating previous texts, quotes, and media. It’s easier, it’s true, to quote others than to write one’s own clever words. Of course, some folks’ clever words will stand for ages:

People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people. (Alan Moore, from “V for Vendetta”

Writing is hard. Quoting is easier.

Memes are easier remembered than created. And easier appropriated than created. And memes, by the nature of their being, are slippery viruses that get to all kinds of places you might not consider.

This is difficult. It’s difficult because I’m a child of Holocaust survivors. My mom from Auschwitz, my dad from a nameless slate of forced labor camps. My aunt, one of Mengele’s survivors, was the only close relative to make it through those years. My grandfather, who survived by the grace of a Polish, Catholic farm family by being hid in their attic (his Polish neighbors burnt down his farm after my grandfather testified at their denazification trials).

I’ve faced Nazis (and forebore from killing them, what with this being a democracy and all.) America, after keeping Jews in the line of fire and bringing Nazis back to America after the war to aid in their rocket research, has been fairly good to my people. It gave my parents a home, and a home and opportunity to many of my kind, including the mafioso, the Nobel Prize winners, and the awesome, awesome, everyday people.

Mr. Seinfeld brought humor to American television, in a vapid, aimless way. While I ever found his show funny, he is a pretty good standup comic, and I wish him no ill.

The “Soup Nazi,” however, was definitely not a bright spot in his writing resume for that show. His parents were foreign-American: his dad fought in World War II, and his mom was Syrian-Jewish-American. And he spent time in the early 90s in Israel on a kibbutz. He had to know about the sensitive, “it’s still too soon” aspect of calling people Nazis under any reasonable circumstances.

But his dad was a US soldier. And US soldiers had no problem talking about krauts, spicks, japs, chinks, and gooks. It’s the nature of soldiers and their governments to demote their enemy to non-humans. I know: I’ve been a soldier.

So, the “Soup Nazi” was written, first to paper, then to episodic television, and eventually, became a meme. It was funny, ugly, and therefore quickly absorbed into what passes for the American etymological memory.

We were having a good meeting, this manager and I. He is a sweet, kind, honest, funny, straightforward married dad of a young child. He chuckles, a grownup version of a giggle, and he reminds me of myself, in the 1990s, at an IBM subsidiary, trying to empower and feel for my employees. My contractors. My peers. The world around me.

I want you to be the documentation Nazi, if you—” he said, as we discussed process in his nascent group.

“Don’t ever say that again,” I said. “My parents were in the Holocaust. My father was in labor camps. Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.”

I’m very bad at reading faces, and expressions. I think he was shocked and taken aback (who wouldn’t) at my statement. I _do_ know that, from the tone of his voice, he was surprised at my reaction. And genuinely, honestly, deeply, sorry.

So was I. In some way, I was surprised I didn’t lose it. He said this on the Holocaust Memorial Day. He said this hours after I’d listed, carefully, clinically, the names and dates of all my my immediate family who died in the Holocaust. And how they were people, not numbers. Not even the number carved into my mother’s skin, until, after the war, she seared it from her flesh. 72197.

I can’t help me; I’m the creation distillation, and essence of what my parents, their actions, their family, my actions, and my family, have created. And I can’t help him, not that he needs it, a happy, funny, forward-looking person who wants the best for those around him.

But I can cry, without stop, at the surprising pain of this jab, silly, memetic and trivial though it may be.

And, after breathing, a viewing of “V for Vendetta,” and a possibly unhealthy dollop of wine, I realize that the Nazis really are dead. They’re not making soup, or making fun of it. They’re not standing in front of gun show, advertising their fear. They’re not doing anything. Their power is a function of their reach. And their reach, delusions of the fascist right aside, is the length of their small arms and even tinier hands.