What I Learned From Growing Up In The Holocaust’s Shadow

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the death camps were liberated. I grew up in an upper middle class Jewish suburb northwest of Baltimore, MD. I had at least one Hebrew School teacher with a number tattooed into her flesh. We did not shy away from what had just happened to us. We did not avert our eyes in shame except to tell ourselves “Never again”. And to justify our resolve to NEVER passively participate in our own genocide ever again, my community taught the Holocaust to little kids like me the moment they felt we were capable of understanding: the world hates you because of what you are. The sooner you learn this, the safer you’ll be.

I, for one, have never forgotten those lessons. I have never forgotten the look in every German eye as they gazed upon their Jewish prisoners. Forgive and forget?

Not possible. Well… history says it is possible — if not to entirely forgive and forget, then at least to do business with. It’s kinda like “Forgive & Forget Adjacent”. Hey — mea culpa! I’ve owned not one, but two autos made by Audi. And Audi has much to be ashamed about.When Audi was operating under the name Auto Union, it struck a deal with the SS, by which more than 3,700 inmates from Nazi concentration camps were put to work for the company.” Further — “Another 16,500 laborers — not interned in concentration camps — also were made to work for the car company in the Saxon cities of Zwickau and Chemnitz, in addition to 18,000 at a plant in Bavaria where more than 4,000 died…”. In the end, “Auto Union merged with Volkswagen, Audi’s parent company, in 1965, dropping the original name in 1985 after a merger… a decade ago, Audi paid millions into a fund set up by the German auto industry to compensate Nazi slave laborers and their descendants.”

I can comfort myself, I suppose, by telling myself “Well, at least they tried to do the right thing in the end”. As comfort goes, that’s pretty cold. But, what allowed American Jews to “forgive” the Germans — to stop seeing them all as ex-Nazis in hiding — was that, it appeared, the Germans stopped seeing Jews as concentration camp inmates — as cockroaches deserving of such treatment. That’s surprisingly hard to make people understand — people who’ve never been looked at as a cockroach because of what they are. It’s not an affect. It’s a straightforward, brutally honest communication from, in essence, one person’s soul to another. “Because of what you are, you are less than me“.

All animals, it seems, communicate in myriad “unspoken” ways — via body language or simply by “looking at” others a certain way. A little fish doesn’t have to literally hear “I’m going to eat you” to appreciate how loudly it’s being shouted by a big fish’s eyes. It’s there. All the little fish has to do is “read it”.

Forgiving and forgetting IS possible. There CAN BE constructive dialogue between diametrically opposed factions — but not if one of those factions (or both) look at the other with contempt. Nothing constructive can happen if one group sees the other as “cockroaches”. That’s not something most humans can really hide. Even when they try to? It’s pretty phony.

My biggest takeaways from Holocaust School were —

  • The Holocaust might have stopped — but only for now.
  • Jew hating is hard-wired into a lot of people
  • Even people who don’t act like they hate you — if you look into their eyes? They hate you
  • Never turn off your “Spidey senses”; if they tingle? It’s for a reason; REACT
  • The only way you can ever trust that a non-Jew might not despise you for being a Jew? They never look at you like you are a cockroach

Anti-Semitism — like racism and beauty — are entirely in the eye of the beholder. It’s never up to a racist to say whether they’re racist or not. How the hell would they know? They’re RACIST ffs! Ask the racist’s victim, ask the misogynist’s victim, the bigot’s victim, the anti-Semite’s victim: “Do you feel hated because of who or what you are?” If there’s even a scintilla of “yes”, that hater is whatever the hated says they are. Hate after all is an active verb.

It is perverse that, already, a big part of our conversation — in the shadow of a seditionist insurrection — is “can we forgive and forget so as to move past it?” White people, it turns out, hate having to EVER take ownership for their shit. Can’t we just forgive, forget and move on — like they did already? The problem with saying yes Not only do these scumbags now look at you like a cockroach, now they look at you like a stupid cockroach.

Trust me: that makes it worse.

There Can Be No “Forgive And Forget” Until The Entire GOP Owns What They’ve Done

Dear American News Media: I sure hope you’ve noticed that BOTH SIDES are not trying to completely destroy our entire democratic system of government for entirely corrupt reasons. That kinda makes a difference when asking the Democrats to “forgive and forget” what the Republican Party has been doing on the downlow and is now doing out in the open. The Republicans don’t think there’s anything to “forgive” (though they sure wish we’d forget about it!). That’s because they’re CRIMINALS doing criminal things. Until they 1) STOP behaving like criminals, 2) ADMIT that they’ve been behaving like criminals, 3) agree they need to be PUNISHED for behaving like criminals and 4) are willing to ACCEPT that punishment for BEING CRIMINALS, then it makes zero sense to “forgive and forget”. It only makes sense to prosecute them. BECAUSE THEY’RE CRIMINALS.

We are not dealing with any sort of “level playing field” here. Donald Trump — and the white men around him — are accorded a completely different set of rules than anyone else. They start by skirting The Law’s letters while rampantly violating its spirit. Then, once they’ve normalized violating The Law’s spirit, they make THAT “the law” itself — their violation of it. Abracadabra! Criminal behavior is now legal behavior. Virtually the entire Republican Party is now openly behaving like a criminal enterprise. They know THAT’S not entirely legal yet — but that’s the endgame they’re now pursuing: fully replacing OUR democracy with THEIR criminal enterprise.

The stone cold truth is, the Republicans can no longer stop behaving like criminals. They’ve crossed some sort of “criminal Rubicon”. The best they can hope for is a better class of prison cell should We The People manage to shut down “this thing of theirs”. And, rest assured, WE ARE GOING TO.

Journalist, attorney and journalism professor Seth Abramson posted a terrific thread on Twitter last night on the subject of “forgiveness” — well, “forgiveness” via pardons which, in the Trumpian universe is simply more, bigger corruption —

America has every right to be worried that Donald Trump — a two bit criminal punching waaaaaaay above his class — will get away with it (along with every one of his criminal co-conspirators). Should that happen — should these traitors “get away” with betraying the country, it would, in effect, be THE END of our country. A country that refuses to defend itself from an attack — we are most assuredly under attack — can’t really claim to be “a country” anymore. It’s already split up into its more localized, tribalized parts. I, for one, refuse to live in that country. Except, I’m not moving out. I expect THE TRAITORS to move out.

I intend to do whatever I can do to make that happen.

The way our news media reports it, you’d think we were stuck here. Doomed to be politically Chernobyl’d to death first because a Department of Justice rule wouldn’t let us indict a criminal because he was POTUS and then because we couldn’t figure out how to outmaneuver a criminal pardoning himself.

As usual, very few in America’s news media ever bring perspective with them to work — and, considering as they’re reporting FROM HOME, it must mean they have no perspective there either. They’re always Chicken Little, running around headless.

The answer to our problem lies right there in Mr. Abrahamson’s first sentence: “The Pardon Clause prohibits using the pardon power to obstruct impeachments“. Hey, isn’t that EXACTLY what Donald Trump is doing — HAS BEEN DOING all along? Obstructing justice? Obstructing his own impeachment? Since literally everything Trump’s doing flows from that criminal wellspring, why are we even having a conversation about whether or not what Trump is doing has “legitimacy”?

We’re having the wrong conversation again!

“Forgiveness” is a grace. It is not for criminals to take — like they take everything else — it is ours to grant SHOULD WE CHOOSE TO GRANT IT.

But, we owe it to ourselves (we owe those traitors nada) to allow for the possibility of forgiveness so as to fast track the forgiveness process. As I said above, we lay out a simple, step-by-step for each Republican to follow. But, to get to the forgiveness they need (so as to NOT destroy their families for generations to come), first they’re all going to have to accomplish step one: CONTRITION.

Mea culpa.

In their cases, they all need to plead “mea MAXIMUM culpa”. If they can’t muster that, we can’t even think of mustering a scintilla of mercy.

Let the chips — and the punishment — fall where they will. Or, as my college kid puts it: “caveat emptor, bitches!”