On Holocaust Remembrance Day, I felt the need to post some thoughts, because you know, I like to hear myself talk or something:
I remembered, after posting this, some other things I used to think about, as a kid learning about the Holocaust.
This is what I remember:
I remember thinking to myself, what if that had been me? What if I were a Jew in 1942, living in a place where I wasn’t safe? Would I have been one of the lucky few who found a sympathetic gentile guardian who was willing to hide me in the attic/basement/Harry Potter closet under the stairs/wherever? Being a detail-oriented sort of individual, I think I had very extensive scenarios and contingencies laid out. How long would I have survived in this version? In that version? How long could I hide on my own? What would have killed me in the camps?
I’m sorry. I realize this is kind of super morbid.
The point, though, is that while I thought about these horrific things with extreme specificity, it wasn’t with fear; these weren’t my nightmares (my nightmares featured velociraptors, incidentally). It was with the curiosity in which anyone asks “what if…?” This was another time, a foreign place, removed from the real world where I lived. I could speculate on where I would have been during the Holocaust just as blithely as I could speculate on where I might be in the year 2260 (which would have been Babylon 5, incidentally).
There are a lot of horrific, upsetting words and images in circulation right now. Also, apparently I’m an adult or something, which means that cognizance of those words and images is something I can’t escape in the same way that I could when I was eleven.
But now I’ve got this thing in my head, where I can’t help but keep going back to kid me who innocently wondered what it was like to be alive in such a horrible time, who innocently speculated on meeting a nice German kid who was about my age, took pity, and helped me find an abandoned apartment that he knew about and occasionally brought me leftover bread and cheese, where I could squat for a year and listen to the street below, before the SS finally found me and sent me off to Buchenwald, and did I mention that I think I may have been a slightly morbid child? But that’s neither here nor there.
The refugees our president is turning away: they are the people that at age eleven, I wondered about but knew intrinsically that I would never actually have to be (and enacting this ban on fucking Holocaust Remembrance Day was beyond atrocious). Turning them away is turning away the Frank family. Sending them to their home countries is, in too many cases, sending them to the ovens.
But even if it hadn’t been on that day? And even if we hadn’t seen this shit before? It would still be enough. Because this is never, ever okay.
The badass legal warriors at the ACLU have gotten an emergency stay on the president’s executive order, which is incredibly heartening for effective action within the system. But it’s also troubling and uncertain. What happens next? How does the president react when someone tells him “no” (prediction: badly)? What executive order does he put into effect next (prediction: something shitty and un-American)? What about the people who think he was doing the right thing (prediction: lot of yelling)?
I was afraid yesterday. I’m still afraid today. I would rather like to be eleven years old, living in a mindset where this could never happen again. But I can’t. And we can’t. We need to remember, and we need to do better. All of us, together.