Monday, January 30, 2017

A tangled web of inhumanity

Apparently the Disunited States of Trump/Bannonland doesn't love either refugees or Jews.

Readers here probably know that the White House managed last Friday to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a proclamation that omitted Jews from its catalogue of the victims.

The White House proclamation, you may not know, replicates the orthodox Russian reading of historical 20th century barbarities. Some twenty-seven million Russians died in the German invasion (that was on top of the 20 million some that Stalin killed in the 1920s and '30s while forcing peasants into a shitty industrial economy). Western/U.S. memories of the era are different. We think "we" won the war. Not so most Russians -- and their view is not baseless.

... throughout the Cold War, recollections of the Allied victory in the Soviet Union and the West were very different. The West underestimated the losses suffered by the Soviet people, barely recognizing that Stalin’s readiness to sacrifice millions enabled the West to lose fewer lives. The Soviet Union acted oblivious to the war in the Pacific, did not remember the generous assistance of the American lend-lease act, and continued to resent Western nations for their delayed engagement in the war in Europe.

In the U.S.S.R., it was never acknowledged that Stalin and Hitler had made a secret agreement to divide Poland as part of the non-aggression pact they signed in 1939; the Katyn massacre of Polish military and civilians, in 1940, was blamed on Germany; and the post-war occupation of Eastern European nations and the installation of repressive regimes in those countries were portrayed as their free choice of the Communist path.

While the West came to regard the Holocaust as the main tragedy and lesson of the Second World War, in the U.S.S.R., the focus was on the tragedies of the Nazi occupation of Soviet territories and the heroic victories of the Soviet people; the word “Holocaust” was barely known.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian views of this history began to expand, as did Western understanding of the enormity of Russian suffering. But Putin's autocracy liked the old narrative of the Russian nation standing alone. The magnitude of Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews was again pushed into the background. After all, Jews barely counted as proper "Russian" nationals.

Holocaust deniers like the Russian history narrative.

And so, apparently do the leaders of our current regime.

Those leaders, as they have made so obvious, don't like refugees either. Or really, they don't like anyone who they think should be kept on the outside of their Big Beautiful Wall. They've got approval from another fan of walls: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The little rogue Jewish state has so polluted the memory of the Holocaust that he can blithely suck up to Washington's Jew-despisers to add heft to his own appropriation of Palestinian lands behind his wall. I guess Trump/Bannon think they have their Jewish flank covered. Not among the Jews I know.

Back in the 1930s, the U.S. did its own denying of Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Our forbears famously turned back a shipload of 937 refugees from Hitler who had made it all the way to our coasts -- but lacked immigration papers. About a quarter were later among the massacred; we easily expunge that heartless episode from the national memory.

Software developer Russel Neiss and Rabbi Charlie Schwartz have created a Twitter memorial to the unfortunate passengers on the doomed ship, the St. Louis.

Sometimes when this country has done wrong, 30 or 70 or more years later, we try to untangle the web with an apology. So it went with the Japanese internment or the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
Sometimes we never apologize at all: think the attempted eradication of the continent's natives or the importation of African slaves.

In some future, will we apologize to the world because, when we were the richest, most powerful, country in the world, we closed our borders to the planet's most desperate people in a fit of misplaced fear? Some of the answer to that question depends on what we do now.

Can we do better today? Resist and protect much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Office that worked with LGBT folks has been "disappeared" from the white house/ us gov website also.If we can't be seen, we don't exist, as women, Jews, queers, disabled,intellectuals, all persons of difference, then it's a hell of a lot easier to kill us.