I don’t know man.
On Monday night, in the neighborhood where I went to college, the sun set. Jewish folks dusted off and put out the seder plates, maybe straightened the tablecloth, lit candles, got ready for the guests — first night of Pesach. And later that night some other person, who planned ahead, shook up a clattering spray-can of paint, and sprayed a big, detailed Nazi flag on the Jewish community center down the street. They used three colors, and took their time. Just to drive their point home, they also sprayed “Hitler was right” and “SS” on there.
Hate crimes like this punctuate American history like a leaky fountain pen. But this time, they echo in the fucking White House. “Hitler never gassed his own people”, he said.
Now let’s push pause for a minute. Let’s you and I take a deep breath.
In 1994, around this time of year, I was at Dachau. I was a pimply-faced and maladjusted exchange student, but all the teenage angst in the world couldn’t interfere with the lessons I had to learn there. I stood in the preserved gas chamber. I read my maternal family name on the wall of victims. I saw a pile of little kids’ shoes (the Nazis were saving the leather). The awful reality of genocide shot straight through my soft tissue and lodged firmly in my bones. It’s still there, and I plan to keep it.
I don’t think most Americans understand that THIS SHIT IS EXTREMELY REAL.
It’s not just some shocking punk-rock shit a maladjusted teen did. Your basic run-of-the-mill Weimar Republic German person was not all that different from your basic run-of-the-mill millennial American — they read the paper, they went grocery shopping, they carried secret fears, they talked over coffee about what lunatics these new right-wing politicians were.
Hitler and his buddies weezed their way into national politics, and occasionally said shit that hinted at the darkness beneath — but nothing that couldn’t be blown off by attributing it to idiocy or a lack of statesmanship. By and by, day followed day, and then BOOM. Reichstag fire. If you passed high-school history class, you know where we go from there.
THIS SHIT IS REAL. It’s a fucking emergency.
What do we do? Somehow, I don’t think Phone-calls to Bureaucrats will be enough. The bureaucrats we have now let someone into the White House that denies the fucking holocaust (accidentally? On purpose? Does it matter to you?) Punching Nazis is a good start, but most of them are hiding. And several of them have Secret Service escorts now.
On my way to coffee this morning**, (Weimar coffee?) I passed a church sign that said “The Risen Jesus is the only hope for our dying world”. I believe that with my bones too, because if spring follows winter, life has to follow death. And the Jesus I know isn’t much of a Puncher.
He told us we are supposed to feed people that are hungry and give clothes to the naked, comfort the hurting, visit people in jail, and pour ourselves out to improve the lot of the people around us. We can flip over tables and throw exchange money on the ground if we need to, but if we live the life of the sword (/handgun/tomohawk missile/whatever) we will die by it. True enough.
So, because I don’t know what else to do***,I signed up to help with this free medical van that drives around to poor neighborhoods. And I’m writing up a really thorough Examination of Conscience to go through at confession. I’m going to hang out with some Quakers, because while I love the Church with all my marrow, we/I have some things to learn about nonviolence.
I’m praying this morning that the Most High will turn this boiling anger and crippling fear inside me into something really useful, and keep me from the Punching. And I’m thanking Him effusively for Zoloft.
**mental soundtrack, natch, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, thank you to Jello Biafra
***and because Mr.Pickbrick has roundly and repeatedly refused to let our family leave the continent