‘I’ve Seen This Before’ — My Speech at an anti-Nazi Vigil in Traverse City, Michigan

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Event organizer Betsy Coffia holds the megaphone while I speak at a vigil for Charlottesville in Traverse City August 13.

I’m Howard Lovy, the grandson and son of Holocaust survivors. And when I see Nazis murdering people in the streets of the country to which my grandparents and my father fled, I have no choice but to speak. I have seen this before.

For the blessed memory of all those in my family who were murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, shot in the streets of Budapest, worked to death at Mauthausen, I am here to represent them, because they cannot speak for themselves, and to tell you that we have seen this before.

In the same way nobody but an African American can truly tell you what it is to experience to pain and humiliation of racism every day, if you really want to know how it feels to see the Hitler salute in America, with anti-Semitic slogans spewing out of their mouths, ask a Jew. We’ve seen this before.

This is not the usual differences between conservatives and liberals. We are not talking about small government vs. big government. Private enterprise vs. social entitlements. This is a demagogue using race, religious, and ethnic hatred as a path to power, then making it seem respectable by wrapping it in layers of patriotism. I know it is easy, too easy, for a normal citizen to get caught up in anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Latino, anti-Jewish rhetoric and think, well, this doesn’t apply to me. We’ve seen this before.

When the Holocaust deniers in the White House tell you that there are “many sides” to the story of Charlottesville. “Many sides” to the story of a group of Nazis, feeling so empowered by their president that they feel it is OK to slam a car into a group of anti-fascist protesters and murder a young, idealistic woman, Heather Heyer, who stood up for what was right, it is an invitation for more armed Nazi thugs in the streets, killing and beating the defenseless. How do I know? Through my murdered family, I have seen this before.

Make no mistake. They might look ridiculous. But Nazis don’t just make silly salutes and spout off white nationalist rhetoric. They are mass murderers. I told this to my son yesterday as we watched the news from Charlottesville. He became frightened, and asked my wife and me whether Nazis were going to get him. I told him that, in our community, despite our lack of diversity, he is well-protected.

Traverse City is my hometown, and as long as we show up to events like this, as long as we speak out when and where we can, we send a signal that bigotry and hatred are not welcome, and my son can sleep soundly at night without fear.

I have seen this before. But I swear on the blessed memory of my grandfather and all of my murdered family, that I will never see it again.

Writer and editor committing random acts of journalism. Independent publishing consultant.

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