Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Feeling Very Uncomfortable

The following is a column was written by Sam Pollak the editor of The Oneonta Daily Star.

“There’s this African-American fellow here in Oneonta who’s about my age. He’s a good guy, and we’re pretty friendly in kind of a ‘hi, how are you doing, how’s the family’ sort of way.

“A few years back, we were chatting about this and that when he said something that kind of brought me up short.  He said that when he met someone who is white, he assumed that person is a racist until proved otherwise.

“Of course, I hadn’t the same life occurrences, and I couldn’t possibly have known the prejudice —  subtle and overt —  he has encountered.  I knew I had to respond in an intelligent, wise, sensitive way that would show at least a modicum of understanding of where he was coming from.  “Really?’ I said.

“OK, so my response wasn’t worthy of the moment, but I was genuinely surprised. My friend, highly regarded in the community, always seems open and friendly.

“After we parted, I thought he was wrong to view the world through a prism that makes him assume a bigot behind every tree.  I have since come to realize that in my own way, I have been doing sort of the same thing.

“I was born five years after the Holocaust ended, and if you grew up Jewish in New York City and its suburbs in those years, you learned about relatives who were lost, saw the videos of the concentration camps, mourned the deaths of the six million, vowed to live a life worthy of them and make certain it never happens again.

“I pondered on how the German people could have done such a thing, how those in other European countries found such vile satisfaction in collaborating so eagerly to send Jews and others to their deaths, how America and other democracies could have restricted immigration when it was literally a matter of life and so much death.

“And I thought about those relatively few courageous gentiles who in the darkest days of the Holocaust risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors. Israel bestows the honor of referring to those individuals as ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’

Through my own prism I have wondered who, among my friends, co-workers, acquaintances and national figures, would be among the Righteous?  Who would tolerate … and even support … a racist, anti-Semitic leader and regime?

“In 1935, two years after Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany and 13 years after Benito Mussolini brought Fascism to Italy, Sinclair Lewis wrote ‘It Can’t Happen Here,’ a novel that turned into a popular play the following year.

“Thought to be aimed at Huey Long, the demagogue governor and senator from Louisiana, Lewis’ novel told of the rise of a populist U.S. senator named Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip who gets elected president by advocating patriotism and traditional values, telling everybody the county is in terrible shape and promising that their lives would be great.  Once elected, Windrip becomes a dictator, limiting the rights of minorities and women, outlawing dissent, restricting the press and putting his political enemies into concentration camps.  Can it happen here?

“I used to be sure it couldn’t.  Americans are too good, too educated, too decent to support anyone who singles out minorities as the cause for all their troubles, who says hateful things while promising to bring back a halcyon time that never really existed.  Well, as you might have heard, we recently had an election.  I’m not quite sure of anything, anymore.

“More than 62 million of my countrymen chose to vote for Donald Trump, in essence giving their approval to all of Trump’s hate speech.. They gave their approval to Trump’s vows to keep Muslims out of our country and create a registry inside it of Americans who practice Islam, to his calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers and saying a judge couldn’t be fair because his parents were Mexican.
“To Trump’s history of discrimination against blacks and Puerto Ricans who wanted to rent apartments in his buildings.  To how he has denigrated women and threatened to weaken First Amendment freedoms.
“And chillingly for me and others for whom the accusation of wealthy Jews trying to control the world is a never-ending anti-Semitic slander, they approved his telling an audience at a Jewish Republican event, ‘You’re not going to support me, because I don’t want your money.  You want to control your own politician.’ 
“So, now I’m understanding more about how my African-American friend feels.  Sixty-two million people who just elected a demagogue helped me learn.” 


Blogger Luke said...

If Trump's great Muslim purge happens, it will happen under the guise of "these people are illegal aliens." That was not Hitler's approach, and I doubt our laws would allow president Trump to kill 6-12 million Muslims, or even the people who just voted him president.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Jim O'Leary said...

I agree and I'm sure that Sam Pollak would, also.

1:43 AM  

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