|Memory is the Diary We All Carry (M.A. Reilly, 2017)|
Since I finished reading Ronald Balson's novel Karolina's Twins, my sleep has been disturbed. I'm not sure I would have finished the novel had it not been the next book my book group is discussing. But I did finish it and for the next week, I woke from nightmares very early each morning recalling the sounds of trains, the cries of babies, the hard leather of a boot pressed against my neck.
The novel is set in Poland during Nazi occupation and tells the story of Lena, a 89-year-old Jewish woman who at the time of the Holocaust was a teenager. The atrocities described cut me and surely fueled the nightmares. While asleep, I have been replaying some of the cruelties Lena, the main character faced. This is not the first or only Holocaust-related book I have read. Yet, it hurt more than any other. I'm not sure if it is because I am a mom and relate to the immense loss mothers must have experienced at the hands of the Nazis--losses I can not set down. Or perhaps it was that my husband who was Jewish and is now dead calls forth for me all those cowards who watched the Nazis slaughter innocent lives. There were thousands and thousands of people who killed men just like Rob and would have done so at any point in his life. They would have murdered him as an infant, a young boy, a teen, a man--and millions more would have turned a blind eye and allowed it to happen. The question of who we are, wakes me from sleep.
Lena and Karolina know that at the end of the train ride to Gross-Rosen, their two baby girls will be murdered. Of this there is no question. When Lena describes how she and her friend Karolina each throw an infant girl from a moving train in an effort to perhaps save their lives, I felt the very weight of my own son the first time I held him against my chest. I felt this in 2017 as I sat in a chair in my home. I could feel the solidness of his small body. The smell of him. The way he fit just perfectly against me. All of this felt imprinted. Lena knows their only hope is to leave them for chance: Will they survive the fall? Will someone find them in time? Will someone care for them? Will they be turned over to the Nazis anyway?
And I wondered would I have ever had the courage to throw my son that solid living body and beautiful boy, out a train window in order to perhaps save him from the certain death he would know by Nazis.
|Old Man Watching (M.A. Reilly, 2017)|
Early in the novel, Lena explains the beginning of Nazi occupation,
“New rules came down every day and more restrictions were imposed. Still, we survived. We adapted. We would wait it out. We held tight to the belief that soon the world would crush the Germans and they would leave" (p. 25).Lena's dismissal of the horror, the adaptations they made, had me wondering about home.
I imagine, like me, you know where you were when you first heard about the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA this last weekend and the violence they caused. I was walking out of the MET, having just finished a drawing class and as soon as I heard the location, I immediately thought of a friend who lives there. When I got home, I sent her a message asking if she and her family were okay and was relieved to learn quickly they were safe.
Then the death of Heather Hayer was reported, a 32-year-old woman who while protesting the Nazis, was murdered by a 20-year-old kid from Ohio who drove his car into a crowd, reminiscent of the Nice, France terrorist act a year ago. This young Nazi killed Heather and injured 19 others. He did so with determination.
As expected, the US president, Donald Trump, spoke to the country. In moments of terrorism, leadership matters. He said this:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.
I thought my head might explode when I heard him say and then repeat, "on many sides" as he gestured with his hands as if he could dismiss the whole matter like one calling for a bill at the end of a meal.
A young woman was dead because a Nazi killed her on a street in America. With his words and then silence, Trump signaled his support for the violent Nazis in our country. Make no mistake, Trump invited them into our homes. His language was clear. There was no ambiguity.
The very people who elected him as president were supported by the president. And they said so.
Andrew Anglin, the cretor of the Nazi site The Daily Stormer, praised Trump's response. "He didn't attack us,"he wrote in a blog post on the site. "[He] implied that there was hate...on both sides. So he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us all." (from here).
It's 2017 and the Nazis are here.
Faced with increasing criticism from his own party, the media, and the public, Trump still took days to make a new statement. He showed us all who he really is by his comment on Saturday and his silence on Sunday. He's his father's son. Fred was arrested in his youth at a KKK rally. Like father like son.
And now Donald Trump has invited the Nazis to come out from under the rocks and slime and parade down Main Street, full of swagger and spitting hate, and designing murder. He has invited white supremacists into the White House. They dine with him. They fly alongside him on Air Force One. They advise him.
Make no mistake, we should not adapt to this, turn the other eye, wish for better days, hope this maniac settles.
Empowering hate is what Donald Trump does most consistently and most well. He is divisive, mistaken, and unable to function as president. He and Vice President Pence must be removed from office because they harm us.
Their choices harm us. Their allegiances harm us. Their overt support of white supremacists harm us.
Impeach Trump and Pence, now.