Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brave old world

Growing up, I didn’t know any Jewish people. I barely knew any Catholics. Racism was incomparably more common that anti-Semitism. In college, I don’t remember knowing anyone who was Jewish, but I learned much more about how Israel became a state and read the Maus books about the holocaust. My friend (and former DC roommate) had a boyfriend for a couple years in college who did not believe in the holocaust. I thought this was laughable. Come to find out, his entire family was very German-Catholic and very anti-Semitic.

I thought of all this when I heard a report on NPR about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling the holocaust a "myth." He said it was used by Europeans to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes my stomach turn.

I studied in Israel over my winter break during my freshman year of college. Israel is a beautiful country from the hills of Jerusalem covered in limestone buildings the lead up to the sacred Dome of the Rock to the acres of olive trees to the windy and salty seas. But the people there are angry and oppressed. I know everyone cannot win. But, it is also strange when it feels like everyone is also losing. I have had more than my fair share of debates about this conflict, and both sides have equally convincing arguments. One that particularly resonates with me is the fact that America has chosen a side, armed that side with Nuclear and other deadly weapons and is coming in at the last minute trying to mediate with little creditability.

There is this other world out there. A world where leaders of countries don’t believe in the holocaust. Where people see little use for their own life than to blow themselves up for a God that has done nothing for them. Or maybe we are the other world? My biggest worry is that the line at Starbucks isn’t too long that I am late for work (that was actually my exact worry this morning). Sure those concerns are clichéd by every first person essay written by every freshman in high school, but I do believe Americans are in a protective bubble, and I’m a part of the bubble in the bubble in this brave old world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand how someone could say that they "don't believe in the holocaust". I have been fortunate not to run into such ignorance, but I am very curious as to what their argument and/or proof would be.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous cjt said...

I might partially disagree with this authors statement of "relative peaceful coexistence" but his history below is factual. My childhood dentist had his tatooed ID # visble when he was drilling my teeth. I believed his Auschwitz stories.

"Nazi Roots of Modern Radical Islam"

9:21 PM  
Blogger Jamy said...

A very thoughtful post on a sensitive issue. As a Jewish person, I appreciate your perspective. There are a lot of Holocaust deniers out there--they frighten me.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say, your posts are well written and smart. I am an anonymous reader of "the blogs", and your posts are definitely thought-provoking and worth posting-- something I look forward to. I appreciate the originality.

12:13 AM  
Blogger V said...

Thanks for these comments--it is a tough issue and one that I fear we will continue to face throughout our lives...

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't speak to those who deny the holocaust happened at all, but John Steward Mills's The Racial Contract argues pretty convincingly that our fixation on the holocaust as a unique event is misplaced. In his conception, the Holocaust and Nazi actions were simply a continuation of european (and white Western) tendence of the past few centuries. That is, it's not very different from what we'd being doing to the rest of the world, but since it was closer to home --the Nazi's basically tried to treat the rest of europe the same way europe had been treating everyone else-- it has become a sort of paragon of evil. It's a rather empty paragon, though, as is evidenced by e.g. Rwanda or Sudan.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to conclude that comment the way I had wanted: I think your saying that we live in a bubble is very correct, but I'm not quite sure what you're suggesting that bubble means. We don't realize how good we have it, sure, but you seem to reach this conclusion through the idea that the rest of the world has no idea what is going on either.


12:20 PM  
Blogger V said...

Ben-That sounds like an interesting / depressing read.

I am not sure I do know what living in a bubble means...mostly because I'm in it and haven't ever been out of it. Not to overextend, but I think I was just considering how very little anyone (chooses, maybe) to understand other ways of thinking/believing. Not that understanding always means things get better, but it sure as hell wouldn’t hurt.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

It's true that the holocaust is not unique in history, but it's recent and still unwinding itself. For anyone who lives in DC, I highly recommend a trip to the library at the Holocaust Museum. It's on the fifth floor, open to all. If you know of people who died in the holocaust, the librarians there are INCREDIBLE ... they tracked down my ancestors based on a shtetl name my aunt gave me before she died, but it was misspelled and because it existed in a place that was once Poland, part of Russia during WWII, and currently part of Ukraine, the librarian had his work cut out for him. He locate Vishegorodek, the town, and later my friend Magda found a business directory listing the Mejlikiers. It was an exciting moment.

The photo archives in that library are amazing, pictures of a whole way of life lost in the Holocaust. My family was all gassed by the Nazis on August 9, 1941 and the town was bulldozed. There's still a railroad crossing there. I hope to stand on that ground someday, even though it's close to Chernobyl and probably toxic.

Sorry for this very long comment. Your post was excellent - I would never have found it without DCBlogs. Thank you!

9:44 PM  
Blogger boodler said...

Anyone who says the holocaust never happened is ignorant and has a very small, closed minded look on the world. I am not Jewish, but everyone has heard stories about people escaping and people dying. You can't have a hoax where millions die! Sheesh.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

One of my neighbors is open about his disbelief in the Holocaust. I cringe every time he has a few beers and starts talking about this. I am Jewish (by choice) and I have been to Israel 3 times. When you go through Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem), there is way to much evidence to even entertain a thought that it couldn't have happened. In fact, it makes you physically sick. Israelis live with the hatred of their neighbors on all sides every day. Of course they are a troubled people. Peace is almost as elusive as the messiah for them. You are right about our complacency as we sit here drinking our lattes and reading the Sunday paper.

11:02 AM  

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