Every year, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jews speak the words, “Never again.” But genocides have occurred in so many places around the world since the Second World War—China, Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda—and that is not a complete list. But somehow we carry those words with us as a kind of a talisman in the hopes that saying them and holding them in our hearts will keep us safe. Even though Sinclair Lewis warned us, in 1935, not to believe that It Can’t Happen Here, we are still shocked by what we are seeing wrought by this Administration and their enablers.
The color of hate
by Sherman Yellen, New York, New York
Yes, I am avoiding watching the Trump convention. Heroic or cowardly? Don’t care—there is enough pain in life to turn away from the lies and the praise and the fanfare for a monster. Worse than Trump are the immigrant families who are voting for him and glad to hear the door to America slam behind them.
I think of Maryasha, the first of my family to arrive in America in the 1870s. She was a maiden aunt, my grandfather’s sister with the five chins that climbed like steps to her homely loving face. She was a dressmaker who worked diligently to see to it that her entire family made it to the USA—buying their steerage tickets, taking them in, finding them jobs—and they in turn sought the chance to bring others from Belarus to America.
1913 was the time of the Mendel Beilis trial in Russia, when a poor Russian Jew was accused of murdering Christian children and eating them after baking them into the Passover Matzoh—very much the ugly stuff we hear today. Only today, it is Pizza. The Czar needed to tax the peasants more, and what better way to distract them than to support a blood libel. Pogroms abounded. It was necessary for Jews to escape their merciless homeland—many of the old did not want to leave but the young and the brave did so—enriching this country in so many ways.
The GOP has no understanding of what went into the making of America. They have tried to turn white into the color of hate. My own twin granddaughters are a combination of those who arrived on the Mayflower and those who came via steerage. Nothing could be more American—nothing, except perhaps the desperate mother running across the border with her infant, trying to save her life and his. It is she whom Emma Lazarus wrote about at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It is she who Jesus spoke about in his sermons. And it is the work of Harriet Tubman, whose infinite mercy was only matched by her bravery, as she rescued slaves from the South.
A vote for Trump betrays what is best in our past, and although I cannot watch the GOP convention—it is to me a 2020 version of the 1923 German Beer Hall Putsch—I cannot keep it from leaking under my door. And so I take an old towel and stuff it at the bottom of the door and an old song that I have long remembered can still be heard and hope to keep the devil at bay.