This was a very difficult day. The Judiciary Committee hearing. Trump’s rally in Florida. The GOP putting unofficial ballot boxes in California. Coronavirus cases surging around the country. Trying to navigate it all drew me back to some early conversations I had with my father.
What once was unthinkable
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
I must have been around eleven or twelve when I started having conversations with my father about the Second World War. It was when I was first trying to make sense of what had happened to my mother’s parents.
“People could see it coming,” I remember him saying to me. “We could watch war approaching, though we couldn’t imagine all of what happened. It was unthinkable.”
I have spent many years trying to imagine what it would have been like for my German Jewish grandparents to live through the years after Hitler came to power. At what point did they realize that they were, in fact, in mortal danger and that the world as they knew it was gone? How did they live while the juggernaut that took everything away from them, including their lives, came closer and closer? The same way I am, doing their best day to day. Going to the store, preparing meals, doing laundry, paying bills, keeping their heads down as they tried—unsuccessfully—to get the documents needed to escape the country of their birth.
At a Trump rally this afternoon, people were interviewed by the press. One woman said, “I’m healthy. I have no underlying health issues. If I get it, I get it. I take care of myself.” A man said, “People are getting ill because they’re wearing a mask.” Another woman said, “I know I’m not going to die from it. And if I die, I die.” A man said, “All the numbers are going down. It’s the flu that’s taking more people.” “That’s what you believe?” the reporter asked. “Yes,” replied the man. “If President Trump said, Everyone put on your mask,” the reporter asked another woman. Her reply came without hesitation. “I’d put it on,” she said.
Senator Mike Lee was at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today about Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Ten days ago, on October 2, he tested positive for COVID. He wasn’t wearing a mask.
What is happening now in our own country would once have been unthinkable.
Listening to the news today, I remember my questioning my father: “But if people could see it coming, Daddy, why didn’t they do anything about it? Why didn’t they stop it?”
Now I am the adult, older than my father was when we had those conversations. But my head still spins the way it did then when I try to make sense out of things that make no sense.
We are not in the same kind of mortal danger as my grandparents were—though there are immigrants and Dreamers who are in grave danger—but all our lives are being put at risk by the irresponsibility and carelessness, the lies and recklessness of Trump and his enablers. How many hundreds of thousands more will die? Has enough happened to move some of those who planned to vote for Trump away from that decision? Will even more die because the Supreme Court will take away their health care coverage in the middle of a pandemic? Will women die from back street abortions once again because they will lose the right to have them performed safely and legally?
When my parents saw me about to do something that would hurt me—like putting my hand on the hot stove—they yelled, they grabbed me, they pushed me away, they did what they could to prevent me from getting burned. But they weren’t always successful. Sometimes they were too late, or they didn’t see, or were too far away to make a difference.
This is our time to speak, to write, to yell, to do everything we can to prevent the disaster that a second Trump term would be for this country. We are a democracy on the edge of being turned into a dictatorship. I don’t want to think that it’s too late, that we’re too far away to make a difference.
We must all vote.