Tuesday, April 12, 2016

By the Waters of Babylon Redux

Last Sunday, April 3rd, marked the start of Holocaust Remembrance Week 2016, which ended this past Sunday. In a way, considering the unthinking brutality we, as a species, have visited upon one another since the dawn of time and we started to walk upright, you can be forgiven for wondering why commemorating the Shoah lasted only a week. And then you look at last week in American politics and .......

Places like Mississippi and North Carolina, among others, where being different is like wearing a target in a run-up to an Ameican Presidential race where one party can't seem to find enough 'others' to inflame its base, you have to wonder how so many can remember so little for so long. 

Yesterday, April 11, was the date in 1945 when (Western) Allied troops, specifically the US Army with (just about) one Canadian brigade, liberated Buchenwald, the last of the Nazi death factories. As a child growing up, I'd heard whispers by the post-World War II grown-ups, many who'd served in the wartime military about the camps, never grasping the enormity of the horror.

While living in (West) Germany I went to Bergen-Belsen (there was a huge NATO tank competition range near there at Fallingbostel) where, even decades after the horror, the early summer sky never seemed as blue overhead as it did on the Landstrasse leading to Celle and where I never saw an insect of any kind or heard the song of any bird.

Science dictates they had to be there somewhere, in this place where Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, died of typhus, two of the over one hundred thousand people who perished in captivity for the crime of being different. I felt foolish offering you a link on Anne Frank as you know who she is, unless you don't, which in that case speaks more loudly than I wish to ever hear.

Intolerance and hatred of the other have a long history with the human race. Some have speculated the first tool fashioned by the earliest man was a weapon to kill his neighbor. The Shoah marked the successful combining of primitive, superstitious and mindless hatred with the unfeeling, uncaring and antiseptic precision of the Industrial Revolution. 

In a perverse and reverse triumph, we out machined the machines in dispatching those unlike us with a uniformity and consistency never before seen in our history on this planet .

That it continues to happen, across our actually very small planet on a daily basis, in a variety of ways so numerous and subtle we often don't actually feel the hate, brings me to the brink of tears. To have come as far as we have, the self-anointed Crown of Creation, and to still be able to stoop so low. 

To be so willing to harness the ingenuity and intelligence of millions of years of evolution and education in the service of the most venal and loathsome of all of our emotions is to stand naked before the world whose judgment we have chosen to disregard.

"There on the poplars, we hung our harps; for there our captors asked us for songs. Our tormentors demanded songs of joy. They said, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!' O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us. He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." 
And thus begins the cycle again, never to end. 

-bill kenny

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