Reading List: “Answer The Highest Calling Of Your Heart And Stand Up For What You Truly Believe.”
Right now, I’m reading KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. It describes how the creation of concentration camps like Dachau and Auschwitz didn’t just happen magically overnight, but over a decade of testing and development, trial and error, a system of oppression and containment adjusting to the political realities over the outside world, situated in crowded cities and empty fields alike, staffed by normal people with their own histories and grievances, morphing and changing to reflect the festering populist anger and contend with the massive influx of political prisoners.
Political prisoners who were initially communist opponents, but were then any political opponents, Jews, Roma, artists, foreign intelligentsia, then then then then then until it was any and all people they wanted to imprison, silence and eliminate. For nearly a decade, the Nazi state captured and imprisoned enemies by finding ways to do so within the existing Weimar legal structure, then eventually chipping away at and ignoring norms, before removing the protections themselves.
And once that protective legal structure was eliminated? The scene was set for horror. The book portrays how a combination of a collection of personal ambitions being encouraged to punish, dissolving norms and an escalating collective thirst for violence led to the implementation of the greatest horrors of the 20th century. But it didn’t start with the gas chambers or killing squads; it started with the targeting, arresting and imprisoning political opponents by power-hungry bureaucrats bending a cracking legal structure.
In my day-to-day life, as a people pleaser who has stayed in relationships and jobs and physical addictions too long, I think a lot about the frog in boiling water metaphor. I think about those moments I’ve woken up, looked in the mirror and gone “how the hell did I get here.” Because is never starts at the conclusion, it’s the result of pushed boundaries and justifications and excuses, putting up with injustices because maybe it’ll get better, or it’s easier not to see what’s staring back at you. And right now, I’m scared of how hot the water is right now.
You may think I’m being hyperbolic by invoking the horrible history of concentration camps in Nazi Germany, that I’m being lazy and invoking Godwin’s law. But yesterday, the President of the United States of America suggested that the American election in November be delayed. This, after weeks of a force of CBP and other federal agents tear gassing, beating and “disappear”ing protestors off of the streets of Portland. After over 150,000 people have died in no small part due to a catastrophically ineffectual response to the pandemic. Hell, some state attorneys general saw the writing on the wall months ago, and have prepared to sue should POTUS suggest any change to Election Day.
Yet, on the same day, in this same country, President Barack Obama gave one of the most breathtaking speeches he’s ever delivered in the form of his eulogy for Representative John Lewis. In the same country where a death cult has formed around not wearing masks to slow down a deadly pandemic, and Armenian schools are being vandalized with hate speech, and disinformation has burrowed deep into the very tools and services keeping us connected as we isolate during this insane time, President Obama stood up and told us that “this country is a constant work in progress. We’re born with instructions: to form a more perfect union. Explicit in those words is the idea that we’re imperfect.”
President Obama reminds us that true strength is in fighting back against the tides of hate, violence and intolerance because “That’s where real courage comes from, not from turning on each other, but by turning towards one another. Not by sowing hatred and division, but by spreading love and truth. Not by avoiding our responsibilities to create a better America and a better world, but by embracing those responsibilities with joy and perseverance and discovering that, in our beloved community, we do not walk alone.”
95 days until the election. What are you doing to make a more perfect union?
Representative John Lewis, Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation (The New York Times) - The subject line of today’s email is from the op-ed that Lewis wrote before he died, and asked to have published on the day of his funeral.
Be kind to each other.