Monday, October 25, 2010

Choices, Transformations And Observations

I’m tired of being told that my way of looking at the world is less moral than the ways of other people. I’m tired of being told to disregard what my eyes are seeing because other people may find it offensive.

I am the child of people who survived the Holocaust. My mother was first taken from her home in a small village called Nisni Slatina and taken along with other Jewish people to a decaying, disease ridden ghetto. From there she was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. As she arrived in Auschwitz, she asked a woman Gestapo where her parents were. The woman Gestapo pointed to the smoke bellowing from the chimneys and said, “You want to know where your parents are? That is your parents.” My mother was wearing earrings and the Gestapo pulled down on them, splitting her ears and creating the scars that she still bears today, at 92 years old.

My mother was taken out of Auschwitz as one of 300 girls to do slave labor in a factory called Telefunken. She was treated better at Telefunken doing slave labor than she was at Auschwitz. She was lucky to be sent there. As the tide of the war started to turn, my mother was sent to Bergen Belsen, where she was lying among the dead and dying when the camp was liberated by the British. My mother survived, as did three of her sisters. Two other sisters and her brother, along with both of her parents, were killed.

My mother told me of her experiences often. She told me about how when she entered Auschwitz, she saw the women there behaving like animals, fighting for every scrap of dirty food and swore she would never act that way. But hunger was the over-riding emotion and one day when she spotted a dirty potato skin on the floor, she grabbed at it. She said this to me many times with a lot of emotion in her voice; “Howard, that dirty potato skin tasted like an apple to me.”

As a child, I never fully understood the significance of the Holocaust. I knew it was bad. My mother would have nightmares where she would scream in such a horrified way and you couldn’t wake her up! I would run into their room and literally shake the bed. My father was always afraid that waking her up from these dreams would be too sudden and traumatic. She would finally wake up and start to relax, though with tears in her eyes. I would ask her what happened in the dream. All she would ever say was that big dogs were chasing her. She never went into more details about those nightmares and would just say that she didn’t remember the rest.

As I started to get a little older I started asking questions. What about all the other people? Didn’t anyone see that what was going on was wrong? My mother told me one story about how the neighbors in Nisni Slatina, people who had been over for dinner, people who they had been friends with, took advantage of the growing anti-semitism and started to steal things from their home. This outraged me. The evil of the Nazis was self-evident, though hardly explainable. But that average people would not only do nothing to help, but actually use the situation for petty thievery – that just stuck in my craw.

Some thoughts that you have as a child stay with you forever. Perhaps it is because these are your formative years and you are thinking things out for the first time. As you get older, thoughts come into your mind and leave and you never even knew they were there! The thought that stayed with me and shaped me forever is this; I would never be a person who would allow other people to intimidate me into going against what I knew instinctively to be true or morally correct. I didn’t always live up to this idea but it is the idea that shaped who I am.

As I grew up, it seemed obvious that a liberal ideology was morally correct. Liberals were supposed to stand up for what was right. But as I grew older I started to see things in a different way than many of my friends. I think it started with the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. President Carter was so inept and then Ronald Reagan came in and talked about peace through strength. No one wants war but there is honor in defending what is right. Cowering and hoping that things will change is what led to the Holocaust. I long ago made a pledge to myself that I would see the world as it was and not how other people said it was, and now for the first time, I was forced to act on that pledge.

Even little things started to irk me in their inconsistencies and misrepresentations. In 1984, when Walter Mondale was pressured to pick a woman as his running mate, he chose Geraldine Ferraro. Everyone said how courageous he was for picking a woman and I thought that given the NY Times and every liberal organization was pressuring him to pick a woman, courage at that point would have been to pick a man! It’s not that he was wrong for picking a woman, just that it wasn’t courageous; given the pressure he was under to do so.

It’s funny because people on the left point to the new media and say that these outlets preach to people who don’t know any better, thereby belittling people like me as being easily deceived when the exact opposite is true. My observations of the world led me to becoming conservative before there was a conservative media and when I saw the new conservative media pop up, I was happy to know that there were more people out there who saw the world the way I saw it.

Now in 2010, I’ve seen what my parents saw -- the resurgence of anti-semitism. I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime but I always promised myself that if I did see it, I would do what I could to fight against it. This anti-semitism is coming from the Muslim community and from left-wing groups and it makes no sense to try and be politically correct and pretend it is something else.

In the UK, many schools have dropped the Holocaust from history lessons because of fears that it might offend Muslims. Why would Muslims be offended by the teaching of the Holocaust? The fact that the UK education system has given in to this re-writing of history is shameful and eerily reminiscent of the giving in to nazism in the 1930s.

People keep saying that all Muslims are not terrorists, but was every German a nazi? Did people say “Don’t judge all Germans by the actions of a few”? The fact was that the few controlled the many and unfortunately, it’s the same today with the Muslim religion. I will believe that the Muslim religion is a religion of peace when people of the Muslim faith come out to protest the radicalism among them with the same fervor that they protest against a cartoon of Muhammad.

Recently, Juan Williams was fired from NPR for saying what everyone instinctively knows to be true – on airplanes, people will look at Muslims with suspicion and fear. While it’s true that most Muslims are not terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims and they, not other people, are responsible for that reaction. I would like to see the people who fired Juan Williams take a lie-detector test and be asked the question of whether or not they do a double take when a person with Muslim garb walks onto a plane. I would bet that they would fail the test if they said anything other than “Yes”.

In New York, people who call themselves liberal stand up for the rights to build a mosque near the World Trade Center. Does it matter that the people building the mosque don’t condemn the acts of terrorist organizations such as Hamas? Does it matter that it is being funded by anti-semitic organizations?

In Palestinian classes, Jewish people are portrayed to children as less than human. There are cartoons portraying Jewish people as money grubbers and monkeys. Why isn’t the world angered by these portrayals? Is it because the Jewish people haven’t threatened anyone? Are Jewish people worth less than others? These cartoons are no different than that of nazis. They would make Joseph Goebbels proud.

Ayn Rand once said “The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see”. It is exhausting trying to explain something that seems so self-evident yet it is an obligation, especially for me, to keep trying. I owe this to all the relatives of mine who died in the Holocaust.

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