31. October 2005 · Comments Off on Wiped from the Map · Categories: Domestic, General, History, War, World

A day or so after Thanksgiving of the year when I was in the seventh or eight grade, and hated gym class above all the other torments that junior high school offered in bounteous measure, I had a short conversation with another girl in my gym class. We were not particular friends, only that our lockers were adjacent, and we would be changing out of our school dress, into the black shorts and short-sleeved, snap-closure white blouse that Mt. Gleason Junior High dictated to be proper gym class attire. I don’t even remember her name, only that she was sturdy and somewhat stocky and like me, blue-eyed with dark-blond, brown-sugar colored hair and a fair complexion… and like me, not particularly enthusiastic about gym class, and all its’ works and all its’ ways. Both of us were of the devoutly un-athletic sort who picks a team position based on the likely chances of having little or nothing to do with the ball.

So, on this first day of gym after the Thanksgiving holiday, I struck up a conversation about it, about how my family Thanksgiving had gone— how all the constellation of great-aunts, great-uncles, and grandparents had gathered for the ritual feast. The family Hayes had gathered at either Grannie Jessie’s little white house on South Lotus, or Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al’s house in Camarillo. I can’t recollect which, so unvarying was the rotation, so regular the attendance of the senior members and devout their interest in JP and I, Pippy and our new baby brother. Most of them being for one reason or another, childless, I lamented the lack of cousins, for it meant their concentration on the four of us as torch-bearers of a new generation was as focused as a laser-beam, and I assumed that the same was true of my gym-dressing room friend.

“Oh, no,” said she. ”It’s just my parents, and my brothers and sisters. We don’t have any cousins either. All of my parents’ families… they all died. We don’t have any cousins, either.”
“None of them? None at all?” I asked, in disbelief. No fond grandparents, no doting great-aunts, no eccentric great-uncles? None of them at all, nothing outside the usual parents and sibs at the dinner table, nothing special, relations-wise, about the holiday table, with roasted turkey, crackling-fat and richly stuffed with brown-bread dressing? About this time in life, my peers had begun to lose grandparents to the usual span of human mortality— I had lately lost one, Grandpa Jim, and thought myself lucky to still have three, all of them still healthy, cantankerous and good for another couple of decades. To have none at all, though… that went beyond misfortune. That was a catastrophe.

My gym-friend shrugged.
“My parents met after the war, in a DP camp. They were just kids. It turned out they were both the only survivors of their families. They got married and came here. There was nothing for them to go back for, anyway.”

Nothing to go back for, anyway, in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine… somewhere in Middle-Europe, wherever her family trees had sprung up and been pruned with brutal finality of all but two last little shoots. Transplanted, new-rooted in America, but haunted forever by a ghostly range of empty chairs around the table at those family gatherings so universally assumed to me multi-generational.

The genocide against European Jews is as much of a challenge today to get ones’ sensible American head around as it was sixty years ago. Us Indian-massacring (sorry, Native American massacring!) slavery-enabling, Negro-lynching (Sorry— Persons of Color lynching!) religion-addled, brutally-capitalist, petty-small-town minded uncultured Jacksonians are forever being lectured about our shortcomings by those cultured Europeans. Europe was, after all, the place where they did everything better than us… more cultured, more tolerant, and oh-so-much-better in every civilized way. And yet, pogroms never happened here. Social prejudice, country-club anti-Semitism, distrust of the “other”— oh yeah, all of that…but never pogroms. Russian and Polish Jews came here to get away from pogroms, ungrateful and unappreciative of the cultural advantages to living in Europe.

The clamor of the lectures by our so-called moral superiors pretty much swamps the observation that the Native American and Black American communities still exist in a far more vibrant state than, say, the Jewish communities of Poland… and that Paris, the city of Light has a suburb torn for the fourth night running by what we, in our uncouth American way, used to call race riots. Ah, well, Europe— they do things with so much more style, over there. Sixty years ago, under German occupation, ordinary Europeans watched their neighbors, their friends, coworkers, classmates, employers and employees, their doctors, and cleaning women rounded up and marched away to oblivion. Some eagerly assisted; some benefited from participating, most watched and turned away and did nothing, not wishing to risk what might happen to them, should they be too open in objection. A very few righteous, possessed of a fiercely refined moral sense, and courage of the sort usually termed “crazy-brave” did what they could… that there was anything left of European Jewry by 1945 was a sort of miracle in itself. On a national level, only the Danes can be credited for behaving in a way that we hope we could ourselves be equal to, given the same situation. They refused, categorically, firmly, and in a manner most breathtakingly effective, to turn over Danish citizens of the Jewish faith to the occupying German authorities… of course, the Germans had gone easily on the Danes, hoping to win them over to the benefits of the Thousand-year Reich… but still, and all… German blandishments did not tempt them to sell out their fellow citizens.

So, during a week in which the elected leader of Iran, which has done everything it can to acquire or develop nuclear weapons, has publicly and in terms quite straightforward and understandable, vowed an intention to wipe Israel off the map… a small and pesky nation formed in no small part from the survivors of the European-wide holocaust. What would a single nuclear hit do to a tiny and democratic survivor-state? Nothing good, that should go without saying. So, what will Europe do, this time? How stalwart will be European resolve be to intervene, given that Israel was referred to as “that shitty little country” by a French diplomat at an English dinner party, that anti-Semitism (now charmingly called anti-Zionism) is at a revoltingly open, all-time high? No matter what they call it, it’s still used for the same old purpose, to kill Jews, or at least, justify their murder by a third party. How nice. How amusing, that European hands would be kept clean of the murder of Jews. This time, anyway.

Oh, yeah… if I were a Jew, I’d think twice before depending on Europe to keep my ass safe… especially given how effective they were, overall, about that the last time.

The eastern world, it is explodin’.
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
Take a look around you boy
It’s bound to scare you boy

And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.

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