Ah Bugger

The vapid utterings of a neurotic mind.

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Location: DC, United States

I ain't too proud to bug.

Friday, January 17, 2014

1945 was a long time ago...

We came to the US from Germany when I was in Kindergarten. Somewhere in grade school, I found that kids would draw swastikas on my papers. I'd lose my mind, my Heidi braids flailing as I bit the offenders. Being German was, and is, a huge part of my identity.

My mother was born in the war. My childhood was forged by her experiences, and those of family members. Anytime I would visit older relatives in Germany, particularly those who were adults during WWII, I would be encouraged to eat EVERYTHING. No seriously. They would make a huge meal and expect my 4 foot, 80 pound self to eat it all. What was not eaten was carefully placed into the fridge or the freezer for a later meal. Nothing was wasted. Today I find it hard to throw out an egg; my mom cannot waste bread.

I've been watching documentaries about the war. Hitler's Children struck a chord with me. We have no choice who we are born to, yet we carry the weight of their actions with us. One woman in particular, Monika Goeth, the daughter of the "Nazi Butcher" Amon Goeth - you might remember Ralph Fiennes portrayal from Schindler's List - made a particularly strong impression upon me. I don't know why her short interview made me feel so protective of her. It just struck me that this woman, whose father died before she met him, was set up to fail. She didn't learn the truth about Amon until her teens. Her truth was obfuscated by her mother and she didn't really understand who he was until she saw Schindler's List. There is a documentary about Monika and a young woman who worked in Amon Goeth's household, called Inheritance. Inheritance, indeed. Should she be forced to bear the weight of her father's atrocities? 

My mom came over today with a box full of family pictures. It includes her parents, and my dad's parents and a few pictures of the generations before them. For my birthday last year, my aunt sent me a picture of my great grandmother at age 4 with her family. My cousin's little boy looks just like her.

So there is something to be said about strong genes, right? My sister and her daughter look just like my Grandmother. But that's all just looks. What about personality? How much of that is genetic and how much is nurtured?

I don't suppose I really have a point. It's more of a musing to me, at this time. I see how stoic my mother is and I wonder, had she been raised in a less stressful time, would she laugh more? Cry more? Would she demand more? Because Lord knows she asks for nothing.

The holocaust was not the first time, nor the last time massive genocide took place. We consistently have weak spirited people given a modicum of power who decide to use it to brutalize people to make up for their own shortcomings. But this era is definitely a time we can examine and decide for ourselves that we never want to become like Amon Goeth, or Heinrich Himmler, or Hermann Goering. We can decide to educate ourselves and open our mind to things we might otherwise be afraid of.

I still wrap my identity around being German, even if at this point I am solidly planted in American soil. Perhaps that is why I question all actions taken by our government to cut off the rights to someone based on their gender/religion/race/etc. I cannot imagine standing by, terrified for my friends and family, while the government actively slaughters an entire population. It's a life that goes on everyday in parts of world.

This is long winded. I apologize. I suppose I am feeling sentimental, and perhaps a little cautious. This country of ours is a little terrifying in some of our leaders choices. Living in Virginia is especially nerve-wracking as woman. I have yet to crack to motive on many choices my state, excuse me, commonwealth makes on my behalf. I am anxious about the dismissive way we treat our planet. I am angry, filled with rage at  (there isn't word strong enough for how I feel) with the active extinction of our species. I cannot imagine the mindset of people who choose to stand in the way of human rights, particularly those that have nothing to do with their own personal way of life.

Maybe we aren't sending people off to concentration camps, but when we choose to continue to isolate and dismiss people for living a life that is different from our own, we still condemn them to a life of torture, if not death. I, for one, want my descendants refer to me as the one they're like. Kind, open, and affirming. I'm working at it.


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