Saturday, July 4, 2009
I must admit, the 4th of July only means a few things to me, and none of them are deep. Fireworks is at the top of the list, followed by barbecue and hokey parades.
When I used to be a Quaker, I never went to Friends Yearly Meeting (which is sort of like summer camp for adults) because it always included a day on the 4th of July, for Quakers aren't supposed to celebrate war. Of course, that's the quick and dirty explanation. But seriously, missing out a such a day of fun seemed silly to me. I adore fireworks!
Dick is making some barbecued ribs and he said something that brought me back to childhood. Now, I'm thinking about the Holocaust.
It's interesting for me to note that thoughts of childhood usually bring up thoughts about that, and it reminds me that I didn't grow up around here. Around these parts, I doubt there were many (if any) people who had concentration camp numbers tattooed on their arms. But I grew up surrounded by people who did have them, and many families who had few relatives because of the Holocaust. That was my milieu. In elementary school, we played "Nazis and Jews" right along with Cowboys and Indians. I wonder just how many schools this game played out in; my guess is the answer is "not many", but I could be wrong.
When I was a kid, we knew, for the most part, which adults did and did not talk about it, which adults were emotionally scarred, and which ones were not. We heard stories about pre-Holocaust times, when many of our families came to this country to get away from the pogroms in Poland, Germany, and Russia. One of my great-uncles, I'd heard, had walked all the way from his burning village to the coast of France at the age of 12 or 14, and then got on a boat to the U.S. I have no idea if this story is true. There were many secrets. I don't think it was intentional. A kid also mixes up all this kind of history; it takes on a mythic quality and at some point all the stories fold up into a handful of heroic and tragic tales.
Whenever I hear the latest Holocaust denier go on and on, I think of my childhood. I knew two people who had been part of Dr. Mengele's experiments. I know these people did not make up such stories - why on earth would they?
And this is why people say "We can't forget." I don't go around thinking about the holocaust all the time, thankfully. But, I suppose it's people like me, as the survivors die out, that keep the memory of the truth alive.
On this independence day, I realize that living here, in the U.S., I am a very lucky person. There are many things about this country I do not like, but all in all, I must be grateful. I could go into a long semi-patriotic spiel right about now, but I'm not in the mood. You can guess what I've got to say.
Happy 4th of July.