I was born in the 1950s. We Baby Boomers all studied World War II, and heard about it, and watched it on TV. The question we always asked was …”What about the good Germans? How could they have let their country drift into that horror? How could they have let it happen?” We’d declare smugly, that we would never, ever, be the ‘good Germans.’ We would be brave, we would see it coming, and we would stop it. We would make better choices.
Now that I’m older, I think I can better understand ‘the good Germans.’ They didn’t know. They didn’t realize what was happening until it was already too late. They didn’t take it seriously until the cost of opposition became too high.
And that’s my question. About my country and about myself.
When will I know that it is too late? Will I know that it is perilously close to ‘too late’ before it is already ’too late?’ Can I make any choices that lead to change?
Of course, I’m writing about the last week. About a week that started with pipe bombs mailed to a number of prominent politicians and celebrities, continued with two African Americans shot while grocery shopping, and ended with 11 people in Pittsburgh murdered in their synagogue because they were Jewish. Events that would have seemed unimaginable to me prior to the last year, perhaps prior to last week. Events that are tearing apart my conception of what my country is and what it stands for.
I’m ‘active’ in politics, in, honestly, a completely useless way.
I read the news. I know all the issues and the facts. And I vote. But these days, sometimes I don’t even read. I shut my eyes. I don’t want to read about the caravan heading north through Mexico toward our border. I’m not frightened of them, those desperate men and women and children, on foot, traveling a thousand miles for a dream that will likely end in tragedy. I’m frightened for me. I’m frightened that my heart will break. I don’t want to read about the pipe-bombs. I don’t want to read about the mass shootings. I certainly don’t want to read about prominent politicians and their callous reactions. I’m frightened. I’m frightened that I won’t respect myself in the morning because all I’m doing is sitting on the couch and reading and watching while my country falls apart.
I turn to Free-Cell. I do the New York Times mini-puzzle. I play Words with Friends. I don’t want to disrupt my comfortable life. I go on babysitting my grandchildren. I’m just careful to turn off the car radio when I think the news is too frightening for them.
I’m frightened that too many of us are ‘good Germans.’ Things did not work out well for them. Forty million people died in World War II. Millions of good Germans’ perished from fire and smoke during the multiple air-strikes that finally ended the war. The lucky ones only lost their homes and watched their children and grandchildren go hungry. I’m frightened that I am one of those ‘good Germans.’
I keep hoping that I’m being over-dramatic here. Certainly, that won’t ever happen to me and mine. Or maybe we’re too far past the point of no return. And I keep wanting somebody to rescue me before it’s already too late. But am I making the right choices?
And I don’t have any solutions. Not for my readers, or even for myself.
But maybe, I need to rescue myself.
Perhaps I can make a difference if I find a way to keep reading. And talking.
Vote, of course. I will vote. You should vote. And worry and hope.