Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pushing Oneself

Today I have started reading what may be the toughest book I've ever read.  It's Resistance:A Woman's Journey of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France.  It's basically the journal of a highly-intelligent 43-year-old woman starting in the summer of 1940 in Paris.  If the date and the title aren't enough of a giveaway to how horrible this is probably going to be, the book is dedicated to her comrades in the French Resistance movement, 7 of which were executed by firing squad in 1942, one committed suicide after 3 days of torture by the Gestapo, and one who was killed in a Nazi slave labor camp.  It's all true, and the fact that it is her journal makes it even more intense.  I just read an entry where they are evacuating Paris, but they are sure that the Soviet Union will come to their aid.  In 1940.

I have been greatly embarrassed by the bandying of the words "Nazi" and "Hitler" by Americans, especially lately.  My elected state representative continues to equate the healthcare bill with Hitler, and while I know he's not a bright person by any means, I find it appalling that he is either completely delusional about what Hitler did to Germany and the rest of Europe, or somehow in his little twisted mind, the systematic extermination of 6 million people is a healthcare plan.  It's hard to say.  I have even personally been called a Nazi by an internet troll because I didn't like a book that the troll seems to have loved.  The Nazis burned books--they didn't read them, much less review them.  Interestingly, Glenn Beck, the troll who couldn't complete an entire sentence without calling someone Hitler or a Nazi, is the closest thing we've really come to a propaganda master like Hitler in a very long time.  Blaming a faceless group of people, rewriting history, racial superiority--sound familiar to anyone?  We probably haven't had someone that twisted since the days of Huey Long.  We, as a country, just really have no concept of history--ours or anybody else's--and I think that this ignorance and the nonsense that people keep spouting has made me even more determined to explore history.  I've always loved it and have always read a great deal of history, but seeing my country's collective "understanding" of history deteriorate in such a short time into such utter nonsense is quite frightening.  We have so much we could learn from our own history, and could avoid making so many mistakes that we make again and again and again, and instead we're falling for more propaganda all the time.  I wonder if ignorance is actually the most destructive force on the planet?  It feels like it.

1 comment:

Ella said...

"I wonder if ignorance is actually the most destructive force on the planet?"

It is. I don't mean to critize your country or fellow countrymen, and certainly am in no position to form an opinion on your History education (never having experienced it first hand) but I've often wondered how many basic facts that I as a German seem to have known all my life apparently are unheard of in your country. All inspite of the fact that Germany has been rather reluctant to come to terms with its history for many years, and inspite of the fact that many Holocaust survivors have fled to your country and brought their memories and personal history along.

As for reading, I can highly recommend "Facing The Lion" by Simone Arnold Liebster. She was only 12 when the Nazis occupied Alsace. And, of course, all three books by Judith Kerr.

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