In my youth Germany was the poster child for racism, anti-Semitism and hate of all non-Aryan people. Race and religion weren’t handled ideally in the United States then, but our policies were based on very different principles. Germany has learned much since the 1940s. Are we forgetting our American ideals?
AMERICAN FARMER (1940S)
America has always been the land of opportunity for those who wanted to work hard. Although we’ve rarely happily welcomed large numbers of “different-than-us” immigrants (that’s a topic for a future column), newcomers built this nation.
And unless you are Native American, you are descended from immigrants. While we never became the “melting pot” that was hypothesized, we did become a “tasty stew.”
In the early 1930s, Germany’s economy was dismal and people sought escape from their constant problems. Along came a little known, not well-educated Austrian who promised Germans a return to all things good if they would only follow his every dictum. Then he would bring back the great German nation. Many people initially laughed at the small man with plastered hair and little mustache.
Within short time, few were smiling; most were weeping.
For some Germans defined as Aryans, life improved. But, the physical financial and personal attacks on those who did not fit into their leader’s ideal citizen began. Hitler’s loathing of people who were different from him, mostly Jews, but also homosexuals, outspoken Christian clergy, Roma (gypsies) and the disabled led to cruelty beyond belief.
Many German people were concerned and didn’t agree with Hitler, but the fervor of their countrymen left them little opportunity to protest. Perhaps the most famous words about this situation is attributed to a German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller, who reportedly began as a Nazi supporter, but ended up in a concentration camp.
There are a variety of similar statements attributed to Niemoller, but a primary one states, “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist; then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew; then they came for me - and there was no one to speak out for me.” The meaning of this message should resonate here today.
Yes, we must be careful whom we let into our borders, but just because people come from selected countries or have non-mainstream American religions does not make them our enemy. In recent years, Americans born and raised here carried out some horrendous attacks at movies, schools, universities and work places.
Unless we want to remove the last five lines from Emma Lazarus’ New Colossus poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty, we need to find a humane way to deal with immigration, terrorism and fears of those who are different. The most famous lines of the 1883 poem read, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I life up my lamp beside the golden door.”
Today’s Germany has immigration problems because they have been overly kind and accommodating for refugees and immigrants. Yet, they learned from their past that all people cannot simply be defined by their religions or backgrounds. America knows that. Why are we forgetting it?
[Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared on the Opinion page in The Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch]
I tried to be a caring parent, providing a lot of positive messages to my kids while teaching them life lessons and tricks that would permit them to become successful adults who could participate in and contribute to society. More than once they would come home from school complaining about some rule which they considered to be inane, because it was a no-brainer as far as they were concerned.
BETH RANKIN, CEO
CAN-DO REAL FOODS
I had to tell them that many children were not being taught basic rules of community behavior that would permit them to fit in without negative consequence, so in large groups and organizations, like schools and like mother jobs in their future, there were going to be rules that might be nit-picky at best and downright rigid at worst. I also told my kids that if they didn’t know the rules in any given place just to follow my rules and they should be in good standing.
I never beat my kids. I did not like getting spanked or yelled at as a child, and I strongly disagree with any adult who feels those are the only ways to get a child to pay attention. I think if you start early enough, the teaching can be done better. The problem as I see it, is that many people do not nip a problem when it is small, and so, react in a larger way when it becomes greatly annoying. And being bigger and stronger only lasts so long with children.
So, in many families there is a system of uncertainty for the kids. They do what they want and then boom!–they are punished. For many of those people, as they grow up, they like knowing the rules. They feel safer when there are rules. They like having someone give them strict boundaries for behavior that will keep them out of trouble.
Until they don’t like it. And then they have no way to work through it. They have been taught to conform, to swallow any impulse to think differently. So, if annoyed by the power above them, they tend to strike at those they consider weaker. And so the cycle is perpetuated.
Right now we have a large segment of the U.S. population who seem to like the idea of a strong leader who makes pronouncements instead of working with others. In fact, many people are confused with the marches and protests that have been happening since they perceive no threat to their own small world. Why is it some of us perceive a threat when others are unconcerned? It can not simply be that we are smarter but perhaps we read more and remember history better than others. Perhaps that reading and learning hasw helped us to recognize the clues of starting problems before they get really large.
We are also seeing many other nations leaning towards a conservative government; in fact, it is interesting to note that the one liberal government that exists in a major European nation right now is Germany. Perhaps their own experience with a fascist dictator taught them all they need to know.
Let’s hope that the lesson America is about to learn does not have a similar high a price to pay.
[Beth Rankin is an entrepreneur par excellence, mother, wife (to Graham Rankin, a retired professor), blogger, and writer who lives in McMinnville, Oregon. She is the CEO of her own successful company which processes, preserves, and moves foods from farm to table. Beth’s own blog is at: www.goingplaceslivinglife.wordpress.com. Please go to Beth’s website and subscribe for many first-hand articles that we do not re-print. We are very grateful to Beth for allowing us to expose our readership to her efforts.]
WOMEN’S MARCH IN WASHINGTON, DC
They came. The call went out and…they came. In Washington, yes. In Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago. In Denver, and in Austin. But also in Bethel, Alaska where the high temperature for the day was -21. They came in conservative strongholds like Lubbock, Texas and Colorado Springs. They marched in Oxford, Mississippi, and in Oklahoma City. They marched in London and Paris and Madrid and flooded the streets of Amsterdam. They marched on the tiny Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides, and by their thousands in Nairobi. They brought their children. They got up in retirement homes where even 101-year-old feet showed they could still march.
They invented chants. And songs. They created signs that were clever, arch, hilarious, artistic, defiant, angry, touching, and heartbreaking. They wore T-shirts in sunshine and coats in the driving snow. They wore those, glorious glorious hats.
It was beautiful. So beautiful that it sometimes hurt to watch–in the best possible way.
After a day that seemed so dark, where it felt like hope had been crushed and the light had been dimmed, when optimism seemed lost and justice diminished, they showed that there is still a word that means all those things, all at once, and much, much more.
There have been large protest events in the past, such as a 1982 anti-nuclear protest in Central Park that drew a crowd of a million. There have also been protests spread across multiple cities, for example, protests over the War in Iraq that put 10 million people on the streets of cities around the world on a weekend in 2003.
The Women’s March has surpassed many famous events of the past, taking its place as one of the greatest protests in history. While media predictions may have seemed generous at the time….
On January 21,  approximately 200,000 people will convene in Washington, DC to stand up for gender equality after Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The actual event has turned out to be many times larger. The crowd in Washington, DC exceeded 500,000 by 9 AM, and the crowd in other cities may actually be larger.
[Editor’s Note: The crowd exceeded all expectations in every place. And, quite frankly, the size of the crowds grew so large in the major cities that they were, for all intents and purposes, immeasurable. For our locals, the crowd that gathered in Charleston, West Virginia to march around the capitol was 2,800 by count.]
While in a moment of reverie
I began to trace when I’d lived alone.
A couple of times, I lived in a room by myself.
Once was a-way back in early college days.
I wasn’t all alone, though.
There were other girls in the house
Inhabiting their single rooms.
Later, where I worked, there was Staff Housing.
But that wasn’t all alone either,
Again, each person had a single room.
Just a place where it was singular living.
So…when have I lived alone?
As my reverie continued, I had to ask myself,
“What does ‘living alone’ mean to me?”
Is it when the place you live in
Is not shared with another living thing, or
Another human being in a caring, loving relationship?
Or living with that singular sense of aloneness inside,
Even when other life forms are around you?”
I had to answer, “All of the above.”
My times of living alone have to include
Many of the years of my thirty-two year marriage.
Living alone came gradually as the caring,
Loving relationship was disintegrating.
When living together turns into being single together,
There is an aloneness of a singular experience.
I began to experience more about living alone
When I “house sat” my brother’s home in another city.
Even having some familiarity with where I was
Did not take care of me as much as I needed.
Finding my way outside of that which I knew,
Having to take care of the details of a car accident,
All contributed to creating a nightmarish experience.
Then came that which I call really living alone.
The house in which I lived no longer resounded
With the sounds of family living.
No longer any children’s records’ sounds
From the stereo in the living room.
My piano in the cellar was silent.
Since the players had moved away.
The laughter and arguments were gone, too.
But I was still asking,
“Was I living alone now?”
The players of the piano would come back now and then.
And they’d bring their little ones to play
The children’s records on the stereo in the living room.
They will come for Holiday get-togethers, and
Of course they will come spend Mother’s Day with me.
Wouldn’t they now?
And in between they will telephone
Just to ask how I’m doing
And to tell me their latest news.
Sure, they will, won’t they?
After my youngest telephoned in the afternoon,
My question was still with me.
“Hi, Mom. Could you take care of the boys for me while I go—–
You don’t sound too good. Are you alright?
I hate to ask, we haven’t been over for a while.
It will be a chance to spend some time with your grandsons.
We love you. The boys miss you.”
When their visit ended, living alone felt palpable.
Next I call the second to be born to me,
Greeting her cheerfully. “Hi, how are you?”
“Tired. I’m working pretty hard at my job.
I don’t have time for anything.
Oh, I went out with the girls last Saturday.
And, Oh ya, I am going on a Benefit walk next Sunday.
Outside of that I don’t have much time for myself.
Have you heard from my sister lately?
I don’t know what her problem is.”
Her question hangs in space, unanswered,
While I called another to let him know I’m alive.
“Hello? Is ‘at you? This is me. How you doing?
Haven’t heard from you for an awful long time.
I’m just around the corner,” I reminded him.
“Ya, I know. You just woke me up.
I started work at 5 a. m. this morning
And I didn’t get home until ten last night.
Talk to you some other time.”
As I say “Good bye”, I remember,
My first born walked away from his family
Years ago and had not returned.
Longing to have him home again
Floods my heart as time passes on
While my life has answered my question.
© 1992 Eleanor F. (nee Johansson) Gamarsh is a mother, crafter, writer and multi-media artist. She lives with her husband Fred in Gardner, Massachusetts. She participates in GALA’s Open Mic Poetry Readings, exhibits her art, and has contributed poetry to a published book Inspirations and Expressions 2012. Her poems have appeared in her local newspaper, the Gardner News, and her essay “On Mother’s Day Gifts” was featured on the front page in May, 2016.
As I write this, the New Year -2017 - is 13 days away. When you read this article, the New Year will be here. I write with mixed feelings about the future of our country - especially since President-elect Trump has already signaled changing diplomatic relationships with a number of adversarial nations.
While courting favor with the Russians, Mr. Trump is routinely taking antagonistic stances toward the Chinese. As to Iraq, Syria and North Korea, three of our most dangerous adversaries, Trump’s policies appear to shift with the sands.
Truthfully, most of us have absolutely no idea what will happen following President-elect Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. We do know that the Trumps will not be immediately moving to Washington, D.C. We do know the new president has indicated he plans to serve without pay, that he plans to intermingle his private security force with the secret service, and that he does not plan to continue investigative activities toward his opponent.
All being said, if he doesn’t change his mind between now and then.
I have been asked if I am keeping a list of Trump’s campaign promises, and whether or not I plan to call him on them. I have; and, I will. I deeply opposed the election of Mr. Trump, so it would be nothing less than disingenuous to ignore his governance.
DONALD TRUMP - PRESIDENT-ELECT
I’m trying very hard to “look on the bright side of life.” I really do, down deep, want President Trump to succeed, because, if he succeeds the country succeeds. At least, at this point, I’m trying to believe so. Let me put it another way. If President Trump does not succeed, we have four miserable, nonproductive years ahead of us, where nothing we might see as progressive, and changing or growing takes place.
If President Trump goes all out, for example, with a gigantic, full-throttle infrastructure rebuilding and improvement plan, I see an avenue for considerable success for a Trump administration.
If building and repairing our highways, bridges, tunnels, railway tracks, airports - well, you get the picture - then we will see an unbelievable upturn in employment. Blue-collar and nonprofessional jobs should be abundantly available!
Paying for such a progressive program seems to require the administration, along with Congress, to support a tax program that simplifies tax preparation as well as making it truly progressive - with the highest rates at the top and the lowest rates at the bottom would be a success for everyone.
I am full of hope that a highly successful “builder” in the presidency would surely have an eye toward rebuilding our country’s infrastructure. I’m truly hopeful that the man who promised to “Make America Great Again” - even though a hefty majority of us already felt pretty good about America’s greatness - will bring about the kinds of improvements that will convince us the election of Donald J. Trump for the presidency was not such a bad thing, after all.
The bottom line is simply: We’ll just have to wait and see!
[Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor, author, publisher and editor. His website is www.columnistwithaview.com. He writes a weekly column for the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch where this article first appeared on January 2, 2017. He lives in Ashland, Kentucky with his wife Deborah and their playful Chihuahua “Jose.”]