Last week was the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Hitler’s henchmen systematically destroyed Jewish businesses, synagogues and communal places in Germany. Six million Jews, and five million others—Rom, the number is unaccountable—developmentally disabled, homosexuals and mentally ill human beings, were annihilated in subsequent years.
It stuns me to recite these statistics, but it scares me, even more to think about what is going on in our country. There have been three hundred and seven shootings in the three hundred and twelve days in 2018, almost one a day, with a total of 328 people perishing at the hand of a gunman. The number does not even begin to compare with the statistics of the Shoah, but to me it indicates something much worse—a malaise, resignation to accept this as normal.
I posit to you, it is NOT normal. I personally do not want to continue to read daily or listen to the news and hear about another killing, no matter what the motivation—hatred for others, self-hatred, religious intolerance, racial bias, mental illness—give me a break.
Y es, I want the news—the results of the recent mid-term elections and the speculations about what they mean, if anything; the progress or non-progress we are making to arrest climate change; how Ruth Bader Ginsberg is doing; advances in science and technology to save human lives—and I can even live with people who flex their muscles to gain power over others—but senseless mass shootings by individuals who easily obtain firearms for the purpose of killing others is beyond my ken.
I fear for my grandchildren who walk to school with their friends. Is a lunatic going to breach the gates of Westview High School and open fire on them? Am I going to traverse the short walk to UCSD Extension and worry about who is following me on my route? Is there someone lurking in the hallway outside this room, while we stand nonchalantly reading our Dime Stories, and toss in a bomb?
We are not in Nazi Germany, we are in America, but this what it must have felt like in the 1930s—fear, helplessness, anxiety. I never had these feelings before. I sign petitions, I vote, sometimes march, and I write. I am generally a proactive person, but now I just don’t know how to act.
I mourn and cry with each family as they bury their loved ones shot down just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I remember Kristallnacht and feel the shards of glass pierce my skin and my psyche. I live with the hope that one day we will come to our senses and heed the words of Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We are two generations away from the Nazi Holocaust. Now, what next my friends, who will be shot tomorrow?