Friday, September 30, 2011
Last week, I read a comment to a post which I shared on September 27, 2011. The first time reading what the reader had to say, I felt so violated on so many levels. Considering I don’t get many comments, I couldn’t believe I would receive one of such fury. Also, all of my life, the Holocaust has been a part of me in unique ways. For someone to deny my beliefs in a historical event so well documented, pierced my intellect.
As a child, I began to watch the television miniseries “Holocaust.” When my grandmother realized the violence shown in the movie, she sent me to rest in her room until my parents came to get me. She didn’t turn down the volume, so the sounds haunted me. My best friend’s mother came from Germany. There were many times on the playground kids would call her names because of her heritage. I always tried to defend her, but I am sure the comments hurt her. I was hurt for her. I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in middle school. I cried at the end. In high school, I had the fortune to play Miep Gies who helped Anne’s family while in the attic in the school play. I felt one with Miep and prayed I would be as brave if I were ever in that situation. Tears came to my eyes the day Miep died in January of 2010. I said a prayer for one of my heroes.
In my adulthood, I have read Elie Wiesel’s “Night”, Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place”, and Miep Gies’ “Anne Frank Remembered.” I finally did see “Holocaust.” I have also watched other depictions of the Holocaust and read other fiction stories of this time frame. How can someone deny this history? How can they deny the stories of our Christian and Jewish neighbors?
I tried to put myself in Mr. Gharst’s shoes. At first all I could think of is the absurdity of denying the horrible treatment of the slaves in the Southern United States or deny the United States had ever bombed Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It is in the history books. How do you argue with that? Yet, my thoughts turned to the Deep South. How many times has the Southern Belle and Southern gentleman been romanticized during the era of slavery? Too many times to count! The story in my own family goes something like this. “Yes, we had two or three slaves. But we were so poor that they lived with us in the house and they were family. In fact, when they were freed, they took our last name.” They were still slaves with no freedom. They probably didn’t even know what other names were an option to take when freed. The ugly past is still ugly no matter if we deny it or paint it in bright friendly colors.
One of my uncles brought another topic not only to my doorstop, but right into my house. The Catholic abuse that has taken place in the United States and all over the world for years has been denied or hidden by moving the priests to new parishes when trouble arose. Many innocent lives have been crippled by these men who were to bring the love of Christ to the community, not the nightmares of sin. When each new story comes out in the press about the abuse, I pray for the victims and for the Catholic faith because it is a victim as well. I then wrap up the information and store it in a cubbyhole in my mind resting in the fact all is good in my community. I don’t deny what has happened, but I do hide from it.
Years ago, I was talking with friends about the old days and mentioned a priest from our childhood. One of my friends a few years older made a comment filled with loathing for the priest whom I have such fond memories of and love. An older adult basically shushed up my friend. The conversation changed. I never pursued the topic. Was this one of the priests in our Diocese who abused children? I really can’t believe it. Yet, I didn’t really know him. I wouldn’t ever deny my friend’s statement. Yet my lack of disbelief is just one step away from denial. In fact it isn’t a stretch to say we all deny historical events that have happened in our small lives that don’t affect the world, but do affect the people around us.
The anger I felt toward Mr. Gharst who wrote the comment has dissipated to a sad understanding and empathy. When we have a strong loyalty to a country or even a person, we are going to deny an event unless we live through the event. There have been a few gossips in my family who have said things about certain family members that I will always deny. Unless these close family members were to tell me they were lazy on a job or addicted to drugs in their past, I will believe it is just a gossip trying to stir up trouble. These family members have never shown me any reason to doubt them. I know loyalty can lead us astray. We need to open our eyes and our hearts. With the Holocaust, there is a ton of proof. With a gossip, there usually is none. But we must be aware of what our denial will do to the victims and those around us.
Please say a prayer for all victims of the Holocaust and the Catholic sexual abuse cases and the cases that haven’t brought forward.
Blessings to you all.