In the 40s, righteous and incredulous citizens of this country were newly aghast at the Nazi atrocities! I remember wincing with shame and being overcome with grief upon seeing pictures of emaciated victims who had survived the concentration camps and the bodies of those who had not, all jumbled together in pits, tossed like garbage. I was just a little kid but the nightmare tales echoed in my head and those ghastly pictures penetrated my dreams. I remember practicing being dead. If I could hold my breath long enough to appear dead after they threw me into the pit, they would not shoot me again, and I might survive. I learned to hold very still and to hold my breath a very long time. Living that horror in my imagination was so vivid to me that my tears would sometimes betray me and I feared that I’d be noticed. Empathy still lives in me.

We kept saying “How could the Germans not have known?” These atrocities were committed in their name, for the glory of Germany! How could decent, loving family people allow such hideous acts to be perpetrated in their world? Surely they knew what was going on? Why didn’t they rise up in the streets in protest? Perhaps it was the authoritarian discipline? You know, conditioned from childhood to obey the Father, the Schoolmaster; none of this liberal, permissive stuff. At the Nuremberg Trials we learned how well they obeyed orders. They did what they were told to do. They were patriotic Germans. They were good Germans.

I had quite reasonable German Great Grandparents

They were Charlie Keehner, the village blacksmith in the Gold-Rush days of Roseville, California, and Louisa Oceana (born on the ship coming over to this country) Zeh, who made delicious strudel. Both of them were honest, caring people, revealing no inkling that they might ever have descended from any monstrous hordes of barbarians that in ancient times had savaged whole civilizations.

I had learned a little nursery song in German about a cuckoo bird that was doing just fine until “Ahn cahm ein burser yeager, und shoost de ahma cuckoo, tote! Zim-zala, dim-zala, zim-zala, do-zalza, day.” The murderous implications of this jaunty little song did not even penetrate my five-year old head. I simply delighted in being able to remember all the strange words and being proud to sing it. Only years later did I give pause to the implications of the wanton cruelty I had been singing about: imagine! A hunter shooting a harmless little songbird! Maybe, after all,……those damn Germans?

And now, just think about it! We are those Germans!

Hideous, horrible atrocities are being perpetrated in the name of the citizens of the United States and what are we doing? We are going about our business as usual, as though nothing in our lives has changed. TV reports are conveyed in matter-of-fact style, hardly different from reporting the scores of the World Series. We hear about insurgents and pockets of resistance as though our military forces in Iraq were nobly protecting the Iraqi people from harm. What hogwash! I am so angry about what is being done in our name! Cartoonist Walt Kelly was right when he had wise little Pogo tell the other Swamp People that he had seen the enemy and it was US!

We are not rising up in the streets, raising a ruckus, disrupting traffic, risking arrest, storming the White House, the Pentagon, the TV stations, the radio stations, the newspapers, demanding that the insanity stop and that the truth be told! Where is the outrage? Where is the courage that we expected of the Germans? We thought that they should defy orders and together that they should thwart the military might. We didn’t understand that they, as we, each act as individuals, each being impacted in a separate way, in a community of mixed allegiances. And with each dissenter who defies the authority or the prevailing myth, and dares to speak up, being singly ostracized, or ridiculed, and what ever comes next: prosecuted, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, eliminated?

We Need Courageous, Dynamic, Ethical Leadership to Rally the People!

There can be no mass resistance, or mass movement, when we are being picked off one by one. Each of us needs to be reinforced by agreement from those around us; corroboration of ones’ convictions is necessary. Are we simply herd animals? Like sheep? Like Lemmings, maybe? There need to be strong voices, bold leadership, rousing the people, making an impact, capturing the imagination of others, inspiring agreement, in order to reach a critical mass, to gain power enough to make changes.

As in the Nazi era another giant juggernaut is sweeping without conscience across the landscape, crushing fragile innocent human beings who just happen to be in the way of its path, as it pursues its power-mad, mindless military evil onslaught.

At the new Nuremberg Trials, we may stand shamefaced before the world and plead that we were patriotic obedient Americans. We practiced democracy (maybe we haven’t got it right yet, but we did practice). We lined up faithfully to vote. We protected the unborn and insisted on extending equal rights to only the most deserving. We were fearless in our fight against evil and terrorism.