May 31, 2012

Wrong place, wrong time.

Heard a fascinating interview on the BBC with a historian studying the Adolf Eichmann trial.  Turns out this is the 50th anniversary of his trial and execution.  The point that caught me was the observation that until this trial, most Israelis saw the Holocaust victims as "ghetto" Jews who were too weak to stand up to the Germans.  The Israelis had just defeated several Arab nations and thought of themselves as strong and self-reliant.  Hearing the testimony of the survivors at Eichmann's trial made them realize there was no difference.  The Holocaust victims were just at the wrong place in the wrong time.

The story before this was about the Sudan and people trying to survive.  Pulling them both together I was struck by the continuity of fortune.  I was fortunate in so many ways.  I was born in a peaceful part of the world, far from pogroms and death squads.  My parents provided more food than we could eat.  I didn't experience oxygen deprivation at an inopportune time.  I survived childhood with my wits intact, and after many childhood diseases had been virtually eradicated.  I had access to education and entertainment.

But in a different country; in a different family; in a different state of health--all the difference in the world.  A difference we take for granted in this country.  And this is not an American Exceptionalism talk.  I am stunned that Republicans have made that a requirement for patriotism.  I understood that as hubris and blind following.  American Exceptionalism is the opposite of humility, and for the life of me, I have no clue why conservatives don't see that.

If I were born south of the border, or in the wrong country in Africa, or a Jew in 1930s Germany--everything would be different.  If I were a minority and poor in this country, everything would be different.  I would be more likely to end up in prison, or on death row.

Our playing field isn't level--either in this country, and certainly in the world.  Conservatives would do well to acknowledge that.

I was born in the right place at the right time.  I was born to parents who love me.

I was blessed.

That wasn't due to my effort.

1 comment:

Smitty said...

Fortune of birth. This consciousness is in this body, born to an upper-middle-class suburban family with all the amenities and more.

Just as randomly, this consciousness could have been a Croat on Bosnia. A Jewish person in the 30s in Germany. A Rawandan.

So I agree with you: why the hubris? The members of the 101st Chairborne Brigade didn't win a competition to earn a spot here. They were just born here.