Trigger warning: Some graphic descriptions of the Holocaust, accidents, and anxious thoughts.
As many of you know, my brain is a jerk.
Often times, I will be minding my own business, peacefully driving on the freeway or showering or reading or texting or WHATEVER, and then suddenly, my brain will flash a particularly horrifying vision of my car flipping over and Sasquatch being stuck screaming and crying in the back of my car, hung upside down in his carseat, and me in the front, either dead or pinned with an injury so I can’t get to him and he’s stuck for hours and I have to either listen to him or did I mention that I’ve died and —
I have to physically wrench my brain away from going down that path and either start literally singing “LALALALALALALALA” or force my brain to think of something else. It will often take me a few minutes to wrangle my stupid brain from those horrifying images or thoughts because again, my brain hates me.
Recently, I read Maus by Art Spiegelman for my SFF/Graphic Novel book club. It’s a graphic novel depicting Spiegelman’s father’s experience as a survivor of Auschwitz. This won Spiegelman a Pulitzer Prize.
It was so horrifying.
At first, I didn’t like how Spiegelman drew the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, but by the end, I understood. I think that due to exposure and education on the Holocaust, many of us have gradually become desensitized to even the more horrific images. But seeing it as mice and cats caused me to see everything anew.
I also learned (or was reminded) of new things that the Nazis did to the Jews. I didn’t realize that near the end of the war, the Nazis just decided to mass exterminate the Jews (as opposed to slowly killing them) as a way to cover their tracks. I also didn’t realize just how gradual the Nazis eroded the Jew’s rights until it was too late.
Two particular parts have been ingrained in my mind.
The first, was during a community sorting where all the families and Jews in the Jewish ghetto had to line up and be sorted into two groups. One group was allowed to stay and the other was sent away on trains to the camps.
One woman with four children was sorted to the trains because she had too many children.
I stopped right in my tracks. I have four children. (I was reading this right after Sasquatch was born. Delightful post-partum reading, I know.)
That could have been me. And there would be nothing I could do to change this and protect my children.
I closed the book then and there and took a break.
The other was the story of how near the end of the war, the Nazis moved the Jews from camps as they retreated into Germany and in one of those places they retreated to, they gave up all pretense of even trying to keep the Jews alive. The survivors had to pile up their dead in the hallways and soon, there was no more room to walk and they would have to walk on top of the dead on their way to the bathrooms.
But because there were tens of thousands of people in these camps, the bathrooms soon overflowed and stopped working. And the only way people could relieve themselves was to do so on top of the dead in the hallway.
How do you recover from that?
It didn’t help that as I was reading, I kept seeing similar parallels to Trump’s ascendancy to POTUS. I know. I’m not unique in this observation, but it’s another thing entirely to read about the Holocaust and then see how it started and then see how history seems to be repeating itself.
Additionally, I came across a video on Facebook (shown below) that told of a woman who gave birth in a concentration camp and I was shocked because it never occurred to me that babies would be born and then SURVIVE the concentration camps.
But of course there were babies in the camps. Pregnant women were sent there. And if they lived, they gave birth there.
To survive – that tenacity. I hope I never have to find out if I, or my children, are made of that type of stuff.
So of course, my brain freaked out.
I thought of my four children and my husband and assuming we survived being packed into trains like cattle and given no food or water for the weeks it took to get to the camps, how would my children survive and fare?
I thought of Sophie’s Choice, and if I were put in a similar situation, who would I choose?
And a normal person, would then stop their thoughts right there. But not me!
My stupid brain decided to torture me with incredibly logical and brutal thoughts about my kids.
Because really, in this situation, what can you do except choose the child who will most likely survive and adapt? And what else can you do except choose to condemn the children who would suffer more and not be resilient enough or compliant enough to make it through the other side?
And this in no way victim blaming because FFS HOW COULD PEOPLE DO THIS TO EACH OTHER?
And so, I assessed my children.
I decided that Sasquatch is a baby so the odds were against him.
Gamera is too fragile and cries too much.
Cookie Monster is resilient enough and good natured enough and healthy enough and strong enough and usually compliant enough, but if he is pushed to do something that he truly doesn’t want to do, he will not comply at all.
Glow Worm is resilient enough and young enough to be adaptable to most all situations. He is also young enough to not remember as clearly how things used to be.
It would be a coin toss really between Cookie Monster and Glow Worm. They would be separated from me though because they are male – but hopefully Hapa Papa would keep them alive as long as he could. Given that, maybe I would get to keep Sasquatch or Gamera after all.
And then, if I survived, I would hate myself every single day of my life and want to die but live only because if I died, who else would my child have? (Well, I guess here’s to hoping that Hapa Papa also survived.)
OMG. I have to stop.
You see? My brain is an asshole.
How can I detachedly assess my children like this? WTF is wrong with me? (Truthfully, I believe in being prepared.)
And also? HOW COULD PEOPLE ALLOW 6-11 MILLION PEOPLE DIE?
You know why? Because it is happening now. It has happened before. And it will happen again.
Because we think we are small and don’t want to make trouble and we are afraid – OMG we are afraid – and when I dwell on this, I AM AFRAID.
I want to say that I would be one of the “good” Germans who actively helped hide Jews. That I wouldn’t prey upon them and steal their jewels as they desperately offered their assets to buy their lives.
But you know what?
I have four kids. And I have eyes. And if I saw people being disappeared, I would be afraid that I and my family would be next.
I do not think I am brave enough in that situation.
I don’t know if Trump will bring us to another Holocaust. I know that the seeds of it are out there – and that Trump has fertilized the seeds and made it more acceptable to be “out.”
I know that if I speak out behind the relative safety of my keyboard that any moment, I could be doxxed (and since I’m a woman and a person of color, the odds of that are high), and that my children could be threatened and harmed.
I mean, odds are against it happening because I am totally small potatoes and who can say when and where a writer will go viral?
But it could.
And that possibility makes me afraid.
Not overwhelmingly yet. But if I let my brain run with it, it can.
So I tell myself to be brave now when the stakes are low so that I can train myself to be brave when the stakes are high. (God willing, this will not happen.)
That my bravery and courage are muscles: the more I use them despite my fear, the more I will choose the right thing for all peoples. And that truly, my standing up for all peoples will ultimately, make the world safer for my children.
And the more of us who do so, the less likely we will ever have to be brave and courageous when the stakes are high because hopefully, we will have stopped it in time. (Whatever that “it” is.)
So, my friends. To those of us who are afraid: be strong and courageous.
Let us practice being brave together.