But it has. Yesterday in Charlottesville, VA, men carried Nazi flags at a white supremacist rally. The sight made me physically ill.
Throughout my life I’ve heard hubristic Americans condemn Germans for not standing up to the Nazis or stopping them. Comments like “I would’ve stood up to them!” and “It will never happen here” follow. Here’s the chance to stand up.
My father is German. He was a boy living in a small town in Germany during WWII. My dad didn’t speak German at home when I was growing up, and he worked to lose his accent so no one would know his heritage unless he told them. We didn’t celebrate anything German. Why would we when our heritage included the Holocaust? (I’m perplexed as to why Southerners want to fly the confederate flag and celebrate a heritage that includes slavery — it doesn’t make sense to me.) He came to the U.S. as soon as he could after the war and became a citizen.
In college I studied German language and history. My art history focus was on early 20th century German Expressionism. I needed to learn about the time period from the historical standpoint. I am not an expert, but I know enough to be aware.
My husband’s uncle fought in WWII to defeat the Nazis. I’m incredibly thankful for all veterans who fought to defeat the hateful regime. I owe my life to them because had they not defeated Hitler and freed Europe, my dad wouldn’t have become a U.S. citizen and I wouldn’t be here.
When I saw the current president descend his golden escalator on live TV to announce his candidacy, his words made me shudder and punched me in the gut. They had shades of what I’d read in textbooks and seen in film clips of Hitler in my German history classes.
So now I’m wondering how do I, as a lone individual in Wyoming, with my family heritage, respond to images of men proudly flying Nazi flags? I’m figuring that out. I tend to refrain from conflict. I’m a private, peace-loving person, but I won’t stick my head in the sand. I will love my neighbor (meaning all people) as myself. I refuse to give in to hate lest I become just like the men from around the country who gathered in Charlottesville, and I refuse to think that it won’t happen here, because it has.