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26
Sep

Xenophobia

Merriam-Webster’s definition of Xenophobia:  “Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

I am on vacation this week, so my mom and I went to see the movie Sarah’s Key this afternoon.  We’d both read the book by Tatiana De Rosnay, and were both anxious and hesitant to see the movie, knowing the Holocaust is disturbing  subject matter.

I never knew about France’s role in the genocide of Jewish people, during WWII, until I read Sarah’s Key.  I’ve read many books on WWII and yet never heard of the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup.

The movie follows a young victim of the genocide in France.  In the Roundup, (Paris, 1942), the police and government set about to ensure the extinction of Jewish families.  During the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup, Jewish families were herded into the Velodrome, a large bicycling arena, where they were kept for days without anything to eat, no restrooms, or medical care.

And then, families were separated.  Husbands and wives separated, young babies torn from mothers, then older children dragged away from mothers desperate to keep them.

The events in France – the extinction of thousands and thousands of French Jews – was something, as I mentioned earlier, I’d never studied.  I was under the impression that France was of a different mind during the war.  As it turns out, they were as ruthless as the Germans.  (I’m reading some historians who say the French finally found their conscience and the genocide did end and was never repeated.)

The reason I am writing about this tonight?  I cannot get out of my head the reality – the harsh and brutal facts that people could be herded off to their deaths en masse.  French citizens allowed it to happen.  In the movie, some cheered as victims were herded out of their homes and into the streets, then removed.

How does society, or a community, allow this to happen?   It is mind boggling to think of the reality – the flesh and the blood, the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters purposely slaughtered.  Human beings like you and me, taken like they were property from their homes!

I’m a complete idealist, and have trouble accepting how prejudice can fester, like a cancer, in the hearts of  people.

Anne Frank wrote, in The Diary of a Young Girl, ” In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart… ”

It was not long ago that the horror of the holocaust happened.   The United States condoned slavery, the interment of thousands of Japanese Americans in 1942, and similar atrocities.  What would we do if such atrocities happened today?

I thought of Troy Davis.  I thought of the death penalty, and how our state governments murder people on death row.  And I thought, if a government will kill one bad person, what prevents them from killing masses of people perceived by them to have no value?

The Holocaust happened not that long ago.  The Spanish Inquisition (1492), and the Holocaust, (1939-1945), were made from the same religious fervor and  hate, only they were centuries apart.

I wonder if hate, prejudice, racism, or  sexism, etc., results from ignorance.  If that is true, I’d like to think that education is the cure.   Ignorance, lack of education and socio-economic disparities harm our communities, too.  The education our children recieve in our Public Schools (in Florida) is horribly burdened from the top down and bottom up.  This is the very reason I agreed to be on the Board of the YMCA in Broward County, Florida.  Our children don’t have the resources they need to succeed, especially in the inner cities.  Not to mention the problems with parental support, homelessness, hunger, and so much more.

People are in trouble today in our communities.  The fact that people are going hungry in the United States of America is something I never thought possible.  My fear is the longer our middle class is allowed to shrink and morph into the depths of severe poverty, the more we are in danger of increased crime and unrest.

And, the Death Penalty is not the answer!  The Death Penalty has no bearing on crime. It is not a deterrent, say the experts, and it’s far more expensive to carry out than are life sentences.

One of the characters in the film, while in the filthy, crowded and pestilent train-car that was taking the Jewish victims to the work camps, shows young Sarah the large ring on his finger.  He tells her there is poison under the false facade of the stone on the ring.   He says,  “No one, no government – nor anyone but I – have the right to tell me when it’s time for me to die.”

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