Why Jews? Why People of Color? Why us?

By: Bill Whaley
27 January, 2020

(Lawrence to the Rescue)

A Literary Reading of Current Affairs

The Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz 75 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945.)

KCEI (FM 90.1) will broadcast at 10 a.m. today, Joanne Forman, your favorite composer reminds us,  testimony of three survivors, not directly of Auschwitz, but certainly of the Holocaust.

From Iris Keltz, author of Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land: Journeys in Palestine and Israel, and Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie, we learn that the ADVOCATE will show at the Taos Community Auditorium Jan. 27, 28, 29th at 7pm.

Advocate Lea Tsemel, according to the press release, defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from non-violent demonstrators to armed militants. As a Jewish-Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for five decades, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits. As far as most Israelis are concerned, she defends the indefensible. As far as Palestinians are concerned, she’s more than an attorney, she’s an advocate.

For lessons learned about how a society degenerates into Holocaust, one might read Defying Hitler: A Memoir by Sebastian Haffner. Haffner fled Germany despite his Prussian roots prior to the Death Camp March. As a young man he saw and later wrote analytically about the dangers of “Comradeship” that he experienced in the military and culture, the “comradeship” that led to the lemming like downfall of the “right-thinking” German people and the Rise of the Nazi-directed holocaust, a syndrome we see today emulated by the Israeli Government, perpetrated against the Palestinians. Comradeship is mere conformity with conventional wisdom.

Apartheid anyone?

Apartheid and scapegoating can lead to endless war or divide and conquer as weapons like surveillance designed for defense are turned toward domestic turmoil (NSA and Facebook) in an attempt to hold power. In Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre, scholar Rene Girard summarizes how Carl Von Clausewitz in On War, saw arms races and wars as products of Mimetic practices: the one side emulates the other during the build-up for defensive or aggressive purposes. In turn each side seeks a “scapegoat,” whether Jesus in Jerusalem or Socrates in Athens, or Mexican, Muslim, Jew, or African American in Washington D.C. et al. The agent of war stares back at me from the mirror.

As for motive, see Sartre’s reflections on motives (aggrieved and immutable anger) in “Anti-Semite,” which practice one sees in the person of Donald Trump (and his supporters), especially those in the U.S. Senate, which combine the dangers of “Comradeship” and “Scapegoating,” while ignoring the facts, whether of science or judicial evidence or commonly applied principles of human decency.

As for the failure of long-held principles, whether in pre-Hitler Germany or in the U.S. Senate today, In The Life of the Mind, Hannah Arendt reminds us that “If somebody appears who, for whatever purposes, wishes to abolish the old “values” or virtues, he will find that easy enough, provided he offers a new code.”

We see today how Trumpism has replaced sworn oaths to the U.S. Constitution and rule of law with sworn loyalty to a new Dictator. Consequently, virtues associated with enlightened values, the rule of law, justice, science, reason, compassion and Christianity have been replaced by the vices of acquisitiveness, whether of mammon or power, idolatry and pedophilia in the churches, the massacre of children and churchgoers supported by the fiat and misreading of the Second Amendment. Also see: Trump lies, kids in cages, poisoned air and water, (more) mass serial killing, the deregulated appetites that prevail over historic ethical and moral limits. Inequality looms larger and larger as the actual body politic fails society and results in climate change that threatens the very planet.

Despite the foreboding political clouds and media montage of bad news, in D.H. Lawrence’s “Morality and the Novel” I find the author whispering in my ear about the quotidian practice of living (especially here), which can also be rewarding. Here’s Lawrence.

“If we think about it, we find that our life consists in this achieving of a pure relationship between ourselves and the living universe about us. This is how I “save my soul” by accomplishing a pure relationship between me and another person, me and other people, me and a nation, me and a race of men, me and the animals, me and the trees or flowers, me and the earth, me and the skies and sun and stars, me and the moon: an infinity of pure relations, big and little, like the stars of the sky: that makes our eternity, for each one of us, me and the timber I am sawing, the lines of force I follow; me and the dough I knead for bread, me and the very motion with which I write, me and the bit of gold I have got. This, if we knew it, is our life and our eternity: the subtle, perfected relation between me and my whole circumambient universe.”

Whether I think about Lincoln’s focus on reality and idealism at bloody Gettysburg in that famed Civil War “Address” or Yeats’ warning about the rough beast slouching toward us in “The Second Coming,” I also see the sun rising over the Sacred Mountain and from the top of Kachina Peak, the horizon dimpled and punctuated by mountains, the children playing, the  low  riders cruising (if banned from the Plaza). Mostly I see my fellow Taosenos as products of a culture and demimonde, members of the underground, who, as Hannah Arendt says, are “the most unreliable elements of the old order” [and who] “will be the least tractable” to the new order of Trumpism.

We will march to our own drumbeat, the Taos Pueblo downbeat, as Lawrence said, in this place with “a splendid terror, and a vast far-and-wide magnificence which [makes] it way beyond mere aesthetic appreciation.”

What else is there besides this place, these people, this life? We will greet the conquerors with our glasses of Del Maguey Mezcal and our tin cans of Bud, our middle fingers, and turn our backs on their dirty doings and dance to our favorite composer’s latest lively dirge.