I took last week off from writing, because as Jewish woman and mother, I was struggling to function after the Capitol Riots last weekend. Though (troublingly) the riots were not originally covered as antisemitic, Jews knew what they were looking at right away. Nazi salutes, flags with swastikas, a congresswoman saying “Hitler was right on one thing”, and t-shirts that said “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWE” (six million wasn’t enough). Two nights ago I watched videos that iTV filmed recorded on the scene, and I was struck how most of what these people were talking about were old (and false) antisemitic conspiracy theories. On one hand it made no sense. (Why would you blame our election results on the Rothschild family, which isn’t even an American family?) And on the other hand, hate never makes sense; that’s one of its defining features.
So it has been painful to watch the liberal world ignore one of the most obvious features of the riots. Our kids’ own school sent out a letter about Wednesdays events that didn’t mention antisemitism, and then refused to issue a timely correction. That brings the feeling of being unsafe, in our neighborhood that has recently had six foot high antisemitic graffiti, into sharp relief. Like many Jewish women, it’s been a week of reckoning, and coming face to face with who I can trust and who I can’t, and what changes we might need to make in our life.
Sometimes I remember that the non-Jewish world doesn’t fully realize how real the holocaust is for American Jews. Ethnic jews grew up with Grandparents that were survivors, or just barely escaped, or who lost half of their generation as children and young adults. Until very recently, almost all of us had people with number tattoos at the Passover table. That genocide is real and visceral, and my children have 1/4th of their family tree wiped out because of it. (I have been thinking of this thread a lot in recent days.) It took me days after the riots just to pull myself back together. Clumps of my hair came out. And the worst is, we don’t know what’s next to come for our nation.
This week felt like a pause in the madness, and I tried to get my life together to prep for whatever comes next.
Lets Learn About Fascism
One of the things I’ve been doing during this pause is reading and researching about fascism, and how it’s rise looked in other countries. I know some of you might be interested in doing the same, so if you are, here is a very non-comprehensive list of resources:
- The F Word
- The American Abyss
- The Unlikely Connection Between Wellness Influencers and the Pro-Trump Rioters
Documentaries, Shows & Movies
- The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich—Episode 1: The Rise
- The Dictator’s Playbook: Benito Mussolini
- The Plot Against America (Fiction)
- The Man In The High Castle (Fiction)
- Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
- How Democracies Die
- It Can’t Happen Here
- Black Earth: The Holocaust As History and Warning
- The Road To Unfreedom
- Hiding in Plain Sight
- How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them
- What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany
- The Origins of Totalitarianism
- The Rise and Fall Of The Third Reich
- Wunderland (Fiction)
- Harry Potter (Fiction)
- The Poisonwood Bible (Fiction)
I know. It’s not light reading or watching, any of it. And the truth is, there is no real historical precedent to this moment, with a mass pandemic, and internet misinformation, and an American President trying to lead a coup. But I have found that the more I learn, the more I have a way to think about what is happening. And for me, having a way to look into the Abyss and make sense of it, is better than seeing it as chaos. I’d rather see patterns, even if the patterns are deeply troubling.
For all of you: POC, queer, Muslim, disabled, Jewish, who are terrified and struggling after last week, and afraid of what is to come. I see you. Please remember to take the time to put yourself first, and protect your peace. Move your body, eat some fruits and vegetables, meditate or pray, take a nap, scream in rage. Whatever you need: you do you.
And for those of you who are more protected from this madness: SPEAK OUT. SAY SOMETHING. Stand up for those of us that are less popular in this political moment, as well as for everyone you feel comfortable speaking out about. Don’t just virtue signal: do something.
And please, please, pick up a book or movie or documentary and learn something new.
If you have any recommendations for books or movies, or just need to take a moment to feel safe and seen, the comments are open.