I planned to write a lighthearted post today about using pliers to zip things. That story will have to wait. I was very upset this weekend by the shooting that took place in Arizona, but a lot of people were writing about it, and I didn't have anything to add to their poignant and thoughtful - and yes, sometimes, angry - words. Then Sarah Palin released her video statement. I'm not going to pretend that I watched it; I didn't. I did not not watch it because I was sick of the people who take no responsibility for their words and actions accusing people like me of taking no responsibility for our words and actions. I didn't watch it because someone told me that Palin claimed that there was a blood libel against her.
It's hard to write this because I'm so upset that I'm crying, and the tears are obstructing my vision and my nose is running and it's a mess. Blood libels have been used against Jews for centuries in Europe. They are accusations that Jews (or in some cases other minorities) kill Christian children to use their blood for religious reasons. They always led to extreme violence against Jews. They were always strummed up by high powered authorities as ways to incite mobs and let them feel justified in murdering and maiming. Almost always a blood libel conveniently was manufactured by officials when they needed to get pressure off of themselves for their failures and blame others. The insidiousness of blood libels touch multiple levels of human failure.
One of the most recent and infamous blood libels took place in Kielce, Poland in July 1946. When police/government officials/local citizens manufactured a story about a missing Christian boy, a mob - comprised also of police and government officials - rampaged. About 40 (out of the 200 Jews who managed to survive the Holocaust and return home) were killed and dozens of others injured. Around that time, my grandfather had just returned to Poland from Russia, where he had been since 1940. In August, he left Poland forever, taking my bubbe and father across the Czech and Austrian borders illegally so they could live in the relative safety of Austrian DP camps.
In the last few years, many people have accused people they disagree with of acting like Nazis. Recently, Glenn Beck claimed that Holocaust survivor George Soros was a Nazi. In the last decade, people who disagreed with George Bush's (admittedly bad) policies compared him to Hitler. Now of course, people are claiming that Obama is another Hitler.
When we allow this speech, we denigrate history. We say that run-of-the-mill disagreements and policies that we think are bad are tantamount to genocide. Worse, in cases like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck, we allow demagogues to misappropriate history, using it against the people who were hurt by it, painting the victims as perpetrators and the perpetrators of violence as victims. This is sick. No, it is beyond sick. It has to end, but I don't think it will. And that's why I'm crying. Because I don't know what to do.