Sometimes I need to escape, so that’s what I did last week. I abandoned children, pets, and home to spend 3 days with Darling Husband while he traveled for work in Washington, DC. In spite of the fact that was in the lion’s den, I did not turn on the news; I had no internet access; and the only part of the newspaper I looked at was the crossword puzzle. What with the presidential primaries slogging on and the unimaginable assault on religious freedom still unchecked, the time seemed right for a brief intellectual vacation.
Naturally, I chose the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for a pleasure trip. The museum postdates my years in the nation’s capital, and I never felt that it was an appropriate destination when my kids were young. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit. I don’t imagine the place is ever not crowded. The day I was there, clusters of high school students clogged the passageways, making it difficult to read the displays. I’m not sure what is taught to teenagers these days about the Holocaust. SuzyQ’s AP European History course touched on it, but there were no essays or in-depth analysis required. Frankly, it amazed me how little energy on the part of the course writers was devoted to what was certainly the most horrific event of the past 2 centuries. I wonder, then, if all of those teens at the museum will simply check the Holocaust Museum off their list and move on down Independence Avenue to view the Wright brothers’ plane and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat. I hope not. The museum does try hard to discuss the greater issue of genocide.
As a student of history (indeed, a History major in college), the narrative presented by the museum was nothing new to me. One of the things I find fascinating and troubling about the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is the question of how a good, decent people could allow such a thing to develop and flourish in their midst. How could the German people not see Hitler and Nazism for what it was? How is it possible that the escalating persecution of the Jews, followed by their disappearance and extermination, did not raise loud protests and spark revolt among German citizens? Of course, I know the academic response to these questions: historical anti-Semitism, dispirited and resentful national sentiment following WWI defeat, charisma of Hitler, diabolical deception of the people by the regime, etc. But still…How could so many have been taken in by such evil? Where was conscience in all of it?
Once I returned home and plugged back in to news, it didn’t take long to realize that people are indeed easily taken in. Apparently, too many people don’t see that history repeats. The blatant assault on religious freedom under the contraceptive mandate, the upcoming implementation of government-controlled healthcare (private industry controlled by government = fascism), indoctrination in public schools on homosexuality and global warming, Alberta, Canada’s attempts to mandate what values homeschoolers may teach, the British government’s decision to oppose the right of Christians to wear a cross at work, and the list goes on and on. Even in our modern society, which is supposed to be so enlightened and tolerant, people are all too willing to surrender liberties to the government and stand by as religious groups in particular are targeted.
Perhaps I should have chosen Florida for my little Spring Break getaway. It would have been far less sobering.
In order to end this post (which has taken me 3 days to write) on a more positive note, I am thrilled to say that my pastor finally mentioned the HHS mandate at Mass last Sunday. I’m not sure what has taken him so long, since our bishop issued a statement almost immediately after the rule was finalized. Nevertheless, he did touch on the controversy as an assault on religious freedom without going into the specifics of the government mandate. I sent him an email of support, and I was happy to hear in his reply that he had received many such positive emails. A hopeful sign??
*Thanks for _rokinfree at Flickr for photo.