You and I and everybody I’ve talked to is sick at heart about the public expression of hideous white nationalist beliefs in recent days, in Charlottesville and elsewhere, including our television screens. It’s a nightmare that I can’t escape even in my happy places of knitting and sewing and yapping on the phone with you. Watching the President of the United States excuse and defend the people in that torch-bearing, racist slogan-chanting mob was sickening.
Beyond contributing to organizations that fight this cancer on our country, I’m trying to figure out what else I can do. Staying quiet or “out of politics” is not something I’m considering. Any consequence of speaking out is worth it. How we respond to this is the essence of who we are.
My husband’s family survived this same evil when it raged in Germany in the 1930s, losing everything but their lives, and feeling fortunate to get away. I’ve heard firsthand stories of how people thought it might go away if they just kept their heads down and waited for it to blow over. These things do not blow over. They have to be shouted down and fought tooth and nail, or they will win.
One of the last of the German-born generation of the family, Margaret Bergmann Lambert, died a few weeks ago, at age 103. An experience she had in 1936—being kicked off the German Olympic team for being Jewish—and the life she lived after that, merited a New York Times obituary that tells the story. Successive post-war German governments honored Margaret Lambert, acknowledged the wrong, and even restored her 1936 high jump record (at age 95). What the Nazis did to her was infinitely far from the worst the Nazis did, but it was deeply symbolic.
At the conclusion of the funeral service, one of Margaret Lambert’s self-described “elderly, balding children” (I heart the family sense of humor) asked that anyone who wished to honor her memory make contributions to the ACLU. The request was consistent with the outspoken life she had led, and expressed her perspective on the events of our time. I had barely met her, but I was moved by the strength of character and the legacy implicit in that request. We can’t all march in counter-demonstrations, but we can help fund organizations that are fighting white nationalism, racism and anti-semitism, and we can speak out.
Thanks to an email from MDK contributor Alice Beltran a few weeks ago, I did find a place for 27 minutes of healing refuge: listening to Bob Dylan reading his Nobel Prize Lecture, delivered in June. Dylan’s unmistakable speaking voice, not often heard at such length, and his subject—how his music relates to literature, for which he was awarded the prize—are a balm to me in this moment. The best parts of humanity, as relief from the worst.
Don’t worry. I’m still knitting.