We had that too, we had, had. Not to
boast of it, no, but it urges us
to speak, it wants to be described,
it doesn’t want to die.
It is not buried beneath the ruins.
Hans Erich Nossack, The End: Hamburg 1943
smoke, diminishing, Nossack walks around the remains of homes and the
things people, just hours before, thought they possessed. It’s
1943. Supposedly the destruction is for the good of humanity. Peace.
Supposedly the fascists are dying, somewhere. But here is nothing
more than the broken, cracked, charred, speaking to the writer of
what has been lost.
these things can be replaced, someone could say.
course! I may have
lost home and possessions but not a family member. But what of our
“way of living with things,” asks Nossack. “Was it
wrong?” Were we wrong? Consider all the books that once
surrounded us. Didn’t some, highly valued and privileged,
didn’t these books speak out of “vapid” ignorance
of reality? Women wanting to be possessed by men, for example, these
books expounded. To be happy!
did we learn, really?
the things we gathered around us were no more than “guests,”
Nossack writes. We never owed these things.
good can come of a loss of a way of being, remaining vigilant to the
rise of institutionalized cruelty.”All the things that
surrounded us were only our guests.” We never owned these
things. They defended us but were destroyed in the end, and “we
now stand naked and without any illusory refuge.”
not things. They can defend you from nothing!
smoke clears. The flag appears to be recognizable. There are no
schirmmütze or greatcoats. Nonetheless, jackboots are making
themselves known, in the images of children caged! Children
kidnapped! Jackboots poised above the heads of migrant children from
lands colonized and dehumanized by Western nations, including the
much in American life, in the experiences of people of color,
announced the arrival of jackboots to these shores. They have been
coming, one policy at a time. Jackboots have been coming when
institutions clamp down on democracy while emboldening religious
fanaticism and white supremacy. Jackboots have been coming when
Americans voice a belief in a flat Earth and Mexicans rapists.
They’ve been coming when another black youth falls dead to
police bullets. Jackboots are there when liberals and progressives
remain silent and when Americans consider the rights of Sarah
Huckabee Sanders, mouthpiece for a white supremacist administration,
over and above the rights of parents and children of color. What
freedom of speech should be honored for Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen
when neither, women, can stand up in anger to defend children?
many Americans of color saw these jackboots. Felt them—even
told they didn’t exist. Pray that the “enemy”
is stomped out, crush, annihilated by “hailstorms.”
Victory will come to “God’s people” while all
manner of atrocities will befall the “enemy.”
Lessons taught across the country on Sunday mornings. Make
is a necessity for restoring the racial hierarchy as it is for the
Rapture. Protest, however, to end detention, to end Trump’s
“zero tolerance policy,” to end inhumane and cruel
policies toward people of color, is jailed. Trump, for Americans with
“enemies” within and without, is doing “the Lord’s
what does it matter if the creators of this policy did so as a result
of cruelty or out of competence. There are children who may never see
their mothers again while these children, mind you, as young as three
years old, are ordered to court to defend themselves!
don’t see Stephen Miller or Kirstjen Nielsen sitting down to
lunch with protesters of US immigration policy. It’s not a
matter of democrat or republican, blues or reds, divided themselves
by border walls. Break free! There’s no middle ground, except a
fissure, a sinkhole, an abyss. It’s either yes or no.
about MS-13? Trump asks. We’re watching Jefferson Sessions!
leaving behind children and mothers crying uncontrollably, march on.
Anthony Kennedy announced he’ll retire from the Supreme Court,
and you can bet, the supporters of aggressive oppression are working
to make sure the expression of democracy is stamped out, permanently.
against the “enemy”!
1943, walking among the destruction, Nossack engages in critical
thinking to recognize what he sees as the end. The rebuilding of
structures is easy. But we must consider what’s to be learned
as a result of this destruction. What’s lost in these acts of
strategic cruelty? And what’s been lost—nothing short of
the loss of empathy! Compassion! Kindness! How about common sense
are values struggling to remain relevant—despite declaring, at
the end of every atrocity, Never Again!
is it that prevents us human beings from committing to the survival
of all of humanity,
rather than to only one’s political or cultural or social
tribe? Why do we privilege, in the end, what’s antithetic to
the survival of humanity?
do we, in 2018, end what refuses to die and threatens to crush us
it is, we must do it together, consistently, always vigilant of any
disguise the jackboots take on.