Yes Virginia, There was a Holocaust

The sign at entrance of the visitors museum at Auschwitz

The sign at the visitors museum in Auschwitz

My thirteen year old niece recently came to visit before the holidays. Even though we were meeting on grim circumstances (my 94-year-old grandmother passed shortly after I returned home) it was quality time with family to share the holidays as well as the stories and pictures I have had from my travels so far. As we delved further into the souvenirs and memories, photos of my travels through Germany and Poland came up, and before I knew it a history lesson began right there on the kitchen table in the snowy mountains of Utah. Haley had recently studied the Holocaust in school and I felt it appropriate to show her the photo of her great great grandmother that me and my dad had discovered on our trip last winter through Auschwitz.

We continued through the photos and instead of sending her to bed with visions of sugar plums filling her head, she thought about gas chambers, piles of eyeglasses and shoes collected from prisoners, crematoriums, and the fear that this could one day happen here. If it had been a “Freddy Krueger” movie, I could have just turned on a nightlight and told her it was all pretend.  But the cycle of history I relearned as I made my way through the rise and fall of the Roman empire, the beginning and end of WWII as well as the conflicts in the middle East and Egypt  had me wondering. Could our own country be heading down the same destructive path?

I remember watching the inaugural ball, and for some reason the song “Be Prepared” from Disney’s “The Lion King” just wouldn’t get out of my head. Was it the music? The lighting? The clueless hyenas following along with Scars’ maniacal plan? The familiar choice in words used to convey his message? I can think of a few orators in history who weren’t half as influential as our current president, and the outcome wasn’t very favorable. Everyone was so excited for the “change” that Obama promised our country, and indeed changes are definitely taking place. Freedoms that our founding fathers (and our troops) have fought so hard to create and defend are slowly being taken from us for the sake of protecting us from “terrorists.” Anti-gun laws as well as our freedom of speech have been in jeopardy for a few years now, and most shocking was the “indefinite detention bill” (otherwise known as the National Defense Authorization act) which was just recently passed by congress. 

 For those unaware of what this means, when this bill is signed into law, the president has the authority (via the military) to arrest and detain without trial, any American (yes I said AMERICAN) accused of having “supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.” What exactly determines if someone is a supposed terrorist?  And what about our constitutional rights? I thought of my travels again, and the “Enabling Act” passed in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. Another act to “remedy the distress of the people,” which completely deviated from the constitution. And what happened after that? Well  soon the people were no longer allowed to defend themselves, (our right to bare arms) books were banned and burned (the gradual control over the internet and radio happening now) and before they knew it, millions of people were detained and had no way to stop it.

Reflections of 9/11, my visit to the world trade center

After 9/11, I wanted just as much as anyone else to feel “safe” in my country, but at what cost? As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If we restrict liberty to obtain security, we will lose them both.” Maybe I wouldn’t be so concerned if I hadn’t been stopped and questioned on my visit to the World Trade Center Memorial last month on my way home. The tall, caucasian blond. Yep, she has terrorist written all over her face. (All because my passport looked “suspicious” because of where I traveled to.) And what if I had come through after this bill had passed? With no voice or power to defend myself, could that same questioning land me in a F.E.M.A. camp somewhere  if they didn’t like my answer, meeting a similar fate to my great-grandmother in Poland?

I have tried to stay away from conspiracy theories, but the turn of events is beginning to look too familiar and if we don’t wake up soon, it’s going to be too late. I AM proud to be an American, but I am not proud of our government. I love this beautiful land and the opportunities and freedoms that we have enjoyed here for so many years.  But like my 13-year-old niece, I am afraid of  what the future holds. If we don’t start becoming more aware of what’s happening, then who knows where this country is headed. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” I suppose all I can do (besides use the platform of speech that I still have) is to count the blessings and freedoms that still remain, and in the words of Lee Greenwood, stand up next you and defend her still today. God (yes, I did just say that) bless the U.S.A!

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