A few weekends ago, my partner and I were rearranging some things in our house. This included–to my delight–bringing two bookcases filled with my books out of the study and into a main room.
My partner joked with me as he surveyed the all three bookcases (the third must remain in the study).
(This is a paraphrase.)
“I can just imagine someone coming to our house, browsing your books, and saying ‘You have a lot of books about the Holocaust and Shoah.'”He paused for effect.
“‘Um, especially for someone with blonde hair and blue eyes. Nope, no Nazis here.'”
I laughed a little. I do have blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. It was a joke in my “Philosophy in the Wake of the Holocaust” course that I was the only “Aryan” in the room. I’m used to others joking uncomfortably about this topic. Genocide is a heavy topic (quite the understatement) and makes people uncomfortable.
When people are uncomfortable, they joke. They also will avoid that which causes the discomfort.
But I have always been fascinated not just with the Holocaust and Shoah, but with all genocides. My books on the Armenian genocide (sorry, Turkey, but that WAS a genocide), the Japanese genocide during WWII, Rwanda in 1994, and early 90’s Yugoslavia don’t attract attention. My guess to explain this phenomenon is that many people aren’t aware of the above mentioned genocides, aren’t aware that as I write this and you read this, there are genocides being carried at this very moment.
Let me be clear: I don’t “like” genocide. It is a sick act of sheer cruelty with no possible explanation that would make it somehow permissible. But as someone who prides herself in human rights advocacy, knowledge of the depravity humans are capable of is important to me.
The philosophical implications are important to me. And honoring those who were victims of genocide by not forgetting and trying to learn their stories–that’s of the utmost importance to me.
Not reading about rapes, murders, not talking about these atrocities, and any other act that fits this definition–that doesn’t make them go away.
There is no eraser or magic wand.
If anything, it’s terribly harmful to not discuss these terrible acts throughout history (including now).
Please do me a favor. Read a memoir of a survivor of genocide. Remember the millions of people who have and still are suffering. Talk about it.
With genocide, silence and avoiding the topic because it’s “uncomfortable” is deadly.