Here’s my latest, thanks to some recent ugly discourse on FB regarding immigration & the military. From the same source, some months ago, I got asked how I felt about Nazi re-enactors who came to local events. Now I’m chewing on why reenactments are needed at all.
There are multiple prompts for this post, but the core points come from the three articles below and the ensuing discussion of access to citizenship through service as an immigrant, which recently changed, thanks to isolationist bullshit coming from the white nationalists (read: Nazis) currently in charge of our country’s administration.
There’s also the editorial cartoon, dated January 17, 2018, from Jeff Danziger, through the Washington Post Writers Group, that depicts a couple of soldiers sitting and talking while on watch against attack in an unspecified desert location.
The first soldier says, “Remember that guy Morales who used to be in our unit? The guy who came to the U.S. at ten years old, did well in school, went to college, then enlisted, made Sergeant, served in a combat zone, honorably discharged, got married, had two kids…”
The second soldier says, “What about him?”
And the first one replies, “They’re deporting him.”
I’m not going to reproduce the dialogue from the FB post, because that would be wrong, but it got me thinking and then it got me angry.
I posted a link to the following HuffPo article because it popped up in the way only FB links to articles can, at least until FB screws up their feed and stops this from happening.
See, I’m from more than one of those “shithole” countries: Russia (Belarus and The Ukraine, if you must know), Poland, Austria, even England, if the English were Jewish. And I grew up in Rochester, in an Italian neighborhood, full of first gen kids. Me and my friends? We’re all children of immigrants. Some of us haven’t forgotten that. And just in case you thought it was only Latinx who were in danger here, there’s this guy, too. Being of European extraction isn’t enough to protect you, if you only have a Green Card.
In fact, some of the bloody awful stuff to come in advance of the Civil War revolved around immigrants who weren’t slaves. In the grand scheme, what white folks did to slaves is far beyond, but this is part and parcel of today’s immigrant trouble. Folks lose sight of it because the Civil War was about slavery and we want to maintain that focus for obvious reasons, but racism wasn’t isolated to slavery by any stretch. Here’s a sample of what I mean.
But you know what finally set me off? This article, HISTORYNET: The Civil War Reenactor’s Brave New World, in turns laments the “good old days” and sees current events as problematic. The money quote is below:
“Reenactors passionately affirm that they exist to honor history, not to serve as a conduit for hatred. But the history of the Civil War is entwined with hatred, both racial and political, and reenactors are confronted with emerging evidence that, in the public’s eyes at least, it is not always easy to take a scalpel and cleanly separate one from the other.”
And that led to the storm. Here’s the result, all in one post.
Seems to me, taking the losing side in any reenactment is an exercise in selective filtering. How do you play a Nazi without believing they were right? I mean, this is more than just a war game where you pick up a tiny plastic figure and put it on a table-based battlefield to explore strategy.
We’re talking about the full kit: Uniform, weapons, language. Same thing with Confederate soldiers. Same with virtually any war-culture where the winners write the books and the losers have to hope that someone will tell their side, eventually.
So that leads me to wonder…
If you can justify playing the bad guy, how does your brain allow it? How do you keep “this is what they did” from being “this is what I would do if I was given the opportunity?”
As it happens, I think (but could be wrong) that I am often the only available “Jew” in this social circle, and that makes me de facto authority on the subject of “what’s offensive” to my people when subjects like these come up. Here’s the funny thing: I make for a poor sounding board. I’m a practicing UU, ethnically but not religiously Jewish. I relate because of my heritage, but I wasn’t raised in the faith.
So when I’m asked how I feel about Nazis who re-enact, I come at it from a different angle than most of my more religious tribe members. It’s personal because I lost family on both sides of the Front in Germany. Austrians who never made it out. They died in the camps.
I also lost a Russian-American cousin who fought in the military. Jack Orshansky was a member of the Army Air Force and he was killed in action in 1945, in Germany. His mother was my Great Aunt. He was a first generation anchor baby for the family, who immigrated around 1900.
Funny, that. Chain migration brought the Orshansky family from Russia to the US, where Jack was born, and then at the tender age of 26 died to help free the Germans from the Nazis.
His brother, Nat, was born in Russia. His cousin, my Grandmother, was born here, in Brooklyn.
In fact, all of my grandparents were born here. All of them were anchor babies. My father, second generation, served in the Army just after the end of the Korean War. Immigrants. Worthless? Because we come from Europe, but not the part the Nazis in this country value.
When I hear how awful these DACA people are today, how they’re all “illegals” and should go home, I have a problem with that. A big one.
I want to know when your family arrived in this country. Forget about “legal” immigration. Laws change and what was once legal now isn’t.
When you call me out for asking when your family arrived, and you suggest that I’m not serious about this, maybe think about WHY I’m asking the question, because almost certainly I’m not joking. I’m deadly serious. I don’t care who you are or how long we’ve known each other.
If you haven’t thought about when your family came here, if you lack empathy and can’t put yourself in the place of these families, many of whom left home for a better life and often just to survive because certain death awaited them otherwise? That’s your privilege talking.
If you can’t see how your privilege makes it possible for you to call these people “illegals” or you side with your friends rather than calling THEM out over their privilege? If you think I’m kidding, I don’t think you know me well enough. I don’t joke about this stuff.
I never ever thought it was funny. I don’t think it’s funny now. I’m not amused. I’m angry. I may not practice my faith but I own every inch of this Ashkenazi Jewish skin and I will call you out. If you don’t like it, feel free to unfriend me. Unfollow me. Whatever you need.
And don’t EVER ask me again what I think of Nazi re-enactors. Or Confederates. Or anyone else who purports to show “the other side, because someone has to.”
If you feel comfortable playing Nazi, I don’t want to be near you. Not ever. If your friends are okay with it? Same.
It is my contention that it is disingenuous at best to point a finger at someone who got here because his parents brought him here without permission, who has served as a member of our defense department, who pays taxes and contributes as a member of society and say that the person is “illegal” when those laws are arbitrary and often designed to shut out people based on race, religion, or any other society-assigned trait. It’s not how or why this country was founded and is antithetical to the purpose of the United States as a whole.
Dave, from Colorado, sums it up best in this sound clip from Washington Journal, courtesy of C-SPAN.org:
I have a lot more to say on the subject, none of it polite.