Thursday, March 30, 2023

Step By Step: Engulfed by a Lack of Sensitivity

Marian Turski, Auschwitz survivor and Polish historian, made a ten minute speech in December 2021 that has become a more and more timely reminder to pay attention to how we think about harm to one another.

He explains the slow and slippery way a government can get us to accept evil in society. Here it is in full, and it just takes four minutes to read, but I've bolded some important bits:

Let's use our imagination and our thoughts to get to the early 1930s, to Berlin. We find ourselves in the Bavarian district. It's just three stops away from the tier garden, the zoo. There is a station of the metro there; there is park. And one day in those early 1930s, you can read an inscription on the benches: Jews must not sit on these benches. You could say it's unpleasant; it's not fair; it's not right, but after all there are so many benches around you can sit somewhere else. Of course you can. 

That district was inhabited by intellectuals, by the intelligentsia German of Jewish origin. Albert Einstein used to live there, Nelly Sachs the Nobel Prize winner, the politician and industrialist who was minister of foreign affairs. There was a swimming pool and over its door an inscription that read: Jews are forbidden to enter. You could say but there are so many places in Berlin where you can take a bath or swim, so many lakes, canals. It's nearly like Venice. At the same time, you can read somewhere else: Jews must not belong to German singing associations. So what. All right, they want to sing. They want to make music; let them just meet somewhere else. They will do their singing. all right.

What comes up later is an order, really, more of an order than of an inscription: Non-Aryan children must not play with Aryan children, with the German children. All right they'll play on their own. And then you read, we only sell bread and food to Jews after 5 p.m. Right. Less choice: this makes your life harder, but after all after 5 p.m you can still do your shopping. Now I warn you, I warn you, I'm getting used to that thought that someone may be excluded becomes mediated into our lives, the thought that somebody can be stigmatized, that someone may be alienated.

And that's how it is done: step by step, slowly. 

People begin to see that this is something normal. Both victims and the perpetrators, the witnesses, those whom we in English call bystanders, those who see it become familiar, and they become acquainted with that thought, familiar with the idea that the minority that produced Einstein, Nelly Sacks, Heinrich Heine, Mendelssohns, and many nobelists, that it is different, that it can be pushed beyond the margin of the society, that they are different people, that they are alien people, that they are the people that carry germs that cause pandemics. And this now is a horror that's dangerous. This is where what may happen soon takes its origin. People were slowly engulfed by this lack of sensitivity. They ceased to react to evil, and that was the moment when that government could speed up the process of evil

What came later was something that developed immediately. Jews could not get jobs. They could not emigrate. And then, quickly, Jews would be sent to ghettos, to camps. Here, you see how the words of the president come true. Auschwitz did not fall suddenly from the skies; it was pittering pattering in all those tiny steps. It was approaching until what happened here behind me did happen. My daughter, my granddaughter, peers of my daughter, peers of my granddaughter, you do not have to know the name of Primo Levy. Primo Levy was one of the most famous inmates of this camp. He once used that phrase, This happened, which means that it may happen again, which means that it may happen anywhere in this world. Be not indifferent; thou shall not be indifferent. 

And this is what I would like to tell you, my daughter, my grandchildren, I'd like to tell it to the peers of my daughter, my grandchildren, wherever they live, be it Poland, be it Israel, be it America, be it Western Europe, the Eastern Europe. Yes precisely the Eastern Europe. It is very important here: Do not be indifferent when you see lies, historical lies. Do not be indifferent when you see that the past is stretched to fit the current political needs. Do not be indifferent when any minority is discriminated because the essence of democracy is that majority governs, but democracy hinges on the rights of minorities being protected, and they have to be protected at the same time. Do not be indifferent when any power or government infringes over social compacts that are there, that are already existent, and keep the commandments. Thou shall not be indifferent because if you are, you won't even notice when you, when your ass, will suddenly see an Auschwitz falling down, dropping down from the skies straight on them. 

Nicole Parker, retired FBI special agent, was on Fox News after the fatal shooting of three children and three teachers to say, 

"We need to remember the side door. I'm not trying to point fingers; I don't know the exact facts of this moment, but from what I understand a side door was unlocked. That seems to be a common pattern in many of these shootings. A side door."

This is one of those lies that permits evil. It's the side door that's the common element of all these gun deaths. The door!! 

Jesse Kelly, conservative talk radio show host, had this to say:

"The people calling for gun control today wouldn't shed a tear if every child on earth was shot. Just remember that. They want to hurt you. They want it so bad they can taste it. That's all this is."

What happened that enabled people to actually think that preventing gun deaths isn't about preventing harm??? Or, how much money did the NRA pay him to say that? I go down that road only because it's so unfathomable to me that it could be someone's actual belief.

We all know that famous quote by Martin Neimöller that begins, "First they came for..." but did anyone think it would be children? People are defending the rights for people to carry AR-15s at the expense of little ones. The parents of two boys killed, at 15 and 6 years of age, by an AR-15 in separate school shootings gave The Washington Post permission to visually reconstruct what the bullets did to their young bodies to drive home what this looks like. 

It's not the government ordering them to be gunned down, not directly, but it is the government allowing it to happen. And there are definitely some factions of the American government supporting it. 

I don't know if there are others out there just about losing their minds, like I am, at the number of child deaths from preventable causes. And they're coming for trans kids in the states too. We're moving in the wrong direction! 

In Canada, we are so fortunate to have better gun control laws. Here, children are much more likely to die from Covid than an AR-15. 

I have the privilege of personally hearing caregivers lament the ongoing illnesses in the classroom; some call when their children end up in hospital. And now we had a recent death from Strep A of a local Junior Kindergarten student. I've been waiting to say anything about it until a news outlet picked it up, but crickets. (A different child succumbed in Hamilton this week.) Public Health sent a letter home to families in the school on Monday of this week advising kids to wash their hands more, so some teachers just encourage hand sanitizer instead, which isn't always effective against Strep. I've been told that lining up a class of 30 littles to wash their hands even once a day is feat. The letter had absolutely zero mention of the potential for masks to help stop the spread.  It feels like there was a secret memo sent out that nobody's supposed to discuss masks anymore, not even Public Health. 

Wearing a mask can reduce the chance of other communicable diseases including Strep. A US doctor reported:

"Masks can do some amazing things on rates of infections. . . . Every time we have a Covid surge and people do better with their masks, we see other illnesses go down."

One study published last June found that a mild Covid infection mixing with a Strep in mice actually makes the Strep lethal: "coinfection of human ACE2-transgenic mice with sublethal doses of SARS-CoV-2 and Streptococcus pneumoniae results in synergistic lung inflammation and lethality."

We're allowing an evil lie to take hold around this too. 

We did too little when the elderly were taken in longterm care homes, and again as many workplaces got outbreaks affecting mainly low wage workers. And we're doing virtually nothing now as some classrooms have half the kids away at a time. And now many healthcare centers are getting rid of masks on healthcare workers. despite a pre-covid randomized control trial (which so many think is the end all and be all of studies) indicating illnesses caused by bacterias and viruses in healthcare workers almost tripled without a mask compared to wearing an N95 (surgical masks were in the middle), and the World Health Network condemns medical facilities infecting patients. Am I crazy to think we're all being conditioned to get used to this much illness and the deaths and ongoing pain and disability of children?

People want to get back to normal and normal has become getting used to children being disabled or dying from a virus they could avoid if everyone wore a mask whenever inside a public building. "Normal" means becoming numb to the people affected by things that harm them so that we can keep having fun, so we can keep consuming. That's our place in this scheme. They lied to us that it's just a cold to get us all back into restaurants and clubs and back to work in offices despite increased productivity at home because they need everyone paying rent in all those buildings! 

Yup, ventilation and filtration and upper room UVGI all help too, but that's a long way off before we get that running successfully. Here's a poster from Joey Fox and Alisa Grossutti that people can use to try to convince schools to, at the very least, get those expensive HEPA filtration units out of the corner, plug them in, and actually turn them on! Ford didn't budget for any replacement filters for all the expensive HEPAs schools bought, though, so we'll see how that pans out. 

Some people are annoyed that Joey didn't include masks in the poster - something at the bottom to say what to do if the air's not clean, but I'd be happy for any action at this point. At Monday night's board meeting, suddenly most of the superintendents and associated directors stopped masking, while parents send me pictures of the unplugged HEPA in their child's classroom and fall apart a bit talking about their sick children. The disconnect is staggering.

So wash your hands, and don't forget to lock that side door!!

(And none of this is to discount or ignore what's currently happening to the trans community: "First, you hated Black people. Then, you hated Jews. Now, you're hating everybody. So the question is, when the only people left are you, will you hate yourself?" Rep. Pamela Stevenson on the anti-trans legislation in Kentucky. I'm just trying to keep them all alive.)

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