Saturday, March 25, 2017

trump voters will be judged by their grandsons and granddaughters

As one who engages in autoethnography, I always get excited when students use the course materials in order to gain an understanding of their own stories.  Which is what happened two years ago, with a quiet and reserved student.  Her quest was a serious one: She wanted to understand how her loving and lovable Oma (German word for grandmother) could have ever been the eager and energetic member of the Hitler youth that she was.

This was a while ago.  I pulled up the email to her that I had written back then.  In that, I wrote:
1. At the personal: It requires a lot of internal strength and integrity to find fault with one's own loving and lovable grandmother.
2. Intellectual: Liberal education, as I often note in my classes, is about helping us understand this cosmos and our own lives.  
Even when we live "normal" lives, we have so many moral decisions to make, which then define who we are.  A Nazi past takes it to another whole level.

I was reminded of that student when I read this piece in the NY Times, in which the author writes about her grandmother who joined the Nazi Party even before it became mandatory:
My grandmother, who lived to be almost 100, was not, as I knew her, xenophobic or anti-Semitic; she did not seem temperamentally suited to hate. Understanding why and how this woman I knew and loved was swept up in a movement that became synonymous with evil has been, for me, a lifelong question.
It is not difficult to imagine why this becomes an all-consuming lifelong quest.
How do I square the loving grandmother I knew until her death, in 2011, with this person? I have often worried that my attempt to understand the choices she made — and didn’t make — might be confused with an attempt to justify or forgive. But for me it is the only way I know to confront the past and take responsibility.
My grandmother heard what she wanted from a leader who promised simple answers to complicated questions. She chose not to hear and see the monstrous sum those answers added up to. And she lived the rest of her life with the knowledge of her indefensible complicity.
But in her willingness to talk about a subject few members of her generation would, she taught me the vital importance of knowing better.
The men and women who voted for trump will be similarly judged by their grandsons and granddaughters.  Like me, they too will point their fingers at their trump-supporting family. There are plenty of us who don't forget nor forgive.

ps: As I was wrapping up this post, the author, Jessica Shattuck, was being interviewed on NPR.  Check it out.

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