I have been writing and posting now on this WordPress site for about three years. Most of the things I write about are a little generic. In a sense, I have sought out ways to help people by looking to subject areas of interest and providing some insight and maybe a little abstract thought. Today I am doing something different.
I lost most of my explicit memories in a tragedy of significant proportion. On more than one occasion, pictures, videos, music and writing that I had saved was lost. Most of this was out of my control but some of the loss I did to myself by not taking action. This very weekend I was driven to clean out some of the things that I did save. I have very little from my youth and when I find something, I normally examine for a hint of who I was. As I have written many times in the past, I am a kid from The (DA) Bronx.
The Bronx offered an intercultural, wide variety of ethic diversity. It was a place that represented the best and worst of blending communities. In my youth, my ignorance was learning about what made people different as opposed to why we should focus on our commonality. In high school, I was a white Jewish boy with mostly black and hispanic students (friends). There was hate and there were trials but in person these challenges were overrun by teachers and other students that could see through the color of our skin and reach into our hearts. In other words, we always focused on building a community of acceptance. I am not the person I was then but the kid I was still lives in the background. I don’t look at people as a kind or a race. I look at people as individuals and judge them by their actions.
Today we are facing the same issues that we did over the history of our country and human kind. This weekend in particular I have seen a lot of people writing and speaking of the past 50 years of civil rights. While reading this and watching the news I was sorting through old tapes that I managed to keep. I found one labeled “Howard’s Holocaust.” I had no memory of this tape. Even when I found a tape player to put it in and heard the sounds of a younger me I didn’t remember this conversation.
The recording was made sometime between 1987 and 1989, most likely my second year at University Heights High school located in the Bronx at 181st and University Ave. As a Jewish kid, I understood the Holocaust from a culture of remembrance and an integration of pain and suffering into the daily vernacular of my people. That being said, I was emotionally disconnected. I had seen the branding serial numbers etched into the arms of my neighbors. I had seen and heard the stories of people jumping from the trains. I had lived with a man whom I love that was buried at night as a child to protect him from the Nazi’s. All those things and I was still not connected or maybe partially connected. Not in the way that it would rattle my soul today. It was an immaturity that was innocent. I was honestly incapable of connecting the dots in a way that deeply allowed me to better myself as a human.
I understood what things meant, I think that I just didn’t allow myself to live in my understanding of this history. In fact, I didn’t know that I was myself living in history just by interacting with witnesses and victims of this great inhumane and painful series of events. Someone tried to wipe an ethnic and cultural line of people from the planet. This within itself doesn’t take anything away from any other tragedy or traumatic events of our time but it is a stain that can’t be washed away. What pains me the most is that we still allow genocide and the young disconnected me knew that it would happen again. I knew as a disconnected child that our world was not healing.
From what I can tell, I was asked to read a book by Elie Weisel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elie_Wiesel that had to do with the holocaust. Since I don’t remember what I read or didn’t read, I can only guess that I did a half ass job of reading. I didn’t have a keen interest in education as teen. I became much more passionate later on.
There is an interesting ignorance as well that is wrapped into the conversation. This is probably the most revealing post I have ever made. It deals with the fact that as a youth I had values that were similar to my values today but I was lacking in information and ability to rationalize what I didn’t know. I am sharing this today because I think generally the public is doing the same thing.
We make statements and assumptions on areas of complicated matters that we have trouble deeply understanding. The facts alone are not enough information to provide good insight. It also points to something else. We need to take personal responsibility to help each other and learn about each other. We can’t know each others pain but we can mirror and reflect our understanding to get close enough.
I am sharing three audio files, each are about 15 minutes long. I tried to clean up the audio a little but I didn’t edit the content. For me personally there was a story at the end that I didn’t truly understand then (age 15-16) that I deeply understand and associate with now. Most of the audio is the teacher interviewing me on what I think about the holocaust with some role playing.
Howard’s Holocaust Audio