It is our penultimate article for the Saipan Tribune. We could delve with what has been more than a decade of reflective social commentary but we will let our four legendary steady readers do that, if they are so inclined, or do remember anything.
We honor Elie Wiesel RIP (1928-2016) who made his gracious exit this year. The Balkan-born Hasidic Jew, is admired by Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu; at home with the lilywhites beyond the Mediterranean shades of tan as he is with every shade of color, mourned at this moment of termination by Asians, Africans, and Latinos.
Wiesel is the opposite of the Austrian corporal who wrote a book while in prison called Mein Kampf, identifying the Jews as the cause of Europe’s economic pain, and impeding the restoration of the German Empire.
The roots of Hitler’s anti-Semitism were not birthed overnight. The Christian Church back to the Gospels nurtured a depiction of the “mob” at Jesus crucifixion, with the Pilate’s hands reportedly clean over the matter.
Christian “Fathers” fed Europe’s negativity on the Jew, finding expression in every European movement of note. The Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation were anti-Semitic. The Jew on the ghetto became a European social response that was understandably aped in North America.
So the soil to the national German policy of the Third Reich to eliminate the children of Abraham, old in its inception within Christian history, became the main thrust of Germany’s war that began in 1939.
The invasion of Wiesel’s Romanian town when he was 15 took place in 1944; the Jews were rounded up and herded on a train bound for Auschwitz, marked for extermination by gas, the crematoriums, or by firing squad. Mother and three sisters were separated earlier from the men, never to be seen again; Elie and his father marched to Buchenwald when the Russian Army got close to Auschwitz, the father died four months before the U.S. Third Army liberated the camp in 1945.
Elie’s “descent to hell” lasted 18 months, smelling the odor of death in antiseptic setting, enduring the total abuse of dignity one human can bequeath on another, including the rummaging of dead bones for any metallic fillings of value! The scars with what has now come to be known as the
Holocaust scarred Elie forever. The nightmare might be over but the memory of it cannot be stamped out, much as the world has a habit of trying to forget the unpleasant in its history.
Wiesel processed his experience slowly, taking a decade before the trauma was something he could talk about, which then led him to write an 800-page memoir that few cared to carefully read, condensed into a treatise of 150 pages entitled Night. History took a decisive turn. With the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann, Wiesel’s memoir finally got an audience and he would emerge as the voice of the “Holocaust” thereafter.
Wiesel between the two Adolf’s (Hitler and Eichmann) is still Wiesel; the history of religion, in spite of my “glorious” Christian bias, has not changed much. Human life is capable of killing others justified by a defensive insecurity turning against another to bolster morale, a fact still with us, with many so-called “Christians” taking it on the Muslim and Jew, the atheist and even Christians. We are not talking about Boco Haram, or the spate of terrorist killing. We are talking about the strong undercurrent of racial insecurity expressed in religious practices.
Liberal and progressive philosophy notwithstanding, the jibe on the “other” is still maintained, though now, it is on the finally legitimized LGBT community, and the shotgun-happy residents of Saipan.
It is a sad thing when the attempt to assert once ethnic identity finds its way to racial prejudice. Even Chamorro and the Refalawasch are not immune from this incipient propensity, as pride towards national identities took solid form after WWII.
Something transpired, however, as a consequence of a photo taken of the Earth rising above lunarscape in 1968 that gave birth to what is referred to as “earthrise consciousness.” I joined this mindset in 1972, though being a global citizen had consequences. For instance, my primal family traveled on two U.S., a Canadian, and a Philippine passport but not only did I get in trouble getting into Hawaii once, I was also told that for a Pinoy not to apply for U.S. citizenship the day he qualified to apply was very rare.
Leading orientation programs for the U.S. PCV in the Philippines in ’83 finally clinched applying for the bluebook. I raised my hands for the oath of allegiance! This was three years before President Reagan qualified CNMI residents as U.S. citizens, of note because since 1998 when I first resided in the CNMI, many wanted me to go back to where I allegedly belonged, the Philippines! I drove with a driver’s license from Hawaii.
We still do not have global citizenship though the “earthrise consciousness” has made converts, if only in their minds and souls. That includes me.