Friday, January 05, 2007

Really winter

Three weeks in a row since right before Xmas we have been slammed with snow, high winds and winter. This has been a wonderful time for snuggling under the covers and reading lots of books. Unfortunately, I have also had to work, but I did get a few days of snuggling and reading last weekend. I won't get to do that this weekend as I have a ton of work to do.

One book I read and reviewed is The i Tetralogy and, no, that is not a typographical error. Check it out for yourself. The book is four short novellas connected by a single theme, beginning with a Jew in Auschwitz. All four parts are told in first person and the book is the most profoundly disturbing philosophical journey into the human soul I have ever read. I wrote my review (a rather long one) and sent the link to the author who wrote back.

Dear J.M.,

The review is one of the rare ones that is strikingly original; it is as if you got into bed with the book. One of my subtle themes, often overlooked, was to create in the reader the "rational" thinking of Gunther, to make the reader identify with his anti-Semitism and then to catch himself and expel this ugly broth. You got what I was after...kudos. Your writing is terrific; I like long and serpentine thoughts well-expressed. I realize that in the space given you one has to get there quickly; I appreciate the length and the delay by which you got there. By the by, is the opening quotation yours?

Again, thank you for being so sensitive a reader and so ably expressing yourself. If good things come your way as a writer, keep me informed.

Warm regards,

(Note: Yes, the quotation at the beginning of the review is mine as are all the rest of the words.)

Turns out the author is a therapist. I noticed the blurbs on the back of his book were all comments from psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, but it didn't dawn on me he was a therapist, too. Live and learn.

What is so amazing about the book is that it gives a face to the Final Solution and Nazi Germany and takes you into the heart of the beast. The guard, Gunther, is eloquent in his explanation of why the Jews need to be eradicated and his philosophy is so seductive I began to understand how an entire country could go down that road and believe in the rightness of their choice. Hitler was the pied-piper of Nazi Germany and Germany followed him willingly. That is the horror of what he did, not that he exterminated six million Jews but that he made his plan attractive and palatable to decent people. I was horrified that I could be momentarily lured by Gunther's "rational" thinking and it shocked me to the core of my being.

Right now in Iran there is an invitation-only conference going on to prove the Holocaust never happened. It isn't the usual negation sought by neo-Nazis, skin heads and historical revisionists but a move by Arab and Muslim Iran to build a platform to remove the Jews from Israel. Extermination is preferred, but if the Iran government can prove that six million Jews were not exterminated during the Holocaust then they will have the ammunition they need to force the United Nations to take back the land they granted to the Jews in the wake of World War II and dispossess an entire country, setting the Jews once again to wander the earth homeless. After reading Freese's book, I believe Gunther and the other war criminals still alive and hiding in plain sight like The Purloined Letter would be outraged that their work would be called into question and their service to Mankind erased. No nation, including Germany, was invited to conference, only those countries who have allowed and lauded "learned and legitimate" questions of whether or not the Holocaust was a reality. No Jews and no country who stand by the historical fact of the Holocaust has been invited. Strangely enough, France has representatives at the conference. Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. do not. I am certain no one who has a number tattooed on their wrist will be attending the conference.

Once again a government is poised to take away the value of human life and render a group of people as things. That is the real horror of the Final Solution and the Nazi regime, not that they brutalized and invaded their neighbor countries but that they devalued a group of people and turned them into things, vermin who could be killed without thought, conscience or emotion. People were lice infecting the body politic, the national corpus, and killing them was no more wrong than squashing lice.

Any time we turn another person, another living being, into a thing we set the stage for another Holocaust. It is not evil because evil is too impersonal. It is inhuman and most of us do it on a daily basis every time we get angry with someone else and put them in the category of "other". We divorce ourselves from them and view them as some thing rather than some one so we can hate them and push them away easier. It is so easy to destroy someone professionally, personally and physically when they are "other" because that makes them less than human, less than real, less. It is what we do every time we turn away from someone for whatever reason. Instead of walking away from a person in marriage or family or friendship we walk away from the other, someone less than human and certainly less than us, because if we stop to think of them as a person we might see the similarities and have second thoughts. It would be harder to destroy them and much harder to negate them. We cannot afford to see them as real, as people, as human.

If we learn no other lesson from the Holocaust and the all too frequent acts of genocide in eastern Europe and Africa and even in the Middle East, it should be to remember that people are not vermin or things or other than human so that it will be harder to be inhuman. Each and every person on this planet, no matter how different or strange, is another person, a human, a brother or sister, aunt or uncle, grandfather or grandmother who deserves respect. Our humanity is the glue that holds us together and, in spite of their differences or acts against us, we are family. We may rail against the biological and adopted members of our families but in the end it is being family that binds us together even when we disagree with and dislike, or even hate, each other and keeps us from a more personal Holocaust that will bring a winter of the soul that will never thaw.

The review if you're interested.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Roller coaster years

There is a line in Parenthood with Steve Martin and Diane Wiest about life. Grandma talks about roller coasters and merry-go-rounds and how she always loved the roller coaster because the merry-go-round just went around in a circle and didn't really do anything. It wasn't exciting. I love roller coasters but once in a while I'd like to rest on a merry-go-round because from time to time it's good to give the excitement a rest.

Mom was in the hospital for four days last week because her face and the right side of her neck were swollen. It got so bad at one point they put her in ICU because her airway was closing up and she was fighting for every breath. To make matters worse they had to do a CT scan and she got panicky because she couldn't breathe. Turned out to be an infection of her parotid gland. She walked out of the hospital on Friday because she could breathe and the swelling was going down somewhat because Dad needed help.

Dad started getting radiation treatments to the back of his neck to reduce the tumor growing at the base of his neck and into the spinal canal up against the spinal cord. At first he was tolerating things all right but he's going downhill fast. He's losing weight and can't eat and after the treatments he's worn to a nub and can do little more than fall onto the nearest bed or sofa.

On top of all this I have a long time friend telling me that it's all for the best and I wouldn't want my father in pain so just let go as if I'm some mindless drone who doesn't know all this ahead of time. Knowing it may be time to let go and not wanting my father to live in pain are things I thought I was ready to deal with. I'm not so sure any more. I wouldn't want my father to suffer. I don't want my father to suffer. I know where this is going and I thought I was ready for it but I'm not ready to let go. Would I tell my father to fight, to let the doctors rip away pieces of him a bit at a time just to have him around a little bit longer? Will I tell him to fight for a few more weeks or months just so I don't have to face losing him?


But I'm scared. Even at my age I don't want to be without my father. This is a difficult time for me and all I can think to do is bury myself in work so I don't have to think, don't have to feel, don't have to cry any more. I thought I was tougher than this, that I was ready to let him go. I guess there's still a little softness and frightened humanity inside me now. It's not any easier to be clear across the country instead of watching all this happen in person. I feel like I did when Mom told me Dad might leave us and go live somewhere else, not for a year or a few months like he had when he went overseas and we couldn't go or wouldn't go for a little while, but forever. I wanted to go with him. I wanted to beg him to stay with me and not leave me alone. Those feelings are back just below the surface and I can't say anything to my sisters or my mother because it will make things difficult for them. I'm the strong one. I am the one who lets trouble roll off me like water off a duck's back. I am the one everyone else will lean on and would lean on now if I were there.

But I'm not.

How do I deal with all of this? How do I live in a world where my father no longer walks and I can't call him on the phone? What do I do?

I cry. I pray. I get ready for the inevitable and let him go because I don't want him to suffer and I don't want the doctors to chip away pieces of his spine and ribs and pelvis just to keep him alive to go into the hospital so they can chip and slice pieces of him away a little at a time. I don't want him to live that way.

Yes, I'm selfish. If I could find a way to keep my father so that he didn't have to be in pain and didn't have to go until I was ready, I would keep him around until I died. I'm selfish but I'm not that selfish.

Even though I don't know if he will still be around by February I'm not changing my plans. I'm steeling myself for what I know I will find and it will be more of a shock than seeing him without his teeth the first time and realizing my father, my immortal, eternally young and vigorous father is old. My father is dying and I feel lost and alone. I am lost and alone and I have to keep it to myself because if I crumble who will hold up the rest of them?

As this roller coaster year ends I wish my father weren't dying. I wish I didn't have to lose him. I wish there was someone who understood and would hold me and let me cry and tell me, even though I know it's a lie, that it's going to be all right, that they will be the strong one so I can lean on someone for a little while.

I wish I was on the merry-go-round.