Ralph Kingsbury: Because We Must
Recently in a comment to one of my columns a writer demanded I explain why she should have any responsibility to care about what was happening in the Ukraine. A couple of days, or so, later I had not answered her demand and she asked again with some obvious degree of arrogance why she, why America, should defend those people.
I didn’t respond initially because I thought anyone who asked that question did so either: 1. because she really didn’t know history. 2. Or understand history as was true of many North Dakotans a couple of generations earlier. If she is a native of North Dakota then maybe like her parents and grandparents she perhaps is an isolationist. 3. Worse of all, she may have asked that question because she doesn’t believe she is her brother’s keeper.
I knew with what was happening in The Ukraine (in English the Ukraine means the Borderlands) it would not be long before we would receive a lesson in what the world nearly 70 years after the end of WWII was still like.
It wasn’t long before I was proved right. At the end of Passover services as the Jews were leaving their temples in several places in the eastern part of The Ukraine they were met by some of those “soldiers” wearing uniforms with no markings on them. Some have said they are Russian soldiers. Some say they are simply men hired by Russia to try and create a civil war in the Ukraine that will result in at least the eastern part of the Ukraine joining with the Crimea and becoming part of Russia.
These men told the Jews that they must report to a certain office with a list of their and their family’s names, the address where they lived, and a list of all their property. Have a familiar ring to it? Do you think there is a reason why we need to stand up as a country and defend the Ukraine and the people of the Ukraine from what is happening there? Do you think because this happened in the Ukraine that is the only place anti-Semitism is again raising its ugly head.
It reminds me of all the history I have read about the genocides of WWII, and of how it begin in Europe in the 1930s. It reminds me more recently of Rwanda and the Clinton Administration’s refusal to go there and stop that. So too of other instances in other places in recent times.
So, if we didn’t do anything about genocide in recent times why should we now have a responsibility to go? Well, it reminds me of the story that says, they came for the Jews and I didn’t do anything because I wasn’t a Jew. They came for the blacks and I didn’t do anything because I wasn’t black. They came for the Catholic’s and I didn’t do anything because I wasn’t Catholic. They came for me and there was no one left to help.
I asked a Jew of my age about his family’s history. Knowing a little about where he had come from I suspected I knew what I was about to hear. It was that story of the eastern European Jews especially in the early 1900s. The Jews of that area were constantly and again and again subject to what were called pogroms. A pogrom was a system of harassment that too often resulted in death, but at a minimum in an attempt to convince the Jews to leave. To where? It didn’t matter as long as they left.
The family I knew left when there was an opportunity just as the Germans from Russia that came to the Great Plains at the same time did. If you don’t know that story you must not be from the Great Plains, or at least you deny history as it was.
And that’s the truth. That is what was happening in central and Eastern Europe at that time. That philosophy, if it can be called such, is what happened and it is still happening. If you do not believe it you don’t know much. You are not an educated person, or like some, you deny history because it is too inconvenient.