Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hier woonde The United States of America

Will there one day be plaques in the sidewalk for America's immigrant children?
I came across them a few weeks ago in Amsterdam. Three of them — little brass plaques, each roughly the size of a bar coaster, imbedded in the sidewalk in a pleasant residential neighborhood, south of the center of town.

Each plaque  began with the words “Hier Woonde” — Here Lived.

Here lived Selina Hammelburg Presser, born in 1897. Died the 15th of November, 1943. And then the dreaded name. Auschwitz.

Here also lived Levie Hamelburg, born 1889. Died the 15th of November 1943. Auschwitz again.

And then one more, probably the daughter. Here lived Anna Marianne Hammelburg. Born 1924. Died the 31st of January, 1944. And yes, Auschwitz.

How eloquently they speak — these few terse words on some tiny brass plaques in a concrete sidewalk. They don’t get any of the attention and tourist traffic of the Anne Frank House downtown. There is no diary to tell us more about who the people were, and what they went through. We can only imagine the terror, the pangs of separation, the constant hunger, the eventual emotional numbness, their miserable deaths.

And yet we know.

And then I came back home to the United States of America, a nation with a huge statue standing in the harbor of its largest city to welcome immigrants, specifically according to the inscription in its base, “….your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teaming shore…."

It was the very promise of a new beginning in a new place for the forgotten, the downtrodden, the souls with a yearning for something better that gave America its own soul and truly made America great. In trying to wall immigrants out, Donald Trump is unraveling our greatness, turning us into a nation of small, selfish, inward-looking people. A nation ruled by third-raters and the cruelty and corruption they bring with them.

And now the President — who is said to have slept with a copy of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside — aided by his little Dr. Goebbels and his Eichmanns, Jeff Sessions, Steve Miller, and Kirstjen Nielsen, is separating the children from their parents, just as Hitler’s SS did at Auschwitz. The children are being housed, some reports say, in cages in a space that was formerly a Walmart. Nice place for a kid to grow up while their parents are punished for the crime of yearning to breathe free. 

The man in the White House has done something to us with his crimes against humanity from which we may never recover. 

Hier woonde The United States of America.

1 comment:

Bill said...

This is a humanitarian crisis caused by a policy of our government, all the while Congress spews the same old handwringing and does nothing. Shameful.