Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Not So Ridiculous Reason For Voting For Hillary Clinton

During the DNC, Sarah Silverman told the Bernie or Bust folks, "you're being ridiculous."   That is not how one wins people over, assuming they can be won over to begin with.

That remark, coupled  with remarks made by the sorest winners I've ever encountered, have caused me to think, "Oh the hell with it.  Let them vote for Hillary Clinton."  I was thinking that, for the first time in my adult life I would not vote for president.  Only down ticket.  I rationalized further that since I live in Illinois that it doesn't matter whether or not I vote for Hillary Clinton.

After hearing Khizr Khan's speech I started to rethink my attitude. But what really caused me to shift was this article sent to me by my eldest brother about the fate of Lithuanian Jews during World War II.  

I started to think about why my grandparents came here. They came here because they had witnessed pogroms.  They came here, as did all immigrants, in hopes of a better life for their children and their children's children.

My Grandma S, my mother's mother, never forgave herself for leaving her father behind because he ended up starving to death.  She really had no choice.  During World War I, she had to hide from hungry German soldiers who went from house to house looking for food.  And so she left on an arduous journey that would take her from her beloved Vilna to Amsterdam where she boarded a ship that took her to a port in Canada. From there she wended her way to East Texas where Tante, as she was known, had settled with her family.

My Grandpa S, my mother's father, joined his brothers in Chicago.  Their sister went down to Texas and that is where she met my Grandma S's older brother.  My grandpa went down for the wedding, and that is how he met my grandma.

For many years I thought that my great aunt, Anna, was my grandpa's only sister. Then, in 2001, after my uncle (my mother's brother) and my aunt returned from Lithuania and Belarus, I found out that my grandpa had had another  sister, my great aunt Rachel who had stayed behind.  After they visited my grandpa S's shtetl, which is now part of Belarus, they took a trip to Ponar, the mass murder and burial site mentioned in the Newsweek article.  They said Kaddish for my great aunt Rachel and her family. This is the grave site.

That is when it began to sink in as to why I should vote for Hillary Clinton.  And, because his own father came here to escape certain death, perhaps is part of the reason why Bernie Sanders has been urging us diehard supporters to do so.

From the Wikipedia page about Bernie Sanders:

Sanders became interested in politics at an early age: "A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important."[25][26][27][nb 1]

Back in February when I traveled from my neighborhood on Chicago's northwest side to a Bernie Sanders rally at Chicago State University, a friend of mine, who is of Hispanic origin and no stranger to the streets, expressed concern for my safety.  When I took the Red Line on the way home, I started out in a predominantly black neighborhood.  I wasn't the least bit concerned about traveling on an el train very late at night because I was surrounded by Bernie supporters.  It was only when three young white men boarded at 35th Street (Bridgeport), that I had to keep from jumping out of my seat.  All I could think of was that they were of Lithuanian descent and, if they knew I was Jewish, they'd want to harm me.  It may seem silly, but when I am surrounded by men of Eastern European descent, I get scared.

I think about my great aunt, Rita, who, as a young dentist, was conscripted  by the German army during WWI  to take care of their soldiers. I think about how she and her husband hid out in the Parisian countryside during World War II. I think about the bureaucrat who told my great uncle not to sign up for rations, and probably saved their lives. All the Jews who signed up were rounded up.  I think about the letter my grandma received, written in several different languages, talking about how she and Sasha came out of hiding after the war.  I think about how all I have to remember her by is a grave in New Jersey, because, after surviving that horror, she died in a hotel fire in New York.

I think about how my father's mother left behind sisters back in the Ukraine.  I wonder how many of them either perished in the concentration camps or were murdered and buried in mass graves just like my great aunt Rachel.

I think about our Kid Q, who has studied about the Holocaust.  I have told her a bit about my family history.  She knows that we have lost people.  During the Republican convention, she asked my husband and me if we would have to move if Trump becomes president.  My husband said no, but I am not so sure.

When I think about all of the hate rhetoric directed at Muslims, I am reminded of that quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I read a remark on a Facebook page about how four years of Trump won't be so bad.  For folks like that, I invite them to read about Martin Niemöller to whom the above poem is attributed.  By his own admission to Leo Stein, he originally supported the Nazi party and welcomed Hitler:

I find myself wondering about that too. I wonder about it as much as I regret it. Still, it is true that Hitler betrayed me. I had an audience with him, as a representative of the Protestant Church, shortly before he became Chancellor, in 1932. Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the Church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreed not to allow pogroms against the Jews, assuring me as follows: "There will be restrictions against the Jews, but there will be no ghettos, no pogroms, in Germany."

I really believed, given the widespread anti-Semitism in Germany, at that time—that Jews should avoid aspiring to Government positions or seats in the Reichstag. There were many Jews, especially among the Zionists, who took a similar stand. Hitler's assurance satisfied me at the time. On the other hand, I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while.

I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.

My ancestors did not endure conditions in steerage just to see the United States of America become like Eastern Europe had been and continues to be.  Perhaps I am being overly cautious, but people who claim that what happened in Germany cannot possibly happen here are in denial about human nature.  When a presidential candidate talks about "Second Amendment people," it is time to think about ensuring that that person doesn't get elected.  For people who claim, from a progressively purist standpoint, that Hillary Clinton isn't good enough, let me remind you that "perfect is the enemy of the good."  Sometimes we need to settle for good enough.  Now is one of those times.

Your vote is your voice. Now more than ever.  If the Bernie or Bust folks view me as a sell out, so be it.  I am a romantic and idealist at heart, but I have a layer of pragmatism over that.  Survival trumps idealism.  I will vote for Hillary Clinton because my ancestors left an oppressive situation in Eastern Europe.  Those who chose to stay, like my great aunt, Rachel, have only a grave marker to remind people of their existence.  I want to leave more of a mark than that.  Not only do I owe it to my ancestors, but I owe it to my daughters to set certain feelings aside and do the right thing. And that is casting my vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.