Walking up the Boulevard in the dark tonight toward El Cigart when I passed the junior high school called Thirty Two. Memory recalled the sunny afternoon eight years before when I stopped there in the car to wait for our younger daughter, Pretty. She had bolted from a private, bi-lingual school in the neighborhood here because the Mexican girls were making fun of her Spanish and she didn’t want to take it anymore. So we said okay, and enrolled her in Thirty Two, a public school.
That afternoon when I first saw Pretty walking out of the school yard and up the street with two new girl friends, all of them laughing, when I saw how happy she was I told myself it would be a new beginning for her. It was. Within a couple months Pretty had become a drug addict, hooked on meth and committed to a circle of bad girls and boys. Tonight thought mulls about on all the new beginnings we have, all the new endings.
I’m parked at the curbing before the feed store where our friend Pepe was murdered last December. My wife is inside buying al pista for our parakeets. I have the radio on and there is a commercial where a lady begins abruptly by telling us how her baby is struggling to stay alive . . . . I don’t usually listen to commercials on radio and I turned it off.
In that moment memory recalled the morning in the little wood house in South Central Los Angeles when I was sitting in the big overstuffed chair in the front room looking through the door into the bedroom. My mother was sitting in a wood chair beneath the one window there sobbing, one hand covering her face. My aunt Grace was sitting in a wood chair beside her, comforting her. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I did hear aunt Grace say, “You still have one son.” I didn’t understand it quite, but watching my mother cry, after awhile I began to cry. I was six years old.
That morning was a new beginning for my mother. I doubt that in the moment she saw it that way. She was too torn by the obligatory new ending.
I’ve been giving an interview to a reporter based on the east coast who writes for major publications. It’s difficult to get across the notion that I am not intellectually trained, that I do not do history, that I have no original ideas, that I am simply arguing that it is better to encourage intellectual freedom than it is to discourage it. There is nothing original here. Still, it appears to be a difficult concept for academics to understand.
While I focus on the Holocaust story that is only because it is a primary story of our culture in this age. It is our primary taboo, so it should be a primary target in the struggle for intellectual freedom. The irony is, I cannot demonstrate that it is better to encourage intellectual freedom than to discourage it.
It can be argued that intellectual freedom was integral to the development of classic Greek culture, thus Western civilization. At the same time we can, looking through all the beauty and achievement, see what a horror it has been for countless people for more than twenty centuries. And the horrors that almost certainly await us all.
If I cannot demonstrate that it is better to encourage intellectual freedom than it is to discourage it, I have to ask myself why I do it. Intellectual freedom is something I want for myself. My argument in its favor then is based in my own wanting. Maybe the next question should be why some of us would want it, while others would not.
But that’s too easy. It, intellectual freedom, would interfere with what those others want. With regard to those who exploit the Holocaust story, it’s only too obvious that’s the case.
So. Where are we?