Thursday, April 30, 2009

Humboldt State University, Update

I was not going to post this letter here, it's necessarily more of the same, but I am unable to post it at The Lumberjack. Don't know why, but the paper is not accepting my comments now. Maybe one of the Lumberjack advisors, or community volunteer advisors, has decided that Humboldt State students have heard enough from me. So here it is. Just trying to keep 'em honest. Good luck with that one, eh?
===============

Professor Devons:

I am replying to your letter only because some Humboldt State students will read it and I doubt that any professor on your campus will make any attempt to help either them or you.

I see that you received a B.A. in 1994, so you are no longer a kid, but going on 40 years I suppose. And now you have a MSW and are apparently a professional scholar lecturing at Humboldt State.

So there you are with 30 or so others, gasping and sighing over the discovery that a campus newspaper had published an ad asking a question (good grief—asking a question!) about World War II. All that is necessary is to answer the question and it goes away. Didn’t occur to you? Did it occur to anyone else in the room with you that evening? If it did, what was the answer?

You make assertions about the history of WWII about which you do not claim to have any special knowledge, and as a matter of fact do not appear to have any. That’s commonplace on American university campuses, so of course you’re not alone. Nevertheless, you charge the staff of the Lumberjack with having failed to act professionally because the published an announcement asking for the name, with proof, of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. You assert that they failed to act in the face of hatred,

You reference Elie Wiesel, a man widely known as a fraudster, though this is not addressed by American university professors. For an intro to this issue see a brief text by myself.

And finally, the only hatred in my ad is demonstrated in what you projected onto it out of your own consciousness, your own desire. Look at your language. Again, this is a commonplace among American academics which, as a class, support the taboo that protects the Holocaust story from being examined, freely, in the light of day.

The staff of the Lumberjack, if it wants to stand on the side of a free exchange of ideas with regard to such matters as the history of World War II, is probably going to have to stand alone. The chance that even one professor at Humboldt State would stand with them, openly, in the name of intellectual freedom, is not very likely.

I would hope that I will be proved wrong here but. . . .

1 comment:

K. West said...

WOW....

Okay.

Obviously this has been an ongoing debate within some sort of published medium(s), and I have to say right up front that I've not read preceding articles in this "series." Indeed, right now is the first time I've even seen this particular publication.

Another important point to note regarding my following comments is the fact that I am neither Jewish nor German, as it's certainly reasonable to assume that many readers of this article/letter are likely one, the other or both.

Or not.

Like me.

That said, I believe that the entire point of this article is about freedom of expression and/or "speech" among writers and academicians - therefore, I want very much to publish my opinions on the content of the article without fear of censorship regardless of what said opinions may be - even if they're in opposition to the "Cool Factor" within mainstream society.

After all, anyone who actually sits here and writes voluntarily could very easily be considered somewhat outside the realm of the "mainstream," which is full of people who hate having to sit down and write anything.

So. In my opinion there are several issues within this article from which the focus has been diverted in order to fuel one side of a loaded argument - an argument which itself also serves as a diversion from the actual point.

And how the heck did I come up with that opinion? Easy. I read the profile of the author, Bradley R. Smith, entitled "About Me." In it, the following statement is made:

'Those who want to challenge the concept of the "unique monstrosity" of the Germans should be free to do so. [Smith] believes it is morally wrong, and a betrayal of the Western ideal of intellectual freedom, to imprison writers and publishers who question publicly what privately they have come to doubt.'

(http://www.blogger.com/profile/17189545588987703984)

Okay, let's consider that for a moment.

Sure, I'm one of the many who finds it abhorrent to suggest that the organized attempt at the genocides of people who are Jewish (...and gay/lesbian, any race other than the Aryan race in general, non-Catholic in general, brunette in general, brown-eyed in general, yadda-yadda-etc.-etc."

On the other hand, I'm also one of the many who believes absolutely in free speech -- even if I don't particularly like what someone else might have to say. For example, if the KKK decides to flier my neighborhood - well, first of all, I'd probably run for the hills 'cause that would scare the living crap out of me -- but I know that if we are truly working toward becoming a global society of equal human rights, then who the hell am I to deny another that very same right to the freedom of speech and/or expression that I personally value so dearly?

Now, I used the KKK in my example above because it's so extreme -- but only to a limit if you really think about it. The reality is that being fliered by the KKK, whether by single household, business or entire neighborhood, did and does still happen in this country (USA) from time to time depending on what era one might choose to explore on the subject.

This tactic is what I believe Mr. Smith has used in order to charge his article with potential explosivity for whatever reason. However, according to the belief he lists in his profile, Mr. Smith is actually arguing for the right of free speech around the world.

NEXT POINT: Reasonable Assumption.

I'll tell you a little story. One day I was sitting in a trigonometry class with a professor who was, most clearly by way of personality and principle, a jackass. However, he also happened to be extremely intelligent, and both well educated and talented at mathematics.

So one day this guy says to a dumbfounded classroom full of "gifted" students (...yes, it was one of thoooose classes...) that the world of mathematics hinges upon a very basic theory that can't be proven. Apparently, according Prof. Wren, no one can actually definitively, concretely prove that 1+1=2.

Seriously.

You should have seen the number of bulging eyeballs in response to that statement.

Yet we know it must be true because of the overwhelming evidence in favor of that opinion - not the least of which are the vast number of disciplines in science and mathematics that have grown exponentially throughout history in their collective achievements.

For example, I'm fairly certain that if 1+1 does not equal 2, then we probably would have missed our landing site when we sent Neil Armstrong to the moon. Not to mention the fact that your Adobe PhotoShop software wouldn't work...or your computer, for that matter.

Therefore, it is a reasonable assumption that 1+1 does, indeed, equal 2. From there sprung all of mathematics, sciences, carpentry, etc.

Remember my example of David Duke's campaign for Louisiana State Governor above? Same idea. Did the KKK flier neighborhoods during that campaign? Probably. Can I prove it? Not at the moment, simply because I haven't researched it myself and therefore can't quote any sources or provide any physical examples – or any names of any KKK flier authors or even the names of KKK members, for that matter. Is it a reasonable assumption that the KKK exists? Absolutely. Is it a reasonable assumption that the KKK and its supporters fliered neighborhoods during Mr. Duke’s election campaign? Absolutely.

And what did those fliers say? Another reasonable assumption: probably something along the lines of "support David Duke for Governor of the State of Louisiana" and not a whole lot else beyond the typical various strategies of any political election campaign documented to date – some recent of which we know involved tactics of fear and intimidation as well as attempts at the character assassination of running competitors. I highly doubt fliers in support of David Duke actually said anything directly such as, "Support the KKK - put us in office!" However, that would hinge on the population(s) targeted by a given flier. For example, that tagline would be completely appropriate within the KKK itself – and probably very effective.

Though I could be very wrong.

BUT…it is absolutely reasonable to assume that David Duke had the political support of the KKK and its allies, and that publications were generated and distributed by members of such organizations in support of his campaign. That’s just Basic Campaigning 101.

Duh.

On the other hand, I must support Mr. Smith’s following statement – though I, personally, would phrase my thought a bit differently. Here is what Mr. Smith also had to say in his “About Me” profile:

‘He argues that the Holocaust is not a "Jewish" story, but a story of Jews and Germans together--forever. Those who want to challenge the concept of the "unique monstrosity" of the Germans should be free to do so.’

Mr. Smith does have at least two very solid points:

1) The Holocaust most definitely is a story of Jews and Germans – and many, many, many other peoples intertwined culturally, historically, and sometimes definitively by the event(s) of World War II.

Did you know that Jesus was a Jewish Armenian? Have you ever heard of the Armenian Genocide attempt attempted by the Turkish Ottoman Empire roughly between 1915 – 1923? WWII began only a decade later, and though, to this day, the Turkish government denies the Armenian Genocide ever occurred, it’s a reasonable assumption that it most certainly did.

Did you that know that Hitler based his implementation of genocide on the model of the genocide attempted by the Ottoman Empire?

Am I going to leave this blog comment box to go find citable documentation? Nope. But I will say that very little effort would be necessary to find a plethora of information on the topic.

(Incidentally, I’m no more Turkish or Armenian than I am Jewish or German.)

Which brings me to Mr. Smith’s second important point:

2) ‘…challenge the concept of the "unique monstrosity" of the Germans…’

This has two pieces to it. One, obviously Mr. Smith is correct in questioning the ‘“unique monstrosity” of the Germans,’ as noted above by the example of the Armenian Genocide. Further, we all know that the Spanish Inquisition existed and was based on the same ideology – that it’s okay to murder mass numbers of people if their cultures and/or genetics are different from your own. This could also be reasonably assumed of Vikings, Huns, many Crusades and wars between historic Kings and Queens of England and quite a few other peoples, and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Sadly – very sadly – the monstrosities committed during WWII with the goals of genocide are most certainly not behaviorally “unique” to members of the Nazi Party then or now.

And that opinion brings me to the second half of what I agree with of Mr. Smith’s point regarding ‘…the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans…’ Not only were the monstrosities committed during WWII not unique in terms of war history (in terms of war technology, perhaps, but certainly not in terms of ideology or overall purpose among historic wars, crusades, etc.), but said monstrosities were also not committed by all Germans. Further, many Germans were then and are now Jewish. Think about this for a second: in intellectually considering Nazis as being comprised by all and only Germans, we all do a disservice to Jewish and German cultures – not to mention the many allies that Hitler and his government had among different surrounding countries who generally aren’t even considered or held accountable for the mass numbers of “monstrosities” clearly committed by way of reasonable assumption when one actually compiles the evidence available – regardless of names - when one mentions WWII, Hitler, Nazis, the Third Reich, the Holocaust, etc., etc.

Are we to presume, then, that only Germans were “bad” at that time? Should we presume that all Germans are Nazis? That all Germans are bad people to this day simply by way of ethnicity – but the rest of us are good and dandy, all of our collective histories unmarred and innocent across the centuries? Out, damn spot! Out, I say!

Mr. Smith uses ‘…the intentional slaughter of the helpless, core civilian populations of all the major cites in Germany and Japan, ending with the nuclear destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima’ to illustrate this thought.

The man’s got a point.

Further, are we to assume that all Germans are “bad?”

That assumption would not be reasonable, even if the only point a personally and emotionally invested individual could up with for why is the simple fact that so many German Jews were murdered – and some escaped, and their Jewish-German descendants live on.

Does this idea change the fact that an entire people was so unforgivably ravaged by a true genocidal holocaust? Absolutely not. Does it invalidate the thoughts/feelings/experiences/opinions of those whose histories have been far more directly impacted than mine? Absolutely not.

Is it cause to question our thinking when making blanket statements regarding entire peoples? Oh, yes it is. You’d better believe it is.

Otherwise, what is to stop another genocide based on hate, fanaticism, political/governmental/institutionalized religious sociopathy and racism against another culture/ethnicity? Innocent, not innocent – frankly, write an opposing opinion if you want to : ) – I really don’t care. NO group ever – EVER - deserves such demonic focus of evil as what occurs during a genocide campaign.

After all, there was Rwanda only a few short years ago. That was also, unquestionably, a monstrous holocaust for those who did and did not survive it. On a greater, spiritual level, it was a monstrous holocaust among the greater collective human consciousness and experience. And, obviously, it was neither “unique” nor “German.”

And finally, on Mr. Smith’s claim that he targets professors with the commentary – I have a different opinion of his claim than that which he stated. In my interpretation, Mr. Smith is definitely being irreverent and intentionally disrespectful at best regarding the Rabbi he mentions. I see that as a part of his explosivity tactic, and do not pretend to know what he’s actually thinking. Honestly, though it may appear that I am in support of Mr. Smith’s stated ideology, I’m not. Furthermore, I have a feeling that should he ever actually meet me in person, Mr. Smith and I would likely have some fundamental ideological differences that would lead to yet more “explosivity,” to say the least.

But again, I could be wrong.

However, it is true that in this country students often take what I call a “feed me” attitude toward their own education. What I mean by that is that students often accept what their professors teach as fact – if for no better reason than to avoid disagreement that might later lead to a horrific GPA.

Two important bottom lines for a student are:

1) Repeat the professor and his/her text on whatever exams are presented in order to make good grades and thus succeed in school and therefore later in life

2) The student is ultimately responsible for the quality of her/his own education.

Notice that those two principles are in direct conflict with one another. It is possible that being a good student is a very different matter than being well educated, depending on the circumstances. If a student truly wants a good education, she/he will jump at the chance to learn more about a given topic – will even do a little of his/her own Googling during free time just to get a better bead on a topic. If a student is only after the right grades and the right title and letters to put by her/his name on a resume, then he/she has no need to better her/his education by seeking out more information and considering multiple perspectives on any topic whatsoever covered in the classroom.

The problem is, most traditional students – and by that I mean those who head to college right out of high school or within a year or two thereafter – are psychologically not yet prepared to think for themselves. In fact, teaching students to question in order to come up with their own thoughts on a subject is often advertised as one of the greatest benefits of education, yet it is often the rare and generally well-loved professor who actually invests in this concept by applying it to her/his teaching philosophy.

Finally, and the most basic of my reactions to Mr. Smith’s article: there is such a thing as common decency. Common decency requires a certain amount of sensitivity, compassion and social grace. Asking for the names of the slain from genocide is neither sensitive nor compassionate, and is most certainly not socially graceful. Further it’s not even a reliable test in many cases because of the massive numbers of surname changes and alterations assigned to so many millions who came to the United States and who fled to other “friendly” countries during that time and were met with laziness and ignorance regarding the spellings and pronunciations of their family names. Changing the family name of another simply because it’s personally easier or more convenient is unacceptable. Requiring an entire people to produce the names of their dead families as criteria of proof of their deepest and most personal losses from a war that we all know occurred because there is simply so much irrefutable evidence that literally spans half the globe is something that only meanness would ask. That act simply does not fall under the wing of “common decency.”

--KW
a Caucasian-American gay woman of primarily French and Scottish heritage whose partner and her two children are Jewish-Latin-Aztec-Americans


Have a nice day.
: )