Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre

The past several years, just before my novel What Survives came out, I became friendly with some Turkish folks who left their homeland for asylum in the United States. Shortly after their arrival, Trump was elected President of the United States. When I asked my new friends if they were concerned about being deported or what might come of this administration, they told me not to worry. There are checks and balances here, they said. They also said: And I am seeking asylum. So, I am fine. Don’t worry about me.

As our checks and balances began to be wiped away, I wondered if they realized what was happening. Most of them were too busy trying to establish themselves in a new country, struggling with learning English, dealing with family members and friends in Turkey who were either in prison awaiting trials or hiding out to avoid arrest—all of this in the increasing nightmare of Erdoğan’s Turkey. Thank goodness they got here before they had to try to seek asylum in Trump’s United States.

Severed ties, but safer lives

I am a first generation American. My father’s family in Russia were never heard from again after World War II. I envied friends who had two complete sets of grandparents, and grandparents who spoke to them in English. After my father became a doctor, and perhaps even before, he felt ashamed of his uneducated parents, brothers and sisters who lived in South Philly. His father passed away before I was born, but his mother cursed away in Yiddish until the day she died. She never spoke to me in English.

As tough as things were for his family here, as much as he and his brother had to fight in the streets because they were Jews, they no longer had to fear for their lives. They had four walls around them and once in a while, enough to eat. But they had to get here first, and that was extremely difficult and dangerous. They were illegal.

A heartbreaking image

When I saw the recent photo of the Central American man and his daughter who drowned  together, faces down in the Rio Grande, my heart broke for them. Just human beings, just trying to live, as any one of us would do.

Death is the great equalizer. It makes no distinctions around economics, social class, race or religion. We all will pass away, no legal documentation needed. But how exactly do we pass and under what circumstances? That has everything to do with economics, social class, race and religion.

This is us

I sit in my beautiful and comfortable home, throwing away food because it has gone bad, and my eyes fill up with water. All these people, all these children running from violence and persecution. This could be me. This could be my husband or my sister. This could be any one of the people I love. This IS any one of us, but for the irrational absurdity of fate and fortune.

I must have been so naïve once. I just had not seen enough of history. Even as a Jew,  with the lost family I will never know because of the Holocaust, I have never been cynical. However, I find myself becoming more and more cynical each and every day.

What can I do? I write and call places to volunteer. I want to donate supplies. I am met with the same old song, if anyone gets back to me at all, “We have plenty of supplies. No, we don’t need anything now.” Funny, that’s not what I’m hearing on the news and reading in the papers. The one opportunity that I thought I might have had to offer services collapsed because they were too afraid to disclose their location.

How can we maintain
the sanctity of life?

The author’s friend Guy maintaining his peace sign in Central Park.

In my high school history class, many of my fellow students skipped the class regularly. The teacher, knowledgeable as he was, had the misfortune of a slow and monotonous tone of speech that tended to put my classmates to sleep. But I never missed a class. This set me up for a lifetime of fascination with history and the psychology of human beings. How can we know so much, be capable of so much that is good and yet, be capable of so much destruction and so much evil?

My friend Guy has been maintaining this peace symbol in Central Park now for years. When he is away or too busy to do so, he often comes back to find that someone else, some unknown person, has maintained it in his absence. Why is it we cannot live in peace and maintain the sanctity of life on this planet? I welcome your thoughts.

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