[Vision2020] Leonard Pitts
jeanlivingston at turbonet.com
Mon Dec 10 14:04:26 PST 2007
What follows is a column by Leonard Pitts. On its own merits, the
article is a very worthwhile read, as nearly all of Pitts' are.
Given the occasional sniping against Sly and the Family Stone by some
members of this list, however, I thought it important to pass this
particular column along.
A GRIM REMINDER WE ARE ALL EVERYDAY PEOPLE
By Leonard Pitts Jr.
A few words before I go.
First off: happy holidays. Merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, happy
Hanukkah. Barring something unforeseen, we won't talk again until the
new year. Your humble correspondent is taking a few mental health
It probably isn't your idea of an ideal holiday spot, but I plan to
spend one of those days at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in
Washington. It's something I do most years around this time, though I
find it difficult to explain why.
I guess if trees strung with light, malls crowded with shoppers and
Christmas music filling the air impart a sense of festivity and
rightness with the world, the shadowed halls of this monument to human
hatred, human hubris and human resilience impart something I find
equally valuable this time of year.
Call it a centeredness. Call it a somberness. Call it a sacredness.
If the holidays are about deliverance, those hours spent among the
shoes of dead Jews and manifestoes of mass murder are a stark reminder
of what we need deliverance from. Our own meanness. Our own smallness.
The petty cruelties whispered into us by the worst angels of our
Some of you will know that I had a very interesting spring and early
summer. I wrote a column some people disliked and it led to harassment
and death threats from self-styled neo-Nazis under the tired delusion
that paleness of skin equals mental, moral or physical superiority. It
was a striking,stinking reminder of the seemingly bottomless potential
for sheer stupidity that lives within each of us. And by that I mean,
each of us.
As Sly and the Family Stone once memorably sang, "There is a yellow
one that won't accept the black one that won't accept the red one that
won't accept the white one." That's as succinct an encapsulation of
the human condition as you'll ever hear.
To walk in the Holocaust Museum is to be reminded of the logical,
inevitable result of that refusal to accept, that insistence upon
declaring that some racial, sexual, religious or cultural fraction of
us must live outside the circle of human compassion. After all, there
was nothing terribly new about what the Nazis did. Their sole
innovation was to institutionalize hatred and mechanize murder so that
11 million people - 6 million of them Jews - could be most efficiently
put to death.
But this idea that some of us are less than the rest of us, that some
of usare roaches, vermin, viruses, parasites, infestations, beasts or
subhumans to whom one owes no duty of human decency or commiseration,
didn't start with the Nazis. It is as old as Cain, as widespread as
the common cold.
Yet we don't learn, never learn. Dead Jews become dead Rwandans become
dead Serbs become dead Darfurians, yet still some of us mouth pious
hatreds with a smug certitude and offhand arrogance accessible only to
the deeply, profoundly and utterly wrong.
I'm reminded of an older white lady who called me once to thank me for
a column decrying some racial insult. She had a grandmother voice, a
voice that sounded like cookies in the oven smell and she wanted me to
know she admired black people, supported black people. Then she added
in a conspiratorial whisper, "It's the Jewboys I can't stand." Because
everybody is sure their own hatreds are just.
We've got to live together.
Sly Stone sang that, too, in his song. Ifthat seems, almost 40 years
later, a faded hope, it is, nevertheless, a hope, and one you clutch
instinctively as shrunken Jews stare out from photos on a wall, across
a gulf of 60 years. A reminder. A warning. A testimony.
And meantime, somewhere far away, the trees are filled with light, the
air is laced with hymns of joy.
(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza,
Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at
lpitts at miamiherald.com.)
© 2007 The Miami Herald
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