Almost every day I get scolded and shat upon. An opinion or confession that would barely raise an eyebrow in private conversation a week or a decade ago will often as not get you lynched today. Such is the fate of semi-honest fellows in this wonderful wokester age we’re living through.
A couple of days ago I mentioned that I was grateful for my health (i.e., my body’s ability to rebuff infections), which I’d been told all my life by my mom was due to “strong German genes.” I should have said strong family genes but mom always said they principally came from her German-descended dad and German-immigrant granddad. This, of course, led to some branding me as an Aryan supremacist. So I posted the following to address this:
There’s no ignoring the horrid legacy and cultural associations between early to mid 20th Century Germany and horrific Nazi genocide. The stain was embedded 70-odd years ago, and will never be forgotten. Nor should it be.
My mother was filled with such revulsion by what happened between 1920 and ‘45 that she never once visited Germany her entire life.
That said, Germany is a rich and stirring culture (the beers, the cuisine, the desserts, the singing in the pubs, the historic operas, the architecture, the medieval remnants in Rothenburg) and the people I’ve met and dealt with there are as recognizably human as anyone or anywhere else.
The horror of Naziism and the Holocaust is a lasting national disgrace, and yet in a certain progressive sense it’s been scrubbed clean and built upon. It’s also been acknowledged all over in Germany — officially atoned for from the top down. There are memorials, moral messages and reminders all over Berlin, for example. There’s a huge Holocaust memorial right smack dab in the center.
In 2012 the boys and I visited Dachau, which is northwest of Munich and only a 20-minute train ride away. Talk about a lingering after-vibe.
Does anyone expect that any kind of similar atonements will happen here in the wake of the Trump administration? That some kind of institutional recognition of our ghastly racist history will be built? Don’t hold your breath.
All to say there’s nothing inherently evil or odious about being partly descended from Germans. Just as no one is saying there’s something inherently evil or odious about J.D. Vance having grown up in a small MAGA community in southern Ohio.