Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hatred, Low Humor, and High Culture

Sure, this kind of hatred is found in every part of the world, but it’s only in certain places where it’s done with such enthusiasm and élan, and with such care taken to spelling and the details that are as Nazi-like as possible:

The desecration in a Strasbourg cemetery came as Jews marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp, a symbol of the Holocaust, when the Nazis killed millions.

France's main Jewish organization, CRIF, said at least 18 tombstones at the Cronenbourg cemetery were found Wednesday marked with swastikas and 13 of them were overturned.

The CRIF's Marc Knobel said the inscription "juden raus" (Jews out) was found on one tomb.
Not sounding the least like it was done by immigrants or descendants thereof, it comes as somewhat of a surprise since it took place in Strasbourg, a city that has an odd historical relationship with religious minorities.

Odd, because this is the sort of history hardly a soul in Europe likes to recall. They prefer to scream about Americans, using examples as strange as Christopher Columbus, killing Native Americans. The origin or place of birth of these Americans is rarely thought about.

While Strasbourg is in present day France, it’s changed hands over and over. Family and place names speak to a majority German heritage with a French and Francofilic elite. Prior to the Nazis taking power in Germany, religious minorities in the area, including Alsace’s Jews, were under the greatest pressure when the Germans were not in charge, only getting some relief from the iron fist of one of Napoleon’s dictats.

We also find the puzzle of European culture in this as well. Over millennia in the Rhein river valley, which has a rather unique cultural outlook distinct from both of its’ neighbors, yet sides somehow are still taken to the extent that while language ghettos of a German variant in France, and French variant on the German side, not speaking your neighbors’ language is more the rule than the exception. Even to this day, one finds French fluency among young Germans (told as they are that it aids one in work, and is culturally appropriate), but hardly a soul across the river who made any effort to learn German. On two occasions, German and French persons discovered that their humble interlocutor and translator happened to be a Yanqui, also called an Ami.

Even the signs found in the main train station, even on the local and regional platforms, are not customized to the extent that they vary from the pattern of French first, English below in smaller type, and German blow that in even smaller type.

Regardless of how much one ‘celebrates diversity’ in that kind of place, the objects of an ugly mentality’s fixation remain an enemy in a sort of cold war of atmospheric cultural factionalism. It ranges from learned hate to miserable grumbling and self-pity, and it’s all very traditional – maybe even their version of the place ‘The Waltons’ keeps in US culture. So to find ‘Juden Raus’ graffiti on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one should hardly be surprised.

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