Not long ago, I ran down an interesting rabbit hole.

As a genealogy researcher, i have both an interest in and a knack for finding people and stories. Today a friend's casual comment on a completely unrelated subject led me eventually this meme on Facebook:

It caught my eye, both because it speaks an important truth and even more because I knew a friend who would especially appreciate it. But I'm also researcher enough not to pass something like this along without knowing more about the context. So I did a Google image search for the picture.

That turned out to be so much easier than most of the image searches I do. I've mentioned before that I'm organizing my father's journals, and also the old photographs from the same time period. Since most of the labelling on the photos is missing or minimal, Google Lens has been of immeasurable assistance, though a good deal of detective work is still necessary.

The context of this photo popped up immediately. (Well, almost—I'll get to that caveat in a moment.) Wikipedia has the exact picture, and helpfully explains that it is a photo of "Polish Jews being loaded into trains at Umschlagplatz of the Warsaw Ghetto, 1942." On this, I think Wikipedia can be trusted. So it's legit.

But I mentioned that the search wasn't exactly as easy as I had implied. That's where this rabbit hole got especially interesting.

Google refused, at first, to show me any results, as they were likely to be "explicit." I don't know about you, but to me, that designation implies that the results would show me pornography or graphic violence or other obscenity. Granted, the ideas and actions represented by that photo are obscene enough, but not the photo itself, which legitimately documents an important and dangerous time period.

In order to see it, I had to turn off Chrome's "Safe Search" feature, which I had heretofore assumed was there to filter out graphic sex and violence. The feature manages to discern the difference between pornography and the naked ladies featured in art museums; why is historical data a problem? Some day I may get curious enough to check out other browsers. Anyone here have experiences to share?

On top of that, I learned that what I was seeing was someone's second attempt at sharing this meme, Facebook having taken down the first. What Facebook found offensive I do not know. I'm tempted to post it directly myself and see what they do, but I'll try cross-posting this first. I generally just post links to Lift Up Your Hearts! when I want to share them on Facebook, and I doubt the FB censors will dig that deep. We'll see.

Here's why it matters: Knowledge of history is essential. My 15-year-old self would have choked on that, as of all the history classes I endured, there was only one I thought worthwhile. (I take that back; there was also the unit on Native Americans back in fourth grade, which was pretty cool.) Nonetheless, one of the lessons I remember best from all my years in school is that one of the clearest characteristics of a totalitarian régime is its attempts to cut its people off from their own history, whether by re-writing it (à la the novel 1984) or by changing the language (whatever the benefits of simplified Chinese, it has greatly limited the people's ability to read historical Chinese documents), or by simply encouraging an atmosphere of ignorance.

The meme, it turns out, is as much about the First Amendment as the Second.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 18, 2024 at 7:50 am | Edit
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One of my favorite books is Peter Drucker's Adventures of a Bystander. In "The Monster and the Lamb," one of the many page-turning essays about the people and events that shaped his life, Drucker reveals the actions he took in 1933 to assure that he could not back out of his determination to leave his promising and comfortable life in Germany, should Hitler come to power.

I also made up my mind to make sure that I could not waver and stay. ... I began to write a book that would make it impossible for the Nazis to have anything to do with me, and equally impossible for me to have anything to do with them. It was a short book, hardly more than a pamphlet. Its subject was Germany's only Conservative political philosopher, Friedrich Julius Stahl—a prominent Prussian politician and Conservative parliamentarian of the period before Bismarck, the philosopher of freedom under the law, and the leader of the philosophical reaction against Hegel as well as Hegel's successor as professor of philosophy at Berlin. And Stahl had been a Jew! A monograph on Stahl, which in the name of conservatism and patriotism put him forth as the exemplar and preceptor for the turbulence of the 1930s, represented a frontal attack on Nazism. It took me only a few weeks to write the monograph. I sent it off to Germany's best-known publisher in political science and political history.... The book, I am happy to say, was understood by the Nazis exactly as I had intended; it was immediately banned and publicly burned. Of course it had no inmpact. I did not expect any. But it made it crystal-clear where I stood; and I knew I had to make sure for my own sake that I would be counted, even if no one else cared.

That passage has been on my mind lately. I have a strong feeling that I need to follow his example, albeit in my own, minor way. Whether big actions or small, doing the right thing is still doing the right thing. I don't have a well-known publisher ready to print whatever I might send them, but I have the internet, and a blog platform that is not subject to the censors of YouTube, Facebook, or any other Big Tech platform.

I have a duty to stand for the truth. For Truth. 

Not my truth, but the truth as I see it. The former implies that there are many personal truths, but no real, independent, objective Truth that can be sought, found, and trusted. "The truth as I see it" instead means that I leave open the possibility that I might be wrong, or—as in the story of the blind men and the elephant—at least not seeing the whole truth. In fact, I'd say it's pretty much guaranteed that I'm not seeing the whole truth. But what I do see, from over seven decades of experience, and a reasonable amount of both intelligence and education, I will say.

Because the world has been turned upside down, and an astonishing number of people either don't see what is happening, or don't have the time and the resources to care, or truly believe that the inversion is finally putting the world to rights.

If the whole world says that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength, I'm going to reply, No, it isn't. Fortunately, it's not the whole world that's saying such things, just those with the biggest megaphones. More and more people are noticing the emperor en déshabillé, and are speaking up, and when I find someone who makes a point better than I can, I'll share it.

I don't expect this blog to change much; I've never been known for keeping silent when I have an opinion. But now these thoughts have their own category: Here I Stand. It is related to my Last Battle series, which I tried to start in 2018; it finally got off the ground in 2020, but is still struggling. I don't usually have trouble putting my thoughts into words, but this category makes me think there might be something to Stephen Pressfield's idea that there is an active force (he calls it "Resistance") that opposes creative activity. All too often, the more important I think an idea is, the harder I find writing about it. If this one works out, maybe I'll merge the two categories, or connect them somehow. But first things first.

I see my mission as to seek and speak the truth. I'm not going to argue, I'm not going to debate, I'm not going to insist. I must speak, but no one is required to listen.

If you have read C. S. Lewis's story, The Silver Chair, you may recall that after the Prince is freed from his enchantment, the Witch attempts to get him and his liberators to deny all they know about the world they came from, and what they remember from their former lives. (It's in Chapter 12, and you can read that here.) If my writing smells like burnt marsh-wiggle to some, I hope that others will find it helps to clear away some of the enchanting smoke. If nothing else, I want to be able to say with Drucker, "Of course it had no inmpact. I did not expect any. But it made it crystal-clear where I stood; and I knew I had to make sure for my own sake that I would be counted, even if no one else cared."

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 14, 2024 at 6:47 am | Edit
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For those of you waiting to hear about Grace's return to her home in New Hampshire after more than two months of exile in Boston, I'll quote Heather's post in its entirety (emphasis mine).

Happy, Happy, Happy!

Grace sings this little Happy song at least once a day. She sang it in the hallway as we were leaving the apartment to go home. I have not yet managed to get a video of her singing it.

Everybody is doing better now that we're all together.

It's good to be home; it's good to not have to try to get a bunch of stuff done before leaving again. We are still adjusting to the routine, and still unpacking, but the overall feeling is good.

There is a lot of laughter in the house with Grace around. She is such a blessing.

Please continue to pray for her complete healing and protection from germs.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 11, 2024 at 7:28 am | Edit
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