Bill Clinton and Rosa Parks
Clinton had a wonderfully intimate rapport with his audience. Standing alone at the podium, it was as if he were down in the benches shoulder to shoulder with his people. He spoke very simply, anecdotally. There was nothing of the politician, nothing of the important man about him. It was as if he sincerely loved the people he was among. I felt moved by his identification with those he was talking to.
He spoke very simply about Rosa Parks. She is in fact a symbolic figure of immense symbolic significance for America. The proverbial right person, at the right time, in the right context. She didn’t change America, but she sparked the movement to change America with her smallest of gestures. It is certain that many, many Blacks had made similar gestures over the years, for a century and longer, encouraging Americans to live up to our own ideals, but the moment was not right, history was not ready, there was no Martin Luther King in the neighborhood.
The comparison of the American civil rights movement with Holocaust revisionism is unavoidable. Intellectual freedom is at the heart of American idealism. If Africans had been allowed to access a free press the moment they were off-loaded from the ships that brought them here in bondage, slavery would have ended where it began. If Americans had been encouraged to challenge the formalities of the Nuremburg Court, the myth of the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans could not have been manufactured, and the Jews of Europe would not have been given Arab land in the Middle East. We all know what came of that one, including Iraq.
At the close of World War II, the American Government stood four-square against intellectual freedom for Germans, just as it had stood against it for Africans. At Nuremburg the Court was allowed to charge Germans with the intentional killing of innocent, unarmed civilians. It was forbidden for Germans to make the same charge against Americans and the British, even after Dresden, Hamburg, and the intentional killing of the innocent, unarmed civilian populations of most every city in the German nation. One standard of justice for “us,” another for “them.” The more things change. . . .
Four decades have passed since Frenchmen and Germans began to challenge the gas-chamber stories and the alleged extermination of the European Jews. The European governments—forget the “Enlightenment”—have treated revisionists the way the American government treated Blacks. Those who “escape” the conformities of their society to challenge the historical lies about WWII are hunted down and imprisoned. The U.S. Government cooperates with the German State in extraditing revisionists to stand trial in Germany for thought crimes.
Like those Blacks who protested against human bondage, against legal forced segregation, against the suppression of their right to free speech for generations before Rosa Parks made her pivotal gesture, revisionists are going to have to go on with their work with no hope of winning their struggle to make of the Holocaust story a historical event that needs revision like the histories of all other historical events, rather than a religious one that must be believed.
We can do what we believe is the right thing again and again, but there is no way to know if it will help now, or any time in the future. Truth doesn’t always win. Individuals all over the world do the right thing, stand up for truth against the most brutal forms of oppression, and fail, and are never heard of again. Revisionists can argue that intellectual freedom is preferable to taboo and censorship, even (particularly) with regard to the Holocaust story.
Intellectual freedom. Only that. There is no simpler gesture I can make. Let’s just bloody talk about it! Let’s talk about it now, not sometime in the future. The future is a time of commonplace little tragedies.