The Inheritance of Indifference
By Alberto Moreno
There is a train. The train is not La Bestia. The train is and is not time. Is and is not, progress. The train is old now. Sits decommissioned in a train graveyard somewhere. Maybe it has been melted down. No one can know. No one is now alive, to say. But now is not that time. First we must walk back in time. Must undo progress. Imagine a darker time than this. You must imagine 1942. Imagine a time when one man used patriotism to stoke and fan the flames of fear and hate. Used national pride to first label and then exterminate millions of Jews. We must use time as a mirror. To see what gets reflected back from the abyss of time. First we must reverse the engines of time. Put the screeching churning train in reverse. The steaming, bellowing train is made of dark, iron and time. Before you can imagine it. You must first imagine the Mexican laborers stooped heavy and low with iron levers and large hammers building the railroad which will carry the train north. Always North. Must imagine the engine coming alive in Sinaloa Mexico. On this closing eve of war. The snorting train will begin there. Will spin its wheels. Bare iron against bare iron until it lurches forward into the distended night. The train will fill up with Mexicans. Mexicans which America has invited north. To plant, till and sow. America which needs them. While its own men fight terror on foreign shores. You must imagine a permitting silence. Silence so profound. Silence which has sat and watched as millions of Jews were herded and transported to death camps on other trains traveling through the German Countryside. With no one to speak on deathâ€™s behalf. You must imagine this death which silence, muted and passive, permitted. You must imagine deathâ€™s incineration plants large and huge. You must imagine this ashen death before you can imagine a man dressed in strange garb lost in the Mexican Countryside. You must see the strangerâ€™s dark robe boarding this Mexican train in this Mexican depot. Life, in flight. Life emaciated. Life scattered into the dark of night. This dark foreigner. This errant life. Sitting like a sore thumb in this unmoored moving train fleeing north. You must see in your mindâ€™s eye, as a short Mexican man approaches him and carefully explains to him that because he is wearing traditional Jewish garb, he will be stopped by immigration officials and not allowed to pass. You must see this nameless Mexican man inviting him to his home. To feed and redress him. You must allow for this. For the possibility of irrational kindness. To manifest, unsolicited, in the unfolding night. The Jewish man will be fed for a week. Will be given worn but usable Mexican clothes which will be too short for his long, languid frame. And then will be reboarded on this train. We know this with certainty because the story is preserved and portaged in the tender DNA of his grandson. And seventy years later Dr. Phil Newman is telling me how his Grandfather was smuggled safely into America. â€œIn this time of great intolerance, this man. This Mexican man, saved my Grandfatherâ€™s life.â€ Dr. Newman tells me.â€ Before you can see this as possible, you must imagine the intolerance which silence begets. Because as millions of Jews were being exterminated, millions of Germans said nothing. But this was over 70 years ago and certainly, nothing like this can happen again. We have made so much human progress that this is simply not possible anymore. Not in America. Certainly, we would never permit the kind of hate speech which made that xenophobia possible. We would not ever tolerate again, much less feed that kind of discourse in America! Its Un-American you might say. And yet here he is: Trump. Trump proposing the rounding up and herding of human beings based on their ethnicity, on their religion, on the way they look. Trump and his followers wanting to ban and deport millions of human beings. Even espousing concentration camps for American Muslims. Trump who has vowed to deport our children Who has called you drug hoarding mules Who has invited violence upon our families Who counts on your silence. On our apathy. On our inaction On our political invisibility On our curated fear And we may be tempted to dismiss him. To say he is a political outlier. That he is the Ego, making a great insignificant noise. Except that millions of Americans who identify as Christians, as Republicans, proudly endorse and even celebrate his words. Some of his followers have even been incited to commit violence in his name. Have declared war: Against the poor Against those who have darker skins than ours Against those who own land which contains The oil they need or covet Trump has declared a war against women Against those who are gay Against those who are different than us Against those who believe in a god who is not white Against the immigrant. The foreigner. After those who speak A broken, braking English. And yet it is not Trump, alone, who is the problem. Hitler would have been just another delusional man with a Messiah complex, if no one had agreed and acted on his rhetoric of hate. Likewise, it is the millions of Trump followers who provide a fecund agar for his hate, who are concerning. Who feel vindicated in their small ideas and in their hate of the foreigner. Of the stranger. But what is most troubling still, is the resounding silence of those who say nothing. The permissive silence of our white brothers and sisters who, once again, sit idly by and do nothing. And as Edward Burke, would remind us: â€œThe only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing!â€ And we have come too far, seen too much hate, too much death. Dr. Newman, would remind us that we have seen too much indifference for that. We have not been brought forward for this. Silent indifference, is not our divine inheritance. We are and must be more!