Friday, March 14, 2014

Where is Joe Welch?


(slightly cropped)
While decluttering my house after the death of my dear wife, I found this photograph (yes, that is me), taken circa 1980. Whenever I show this photo, the immediate response is laughter. If I attempted to do this today, assuming I could get this close, the end result would probably be a bullet through my head. Back then, nobody cared. I am sure if I had jumped the fence, something would have happened. We, as a country, have gone overboard.

Consider what happened to the lady who either had a mental breakdown or simply panicked when she approached or tried to run her car into the grounds of the White House. She was shot down like a dog. It is not that she was simply shot but that she was shot so many times "they had difficulty identifying her because of the extent of her injuries"[1]. If you take the time to view some of the videos taken after the incident, you will see the officers involved carrying M-4s: the same weapon our troops use in Afghanistan. Lethal military-style force with overkill was used against an unarmed civilian who probably had a psychological disorder with a baby in a car. And nobody, at least in power, seems to care.

Our country has a long history of periods of overreaction against foreign threats: the Alien and Sedition Acts over fears of the French Revolution coming to the United States; the Know-Nothings in the 1850s after the revolution of 1848 in Europe associated with the influx of immigrants from Germany and Ireland; the Red Scare after 1919,  the Russian Revolution; the McCarthy era in the 1950s; and, I believe today, after 9/11.

On continuing the process described above, I discovered correspondence between my wife's grandfather and his relatives in Europe prior to and during World War II. The letters are written in Polish, Yiddish, and German. When I showed them to my 92-year-old father-in-law to find out who was who, he expressed interest and surprise, asking "where did I get them?", having never seen them. They had sat in his basement for 30-plus years in a box after the death of his mother. I have inherited them. In 1939 the return address on a series of them changed from Lodz, Poland to Warschau (German for Warsaw) with a Nazi stamp on them. Until 1941 the postmarks in Chicago are dated fairly contemporaneously, but after that date the letters were not received until 1946. This entire family perished.