The other day I took a walk with a friend who came to this country as a child, a refugee from Nazi Germany. We talked–are there any other topics these days–of the state of American politics and society. “It’s just like Germany,” she said. “If we were younger, if our children didn?t live here, we’d leave”
I’m wary of hyperbole. My grandmother didn’t know many proverbs or morality tales in this country’s language, but she always warned me in her fractured English about “the boy who cried \vulf\.” In Germany, there were people who failed to see the writing on the wall even when it spelled out the removal of Jews from professions such as teaching, the seizure of Jewish businesses, and so on. Here, citizens are mostly free to go about our business. I have little fear that writing these words will endanger me, for instance.
So I won’t say it’s just like Germany, but I will say I am very, very worried. I want to draw your attention to an article by a British journalist, Elena Lappin, explaining how she was detained and prohibited from entering the United States. She also describes novelist Ian McEwan’s similar experience, which included being told by an immigration official (after McEwan had mounted a successful protest and been admitted to the U.S.) “We don?t want to let you in, we don’t think you should come in, but you have powerful allies and we don?t like the publicity.”
If you haven’t already signed the Artists Call for Cultural Policy, urging presidential candidates to remove such invidious barriers to cultural exchange, please do it now.
Our culture is replete with signs and reminders. We have to be able to read them, and to act.