I am reading a book all of you should read, Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands http://tinyurl.com/28wrobt I mean you should get it and read it as quickly as you can. It is so powerful it effects everything we do. The book is about that region between the then USSR and Poland where 14 million people were slaughtered by the Nazis and the Communists between 1930-45. We think we know the Holocaust, and we do know many individual stories — which is wonderful. But as Snyder points out, the camps deceive us. The camps were both slave labor sites and death machines. Both — so some people there were meant to work — that is be alive — until they died. Most of the killing did not take place that way — people were starved to death in their homes, shot in fields in ditches — simply murdered, not worked to death. The book is well written, full of examples, and makes you think, and think, and think again about Stalin.
The fact that Stalin starved some 3 million Ukrainians to death was not entirely new to me — I researched it and wrote about it my Hoover book. But the details, the details — the details are a punch in the stomach because they push you to think about impossible choices. Stalin was able to destroy so many lives because people did his bidding — some from fear, a totally reasonable fear, that if they did not show enthusiasm for blaming the Ukrainians for their own starvation, they too would be murdered; some because they really did look at starving families and were disgusted — somehow believing that people would murder their own children to harm Socialism; some because they did not care — everyone who participated chose to do so.
Which is the powerful, powerful lesson — you must pay attention to your own doubt, your own hesitation, you must be the voice the raises questions — even if you are totally wrong; you must break the silence. Last night I saw a short documentary on Flip Shulke http://www.flipschulke.com/ I knew Flip — worked on a book with him. He worked with Dr. King — he was the eyes of the nation taking photos of the Civil Rights struggle, he chose to show the funerals, the dogs, the fire houses, the bleeding faces, the faces of white rage. He showed the nation what no one captured in the Bloodlands — individual stories that made the nation invervene, and the violence stop. One man’s choice, and history changed. For the Bloodlands all we can do is mourn, and vow to choose life, to choose truth, to choose speaking out.