#3 of 11 questions in 11 days, in response to Writingspiration:
What fascinates you?
My current obsession is a certain aspect of modern history, and how man’s behavior toward fellow man has shaped it. Hopefully I haven’t lost you already, referring three times to humankind exclusively in the masculine. I believe women are “man” too–or something like that.
My fascination grew immensely during a trip to Washington, DC in 2010.One of our first stops was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which I have mentioned before. For me, that visit was an eye-opening and possibly life-changing event. I came away with one lingering question, which I continue to seek answer for today: How could this happen? I entered this in the museum guestbook before we left:
This place is both beautiful in its tribute and absurd in its existence, for that which it pays tribute to and [is] memorial for reflects the most absurd elements of man. Why do we do such cruel things to each other, and why do those of us who can stop it not react until too late?
One of my initial thoughts was that it was self-preservation that caused people to turn on each other, and to turn a blind eye when atrocities began. But now I believe it is familial preservation–most of us would die to protect our own families, but few of us would die to protect others. That is what makes military service and first responder occupations so noble: Those men and women put their lives on the line for total strangers; no questions asked. But in the case of Nazi-infected Europe, it seems clear that people actively made choices to protect their own families at the expense of others. I am fascinated–and troubled–by that logic, for if all families joined together, tyrants would never stand a chance. But all you have to do is read a few sentences anywhere on social media to understand how hard it is for people to join together about anything.
One of our later stops in DC was at the White House, which is partly where my fascination with the presidency, specifically, was born. I have never seen or read about a president yet that I have despised with as much passion as many are currently feeling toward Barack Obama. No matter what their party, their controversies, or failures, all US Presidents share a love for country. While I am sure that bad choices and corruption have existed in the office, I cannot imagine any sane person who would want that particular job if they did not love their country. Truman really didn’t want it. Washington didn’t really want it. But the country needed them.
The truth of this is no plainer in history than it is today, when every move a president makes, every word he (so far, only he) speaks or writes, every reaction he has is subject to scrutiny. The press has always been a harsh critic of the president, and now more than ever, it is a beast hitched to a carriage driven savagely by a cynical, entitled, partisan and angry public. Again I ask, who would want that job who didn’t love their country enough to subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny?
What fascinates me are the elements of human character that cause some to pursue selfless achievements, and others to turn away from their neighbor in times of trouble. The complexities of humanity are endless, and I wish more of us took the time to explore them, find ourselves, and love each other–even beyond our own families.