"There is a price exacted from those who live in a place where they are rejected and openly hated by their neighbors: loss of confidence in one's identity and its corollary, the unending need for self-reinvention."
The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head. Franz Kafka: A Biographical Essay by Louis Begley
Before even entering 5 Stories I stopped to look at the guest book. Scrawled across the right side of the page was: Gertrude Stein saved two Jews during the war—herself and Alice. It rubbed me the wrong way. I read only two Jews, and I read it as criticism. Ms. Niki Lee asked, "What was she supposed to do, join the resistance like Beckett?" I said, I didn't know and the question has lingered for weeks.
I keep reliving a conversation we had a year ago in our kitchen. Some how Kafka came up. I can't remember the details, all I remember was my friend saying, "The self hating Jew." I was quiet. Ms. Niki Lee asked him, "Have you read him?" Knowing the place Kafka takes in my intellectual and spiritual practice. Without apology he said, "No." I took my cue and spoke briefly in reference to his work, his patronage and documentation of the Jewish theatre, the context of Prague, and the more I spoke the less he was interested. Ms. Niki Lee checked her cookies (she's like the Oracle in the Matrix), and he chimed in, "They're brown around the edges, they're done." We left it at that.
This memory kneaded the knot lingering beneath the guest book affirmation; I now believe the author of the quote wrote to confirm the power of saving one life, even if it is only your own.
It is easy to stand outside of a moment and understand what should have been done differently—supposedly, better. Gertrude and Alice were Jews, they were Lesbians, they were women without a man (and all that he brings with him). Everyone has an analysis of what they might have or could have done different.
I believe it is best to start with the work: Wars I Have Seen.
"We should take the story for what it is—the author's desperately brave attempt to work through nightmares from which he could not awake—" (The Tremendous World. . .)
Klee Benally sings, "We know this nightmare, because it repeats."
I am interested in survival—specifically the consequence of surviving extermination.
I agree with Blackfire, relocation is genocide. We have considerable shared experiences with many. I acknowledge relations. I don't rent ruptures or fester disconnections.
Gertrude, Alice, and Kafka: examining the intimacies our lives share is just as relevant as Baldwin's point: "I still believe that the unexamined life is not worth living: and I know that self-delusion, in the service of no matter what small or lofty cause, is a price no writer can afford. His subject is himself and the world and it requires every ounce of stamina he can summon to attempt to look on himself and the world as they are."
Everyone has moments in their own history they have difficultly comprehending.
These are mine: I live among people who would throw sewer water in my church, and spread human waste products on the face of my Gods' house, knowing, without doubt, that their acts will destroy my people, my children, my future. I endure the people's journey on the Long Walk, in both directions, knowing we lived and died together and alone. I know the loss caused by my ancestors' position as slaves in the south western slave trade, and I face the brutal reality that substance abuse and domestic violence have become accepted and part of my oral tradition.
Understanding a person within the context of their times, and within the context of their own lives (their opportunities, their position, their resources and their spiritual and ideological fortitude) requires a considerable amount of introspection—quiet, attentive, intimate introspection. Understanding also requires time alone with language—Language is life; we all live inside it.