Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Too late?

Responding to today's post, Thomas at Endlessly Rocking comments that by the time the non-Muslims move out of Hamtramck, Mich., it'll be too late.

Living in this time has broadened my imagination. Despite much study of the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, I never could figure out why more Jews didn't get out of Germany sooner.

Now I know. You've got a place, a familiar community, language, culture. You know the faces in the market, where to get the bread you like, that pretty little spot in the park that no one else seems to know about. You know the color of the light on a late August evening and the parade of flowers through the spring.

You've got your stuff and your friends and family and memories, and so many of them are pegged to a place that you can't imagine leaving.

Well, maybe you could, for a good job in another city or an opportunity to pursue some dream, but not just to up and leave, because the community is changing and you're not welcome any more. How can that be? It's your community--more yours than theirs. But there's never been an exclusivity about it. People come and go with their odd dress and strange customs. You live and let live. Learn something new every day. All that stuff.

But now you can't stay? Impossible. Just a phase. Wait it out. When they see that you're not really so different from them, they'll calm down, make room for all.

Won't they?

Won't they?

When the Jews really understood that the Nazis were implacable enemies, for too many it was too late to escape.

What that means for Hamtramck, Mich., I don't know. But a friend tells me that there are neighborhoods in Paris where a woman doesn't walk without a male escort and without wearing the hijab. If there are to be such neighborhoods in Michigan, I suspect that Hamtramck will be early on the list.

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