Achtung, baby

June 29, 2003 at 5:18 pm | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

Despite the silence that my query of yesterday elicited, which could mean that hate mail hasn’t plagued the bloggers who read this, or they don’t want to say, or no one is reading this blog, here is the tale that prompted my question. If you’re not a Nazi, please comment. If you are a Nazi, get therapy: you need it. June 26, 2003: Have you ever stepped in a really disgusting dog turd and just wanted to swear your head off? Now imagine that you stepped in one, and that the garden hose was nowhere in sight, and that you had to let the crap dry on your shoe so that you could scrape it off later. Meanwhile, the whiff is making you retch. On May 22, I wrote about Gregory Hartnell, a friend of mine here in Victoria, BC. After he had spoken out publicly in favour of the deportation back to Germany of a notorious hate-monger and Holocaust-denier, he received anonymous, threatening Nazi hate mail. That was my prompt to post a blog in support of Gregory’s position. The Nazis have been busy since. They found my blog and decided to produce another letter — anonymous, of course — in some enormous typeface (one always has to compensate with brute force if one’s content is crap). It insulted and threatened me, included another rant against Gregory, and repeated the Nazi claim that the Holocaust never happened. The letter is in flawless German, with key words that betray the virulent language of the 1930/40s. It includes a quote from my blog in the English original, I suppose to indicate that they also know where to find me virtually. The letter warns me that I cannot hope to crawl away to hide at the end of the world with my “lies” (meaning my insistence on the truth of the Holocaust as an historical fact) and escape the wrath of Nazi “justice,” because “we are at the end of the world also.” At first I thought this was meant eschatologically — i.e., that the threat to my life was meant generally, in the sense of Messianic doom — but then I realized the letter-writer meant it specifically: Victoria as the end of the world, a literal Land’s End. The postmark on the letter was from the 24th, it was delivered to my home on the 25th; the sender was local, right here. I actually didn’t crawl here. I live here. In fact, I grew up here. And I’m a Canadian citizen (as well as an American one), unlike anonymous Nazi cowards still hanging on to outdated German passports, icons of a country that no longer wants them, unless it’s to lock them up for hate crimes. I don’t need to crawl. I don’t need to hide. I am angry that Nazis think they can spread their dung in Victoria, and I am angry that the city appears not to be doing more to expose these people: they’re the ones who have crawled here. I am angry that I stepped in that pile of dog-doo at a time when I was already, for different reasons, feeling alienated from (blogging) community, and that this letter expanded that sense of alienation into yet another direction. When I went for a walk with my dog today, I wondered about every older, “Germanic-looking” person I saw: was this a Nazi, I wondered? Should I let that kindly-looking lady pet my dog, or should I poke her in the eye? Was this the person who sent me that missive? I felt alienated from every person who looked to be northern European. I was now judging by appearances, which an earlier comment had accused me of, at the time without grounds. But today I was doing it. How did Pynchon put it in Gravity’s Rainbow? Paranoia, paranoia, even Goya couldn’t draw ya. It felt deep and ugly, and I didn’t like it. I got a sense of what so-called minorities (they’re actually the majority on this planet) often must feel like, and how difficult it must be to feel charitable about (white) strangers. If you’re black or brown or yellow or red, why should you trust any white person after what white people have done to you & yours? By the same token, if you’re a Jew, how comfortable could you feel amongst Germans? If you’re white & “nordic” looking — imagine this, it’s true: I had one sexist (and pro-white) socials teacher who made me stand up as an “example” in his 7th grade class when he was expounding on different European “racial” types; I was unfortunately too embarassed and much too cowed at 11 years old (the youngest in the class) to report him — if you’re white, a fraction of the world smugly thinks you (and they) have it made, while the other majority can’t stand you (but knows you have it made because you have the advantage of colour). If you’re lucky and you belong to some kind of community — a church, a temple — you can get some feel-good feelings back, replenish your sense of trust, and sally forth another day full of good faith. Maybe. Unless you continue to walk around angry and alienated. It’s funny how the onus is on the aggrieved, though: one person sends hate mail, the poison spreads through my mind to affect my perceptions of an entire group, and the onus is on me to change that perception through a leap of faith. It’s been a strange fortnight in which I’ve gone from feeling alienated from a virtual space where it’s difficult to sort out what’s real and what isn’t, to feeling it in my own neighbourhood: two such extremely different contexts, and two such extremely different matters, linked only by an actual body (mine) that still experiences the world as a sensory construct. Your body triggers fight or flight reactions to both contexts, and your mind has to sort these things out. My reactive patterns took hold long ago, according to option A or option B: in classrooms where teachers made an example of you or, alternately, nurtured you; in homes where abuse was the daily, unrelenting norm or, alternately, support was a given; in peer situations where you never fit, or, alternately, the good old boys (or girls) made you one of theirs. I know which side I want to cast my lot with, but I also can’t help standing at the edge sometimes, perhaps a little green with envy and also a little too jaundiced by too much option A and not enough option B. And yet I also know that reactive patterns are just that: patterns that are abstract unless I act on them, which I can refuse to do. I typically don’t stay alienated for long, I know I’m lucky, and, because I’m not 11 years old anymore, I know I can stand up to bullies. But I am taking the letter to the police, as well as to the city’s Jewish community. I would like a great big huge light to shine on every Nazi hiding here. I want the light of day to dry the crap out so I can scrape if off my shoe.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Yule, just a note of support about your hate mail–taking it to the police sounds like a good plan. There are a lot of angry people hiding under rocks out there. Good people too, and you are one of them. Keep on blogging!

    Comment by Betsy Devine — June 29, 2003 #

  2. THANK-YOU Betsy, honestly, from the bottom of my heart. This has been a really creepy week. Thanks. I have to translate the damned thing before I go to the police, which I’ll do tomorrow. Couldn’t quite get to it yet.

    Comment by Yule Heibel — June 29, 2003 #

  3. +++ Dear Yule: I feel I must apologize to you publicly for having been
    the one who sent an excerpt from your book to victoria.indymedia.org, which
    emphasized that German conservative groups were the first to discover the
    horrors of the Holocaust. I beleive it was that posting which I sent
    without your permission which may have aroused the ire of the deniers.
    Please forgive my imprudence, and know that I am with you in this struggle
    for truth and decency in history-making. We are making history here, and
    we are carrying on the good fight. I commend your courgae and determination
    in traslating the loathsome letter you received, and hope that you do in
    fact follow through by bringing it to the attention of Constable Jones at
    the Oak Bay Police Department. They have a file already started on this
    problem, and your original output may have email addresses or other clues
    in the phraseology or the orthography of certain words which may aid the police
    in tracking down these obnoxious Nazi letter-writers.
    In the meantime, as I know that you do not believe in a Higher Power, I still feel that you are nevertheless blessed indeed to be able to call upon some inner powers of your own which I am sure will help you get through this.
    I am anxious to also introduce to you the two members of the Jewish community
    here in Victoria who may be able to give you some more friendly support. These Jewish artists have been very supportive of my own efforts to expose the foolish policy of
    the Federal goverment with respect to Mr. Zundel.
    Peace, Gregory Hartnell

    +++

    Comment by Goyo — June 30, 2003 #

  4. Thank you for your support, Gregory. Hey, everything is an opportunity, if you look at it properly, right? This gave me an opportunity to synthesize some past & present experiences in a way that was enlightening for me, and helped me understand a few anger issues; and now I’ll also get to meet some community leaders I might otherwise not have. The best defense against hate-mongers will always be affirmative pro-action.

    Comment by Yule Heibel — June 30, 2003 #

  5. I’m glad you decided to blog about this.

    Comment by Betsy Burke — June 30, 2003 #

  6. Thanks, Betsy. Today I go to the police, etc., but I hope they haven’t just left an auxiliary staff, given that it’s the national holiday tomorrow and Monday today. Perfect time for anyone with seniority to take a long weekend…. 😉

    Comment by Yule Heibel — June 30, 2003 #

  7. Happy Canada Day!

    Comment by Betsy Devine — July 1, 2003 #

  8. Thank you! 🙂 !

    Comment by Yule Heibel — July 1, 2003 #

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