Everyone’s Problem

“This problem belong everybody”

JimCoffinBy James Coffin

Years ago my work took me occasionally to various South Pacific islands where Pidgin English was the lingua franca. Because Pidgin is missing such possessive pronouns as “my,” “your” and “our,” it has a simple-but-effective linguistic structure to show ownership.

To designate who faces a problem, for example, the sentence structure would be: “Problem belong me.” Or “problem belong John.” I love the cadence. But speaking of problems, let me mention one closer to home.

When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany in 1933, the onlooking world soon saw disquieting signs that hinted at state-sponsored hatred toward certain groups, especially the Jews. Where was it heading?

When on November 9-10, 1938, mobs swarmed the streets, destroying some 7,500 Jewish places of business, vandalizing or torching 267 synagogues and killing 91 Jews, there was no longer any ambiguity concerning Nazi intentions.

But–and here’s what’s staggering–the atrocities of Nazi Germany weren’t committed by society’s riffraff. They were committed by educated, genteel, affluent, church-going, family-loving people who look just like you and I do. And that’s what should jolt us.

Some six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust that ensued, not including the Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped and others the state wished to be rid of. Nor does it include the tens of millions killed as a result of World War II itself.

Jews believe we need to remember how this happened–because, as George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So every year the Holocaust Center hosts a Kristallnacht Remembrance. This year it will be held at the Jewish Community Center (851 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751) at 4:00 pm on Sunday, November 4 (open to everyone; admission free).

I’m not Jewish. Nor is my wife. And the overwhelming majority of Central Floridians aren’t Jewish, either. So it would be easy for most of us to simply say, “Problem belong them.” But we’d be wrong. The reality is: “This problem belong everybody.”

Let’s take decisive steps to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. Jew and non-Jew alike need to be reminded of what can happen when run-of-the-mill humans succumb to propaganda and a message of hate.

I repeat: “This problem belong everybody.”

James Coffin is executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.