If you don't recognize the name, I'm sure you'll know this one - Anne Frank. Miep Gies was one of a few, brave souls who hid the Frank family for two years during the Nazi occupation. Anne Frank died in a concentration camp, two weeks before its liberation. Today, her protector died. She was 100. A living legacy, gone.
I remember reading Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl in middle school, then in high school, and again my freshman year of college. I'm going to read it again in Gies' honor.
It's strange. The past few days, I've been listening to NPR and feel as if I'm listening to a radio show all about the 'isms we perpetuate in global society. The classism. The sexism. The heterosexism. The racism. The xenophobia...ism (for consistency). The cissexism. There's more, all tragic, neat packages of labels to apply freely.
Heterosexism, or the social institution of opposite-sex relationships as the Gold Star for normalcy is being challenged in federal courts and broadcast on YouTube. For reals.
Racism and xenophobia is rearing its ugly, violent head in Rosarno, Italy, where African migrant workers protested the shooting of a fellow worker (a passing policeman claimed it was not his job to assist the shot man, what is his job?) The protests turned violent. And then the vans came with the message blaring loud - If you are black, get out, or we will kill you. Workers had to be removed from Rosarno out of fear of bodily harm. If, like me, you live in California, you can't help but notice the similarity between the treatment and perception of African migrant workers and the treatment and perception of Mexican migrant workers. It's a freakish mirror to look into.
I don't have a link, but there was a story about classism in England amongst Indian immigrants who still maintain a set of religious and institutionalized beliefs about class and caste. In England. Geez.
Those are only the stories I've heard. Microcosms, probably. How far have we come? Perhaps the overt displays of racism - the shackles and chains, have mostly disappeared from many governments and societies. But it's still there. Still simmering and raging and etching it's ugliness onto people's hearts.
Miep Gies spent her life living on Anne Frank's behalf. On behalf of the millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and "others" who some still claim never starved in camps, never burned in chambers, never died...nay, never existed. They are like the supporters of Prop 8 who see nothing wrong in discriminating against their neighbors, teachers, friends, family, pretending that denying a couple's right - yes, right- to marry isn't as awful as, say, killing them or raping them or physically mutilating them...it's not an 'ism, is it? They are like the citizens of Rosarno who claim their actions of oppression and discrimination are not racist; they are perhaps from another fountain of hate? They are like the Brahmans who shun other Indians and pretend it's not classist or wrong but an established tradition, faith, religion as if the terms are in bed with righteousness and good ethics.
Miep Gies is dead. Yet the racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism? They live on. How so very sad.