The theory Wiesel talks about in his conversation with Bill Moyers has resonance for what's happening in our beloved country and in my home state of North Carolina: federal law is shrinking state's rights which are suffocating city’s rights, and therefore individual rights. What are the consequences of this cascade?
When the North Carolina state legislature outlawed coverage for medical abortions in 2013, this dictated the actions in my hometown of Durham, NC, which is counter to our city’s philosophy of granting this right to our individual citizens. What are the consequences for our teachers who will refuse to teach the lie that abortion causes future miscarriages as the NC legislature also mandated in 2013?
What will happen to the doctor who performs a medical abortion in a clinic that just had its license removed – all but one in NC will under the new law -- because clinics now have to meet surgical room standards? Or the doctor who can’t stay with the patient for the 2+ days that a medical abortion process might take?
In the dark of the night, ironically the night of July 4 – our day of independence – the legislature attached these new laws to a bill about Sharia law: a law about religion, about which god we can worship. And passed them under the cover of darkness and a distracted citizenry.
On March 26, 2016, our legislature called an emergency session to trample municipal rights with HB 2, known as the Bathroom Bill, when they overturned Charlotte's legislation to protect the LGBTQ community. The bill denies citizens the right to sue the state for discrimination. Yes, denies the right to sue. The message to other cities: We're coming after you next.
And now, NC Senate Bill 867 is being floated; a cynical response to three dozen teachers who marched 20 miles to the state capitol to protest the appalling lack of funding for basic classroom materials. They were arrested to refusing to disperse. Under the bill's provision 36A, they could, in the cruelest of ironies, be barred from teaching in NC because they now have an arrest record for their civil disobedience.
The faint clarion call for state's rights has been echoing in the distance. And now, that sound is made loud and shrill by right-wing billionaires who are funding state races instead of backing the conman running for president whom they disavow. Yet together, they anchor their campaigns in dehumanizing The Other and those they want to silence and control: LGBTQ, pregnant women, and now teachers.
An excerpt from the Wiesel/Moyer interview
WIESEL: … Because what they tried to do- you know, I believe, in general, they had a theory. They really wanted to create a universe parallel to our own. They wanted to reinvent creation.
And in that universe, in that creation, a new language was invented, a new attitude towards human being, a new God. An S.S. man was God. We had no right to look at an S.S. man in the face, because you cannot look into God's face and remain alive. And therefore, in their concept of the universe, we were subhuman, unworthy of living.
So what did they do? They shrank everything. Let's say, from the universe, we went to a country and a country to a town, from a town to a street, from a street to an apartment, apartment to a room, from the room to the cellar, from the cellar to the train.
It's always smaller and smaller -- from the train to the gas chamber. And then the person, who was first a person, became a prisoner, and the prisoner became a number.
MOYERS: And the number became an ash.
WIESEL: Ash, and the ash itself was dispersed. When you think of what they tried to do us, they were relentless...They wanted to dehumanize the victim, and in the process, they dehumanized themselves. But in the beginning, they were human. Their own acts, their own projects dehumanized them.
When language fails, violence becomes a language...the substitute for me was silence. Maybe I was a coward.
I'm angry with the liberals. With the allies. I'm angry with Roosevelt, with Churchill.But really angry because they knew what we didn't know. We Were Taken Two Weeks Before D-Day. Imagine. Two weeks before D-Day! And we didn't know that Auschwitz existed. Now how is that possible? Everybody knew except the victims that Auschwitz was 20 kilometers away from my ghetto. We could have gone to the mountains.
WIESEL: Auschwitz was conceived, planned, implemented, built and managed by human beings....I asked generals, 'How often did you have to change your plans in order to liberate a concentration camp one day earlier?' Not a single plan was changed. And they knew that they were going.
More Video conversation with Wiesel and Moyers, November, 1991