Today we follow the curious incident of the missing “not”, in which my December column saw a word going awol in the editing process, thus changing the narrative 180 degrees. When I wrote, “If we are going to ensure that memories of a difficult history are not reversioned, and even revisioned, we need to fight for all these narratives to be protected, proudly and with passion,” and the version that went to print was, “We have to ensure that memories of a difficult history are reversioned and even revisioned…” I have to admit I felt not just a little sick.
That little “not” made a life of difference, and a difference to a life. With the “not” going missing, my grandfather, who was murdered in Auschwitz, also disappeared. According to revisionists, he may not have died. Perhaps he never existed, expunged like the “not”? I have been thinking about this. I recently reviewed the superb Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman and David Polonsky on SAFM. The book is a merging of beauty, tragedy, and the personal history. It also demonstrates the powerful, creative means that one can use in addressing abhorrent stories.
In reviewing the book, we received a message from an SAfm listener stating that “Everyone knows the Anne Frank diary is a hoax, as is the HoloHoax.” If we deny the Holocaust though, then what stops people from denying Apartheid or the Rwandan genocide? The desire to smooth the graphic highs and lows of our own human behavior into a placid line of mediocrity is best demonstrated by Hannah Arendt’s theory of the Banality of Evil.
But what the event forced me to consider is how we choose to define our world, ourselves, and others: how easily we manipulate history and memory. It also forces us to acknowledge more than our own experience. As we move into 2019, a year that promises extreme highs and lows, can we forge deeper connections and eschew the 280 characters of often hate-based responses (hello, Twitter!), for deeper, respectful, but still challenging conversations? Can we not forget what it means to be human? Now there’s a “not” that needs to stay put.