Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A new Holocaust Monument

In this country we've been so consumed with the political hot potatoe of Gay marriage this week, that we've forgotten at the very essence of this issue we're dealing with... people.

At the same time that the California Supreme Court was issuing it's landmark decision on Gays and marriage in another part of the world a city was moving forward with the decision to honour fellow sufferers of a tyrannical period in our human family's history, the Holocaust.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the city of Tel Aviv is moving to memorialize the thousands of homosexuals who died at the hands of Nazis in concentration camps as well as honour those who survived.

When Tel Aviv city councilman Itai Pinkas was in Amsterdam last year, he stared for a long time at the monument honoring homosexuals killed in the Holocaust, sensing its impact was going to stay with him for a long time.
When he got back to Tel Aviv, he took that powerful feeling and raced straight to Mayor Ron Huldai's office to talk. Now, Pinkas and Huldai have revealed the outcome of the meeting: Tel Aviv is going to be home to the country's first memorial to gay victims of Nazi persecution. The public sculpture is slated to go up in the centrally located Gan Meir by midwinter. "Now these innocent victims will be remembered forever," said Pinkas. "There will be a reminder to all of us of what happened in the past, and unfortunately of the persecution that still continues in the present."
Homosexuals were required by the Nazi regime to wear the now familiar of gay pride, the upside down pink triangle. No sure numbers are recorded as to how many were sent to the camps and to their deaths but according to wikipedia the upward limits of German Nationals (not including Czech, Polish, Dutch, French, etc) homosexuals is estimated to be 15000. Again from Wikipedia:
In 1936, Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS, created the "Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion." Homosexuality was declared contrary to "wholesome popular sentiment," and gay men were regarded as "defilers of German blood." The Gestapo raided gay bars, tracked individuals using the address books of those they arrested, used the subscription lists of gay magazines to find others, and encouraged people to report suspected homosexual behavior and to scrutinize the behavior of their neighbours.
(emphasis added) The cynical side of me wants to note with no undue sarcasm that of course those sentiments aren't being expressed in our modern society as evidenced by the rhetoric of the current debate.

The monument that Tel Aviv is planning to build is described as follows from the Post:
Three iron panels, each 5 meters wide and deep, and partially buried, will form a 3-dimensional triangular pit, from which light will stream. Names of the registered homosexual Nazi victims will be inscribed inside in Hebrew, though the actual number of victims and every name is not known. "The pit inside the triangle represents the deep well of hatred that homosexuals faced and is a metaphor as the dead-end of being in a concentration camp; the inability to escape," says Pinkas. A dedication will also be inscribed in English. Assouline's design was selected as "the most creative and simple. We did not want something extravagant."

This monument will join a handful of monuments to these victims around the world, including two within Germany (Frankfurt and Berlin), Sydney and of course Amsterdam.

Of course the critics of those activist judges who have embraced arguments of the unnaturalness of homosexuality, its impurity and ruinousness result on the institute of marriage would never realize that the root of their arguments are the same arguments that just a century ago precipitated the mass murder of not only countless gay men but of over 6 million Jews.

Perhaps it's the shared history of suffering, but Israel, who just celebrated her 60th Anniversary is the most progressive state in the Middle East region and is up in the world on LGBT issues. To tie it into the American controversy,
according to Wikipedia: Israeli law recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. It is the only country in the Middle East and all of Asia to do so. It does not, however, allow same-sex couples to marry. It should be noted that civil marriage doesn't exist in Israel for heterosexual couples, either, and therefore no marriage not sanctioned by religious authorities can take place within Israel. (This restriction forces not only gay couples, but also all mixed-religion heterosexual couples and any person who wishes a non religious marriage, to marry outside the country.) (emphasis added) Israel learned early to not be entangled in the marriage business.

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Gashwin said...

Of course the critics of those activist judges who have embraced arguments of the unnaturalness of homosexuality, its impurity and ruinousness result on the institute of marriage would never realize that the root of their arguments are the same arguments that just a century ago precipitated the mass murder of not only countless gay men but of over 6 million Jews. Goodness, Mattie ... those who oppose gay marriage are now Nazis, and the only way to express one's affirmation of the human dignity of homosxual people is to revamp the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples?

So much for bridge-building, right?

Mattheus Mei said...

That language, the language against homosexuals that is deeply rooted in our western tradition and extrapolated from our shared religious experience is what I'm pointing out. The German hatred for Jews and the final solution as proposed by Hitler was based on secular ideological reasons - purity of race leading to the downfall of Germans after WWI, but the justification always was referenced to the religious roots of the anti-semitism, the Christ Killing Jews. That same language is present in the arguments against homosexuality in general and become even more present in the "reasoning" against gay marriage. Every argument pragmatic argument goes specifically back to religion and acclimations of the sinfullness of homosexuality. That's all I'm pointing out, as to Bridge-building...

I point to the last bit on the state of Marriage in Israel as the preferred model. It's only performed and legitimized by religious institutions. Marriage, no one can seem to successfully argue otherwise, is completely and totally a religious act. It predates the state because religion predates the state. You can't separate or justify the concept of marriage without religion. If perhaps a state wants to offer incentives to certain kinds of couplings for whatever reason, that's a prerogative of the state. But when it comes to the anthropological understanding of the metaphysical concept of Marriage - it's only a religious institution.

Gashwin said...

Ok ... that clarification helps (First para). I was a bit taken aback at first ...

We're also in a situation though, now, where one can acknowledge the human dignity of persons who experience SSA (howsoever they might self-identify), while coming to very divergent conclusions about what public policy.

One of the essences of Catholic teaching at least on human sexuality is that no person can be reduced solely to their sexuality.

What I fear (as much, perhaps, as you fear "religious conservatives" or as you put it, borrowing Andrew Sullivan's language, "theocons"), is the kind of "liberal fascism" which threatens, especially, religious freedom.

As to the second para: yes marriage pre-dates the State. But, obviously, it's not only a religious institution. I'm not sure I like the State of Israel's practices. That's neither here nor there ... :)