How The Leopard Got His Spots
The only persecution I have ever suffered is the typical stuff inflicted on short and gawky high school nerds burdened by the double curse of glasses and braces. Having a last name like Pritsky didn't help, giving all the verbal gymnasts a target rich environment. I leave it as an exercise for you to figure out what variations teenage imagination produced.
Our family name wasn't originally Pritsky. It's not entirely clear what we were really called, but it sounded something like "Pritstain". Apparently the immigration folks at Ellis Island misunderstood the name when my great grandfather said it, and wrote down "Pritzky".
So Abram and Sonie Pritzky arrived in New York on January 16, 1913, on a ship called the Main. They were originally from Kiev, Ukraine, and were escaping the brutal pogroms. The tsar and the Russian people weren't all that fond of Jews, you see. Upon arriving in America, the Pritzkys promptly became Christians, just in case American attitudes weren't any better.
Beyond that, the family history is a bit muddy. Stories tell of a brother who came over a decade later, but it seems everybody else remained in Kiev. Not the wisest choice, as Stalin did a number on Ukraine in the 30s. Then the SS came along and reportedly liquidated the rest of the family at a ravine called Baba Yar. Nobody knows for sure if any family members yet survive in the former Soviet Union.
That's Dad's branch of the family tree. On Mom's, there's an interesting mix. The poor Scot-Irish side crossed the Appalachian Mountains in search of opportunity, met the Cherokee, and they ended up intermarrying. Of course the United States, and President Andrew Jackson in particular, wasn't very kind to the natives. Fortunately, my mixed blood relatives were able to "pass", at the price of denying their heritage.
But that's all history. I personally haven't experienced the suffering my progenitors did, yet family lore has helped shape my world view. For example, I see our war with Iraq through a sort of ancestral filter, and do not believe it was right. I'm not making any rational claim here, just a statement of belief--I'll make a logical argument another time.
My family's past has led me to believe that forcing your will on other people is evil, and that killing is the ultimate manifestation of this evil. So invading Iraq was wrong. Then I consider Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Congo. More recently there's Liberia. Should we intervene? I hate to see human suffering, but I can't quite bring myself to believe that we must get involved militarily. I don't think we can force peace on Monrovia any more than we can force democracy on Baghdad. Such revolution I think must come from within.
That being said, I still am unsure. Would that someone had intervened on our behalf in Ukraine, or in Georgia. But I look to Gandhi, who started a non-violent revolution by Indians for Indians. Non-violent action can affect regime change, so long as people take responsibility for their own futures. That's hard. Non-violence also requires you to give up hate and recognize the humanity in the Other. That's even harder, but it can be done. It has been done. And if we're going to solve our problems, it must be done.
So in answer to the question that you have not asked, this is why my blog is called Dohiyi Mir*.
PS--For more perspective on non-violence, I recommend these sources:
* The excellent book A Force More Powerful
- "The definitive history of nonviolent conflict in the 20th century...Popular movements used nonviolent weapons to overcome oppression, obstruct military forces and secure rights and freedom in every decade of the past century."
* David McReynolds' fantastic essay Philosophy of Nonviolence
- "We write and talk about nonviolence as if it were simply a technique. I believe it is much more, that it is a "one-edged philosphy" [sic] which cannot easily be used to defend or advance injustice, and which is of value only if tested in the real world."
* For a practical look at NV action, check out the War Resisters League's Guide to Empowering People Without Guns or Much Money
- "If you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito."
* Okay, if it still isn't clear, maybe this site will help.