Recently, my country had a national election. It was quite the dog-and-pony show. Every party employed a small army of people whose only job was to comb through the Internet. They were searching for any racist, sexist, homophobic, generally inappropriate words or actions that members of the opposition may have ever made (at any time in their Internet history.) The hope was they’d find something that would discredit the opposition with their own words. No surprise! They found quite a lot. (It’s amazing to me that most people still don’t understand the Internet is permanent.) Anyway, once the politically incorrect morsel was found and the offending candidate was “outed” for being offensive, it was always the same drill. The candidate would apologise — claiming youth, poor judgement, a bad hair day, whatever — and withdraw from politics before the Internet lynch mob could sink their teeth into them. This happened several times during the election — except for one candidate.
Here’s how it went down.
One candidate made some very, very politically incorrect remarks about a picture of the gates of the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. She was called on it, and the eagerly offended social media mob began to gather. Now, here’s the game changer. Instead of dutifully feeling shame and slinking off into the darkness, the candidate responded by saying she didn’t mean any harm and she wasn’t actually being insensitive to 6 million murdered Jews because “Well, I didn’t know what Auschwitz was, or I didn’t up until today.” Whoa!
I guess this could happen. After all, Frodo, Pippin and Samwise Gamgee probably never heard of Auschwitz, but they were hobbits and grew up in Middle Earth. For the rest of us, the Holocaust is one of the biggies. We learned about it in school — grade school. Plus, if you missed that week, there have been a number of books written about it that probably mentioned Auschwitz — as well as television programs and films (if you’re not into that whole literacy thing.) Schindler’s List for God’s sake! Besides, one would think, as a political candidate for national office, at some point in her career she might have had a political discussion. That discussion could have featured — Oh, I don’t know — maybe — human rights, major turning points in history, recent acts of genocide, and the name “Auschwitz” could have come up. After all, one of her friends thought Auschwitz was important enough to go there and take a picture. Just sayin’.
But it gets worse.
After she assured the world that she was ignorant not insensitive, there was no general outcry for her to step down. No one seemed to care that if she somehow managed to miss Auschwitz, on the learning curve, she may have missed a few other things as well. In fact, there were a lot of folks actually defending her on social media. Kinda like “Hey, just ’cause she’s stupid that doesn’t mean she’s a bad person.” Or “Making a dick joke about Auschwitz doesn’t prevent her from being a thoughtful and thorough lawmaker who will help direct the cultural and political aspirations of our country — because (as she freely admitted) she didn’t have a clue what Auschwitz was in the first place, nor any idea what its major cultural and political significance is to contemporary civilization.” I’ll just let that last one sink in for a minute.
Because it gets worse.
On election night, the candidate who asked the question, “What’s an Auschwitz?” didn’t get elected — but she did get over 10,000 votes.
I rest my case.