Saturday, January 7, 2017
Daily Beast article cites post-election Vergangenheitsbewältigung
Gladys Garcia sent me a heads-up on New Year's Day that there was an interesting article in the Daily Beast (see linked piece) that used the concept of the compound word Vergangenheitsbewältigung (the process of coming to terms with your past). The article used the term in a very different way than Gladys did in her book. It's written by Sabine Heinlein, a German-American, who has lived in this country for many years. She noted the many press reports of the rise in hate and race crimes since Trump's election and her own personal experiences with xenophobia on the streets of New York. She writes about how Germany, after the atrocities of WWII, learned a much greater sense of tolerance (for the most part) from that experience.
"I have plenty of problems with Germany, but its people’s willingness to speak their minds and stand up for others isn’t one of them. Whatever you do, in Germany the public good trumps your individual desires.... Germans have also worked hard to understand how the unspeakable happened. They have one of those unwieldy compound words for it: Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or “the process of coming to terms with your past.” The concept includes a duty to intervene when another’s dignity or life is in danger."
Heinlein says that this should be lesson for Americans to step up and confront any racist acts, bigotry or hate crimes that we see. Interesting to see this long and complex word used in such a different context.