This weekend brings And Then They Came for Me to my hometown’s Civic Youth Theater. With that evocative title, I hope I don’t need to tell you what the general topic of the play is.
But just in case, here goes the versified version:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
If you still don’t get it, stop. Nothing to see here. Move along now.
Then a week later, the local Bach Chorale Singers perform the powerful Annalies, a 14-part work for soprano, chorus and small ensemble based on the Diary of Anne Frank.
The juxtaposition was coincidental/serendipitous/providential. Seizing the moment, friends of the arts have arranged a panel discussion, open to the Public: When they came for me.
I hope to get to the Civic Theater production, and I’ll definitely be there when the Bach Chorale performs.
The panel discussion? Maybe. Out of a sense of duty. With my guard up. And a full shaker, not just a grain, of salt.
On some topics, it seems to me, discussion has hit a dead end. The more earnest the discussion, the deader the end. The Holocaust strikes me as one of those topics.
A young woman of my acquaintance was delighted beyond all expectation a few year ago when I quipped, in response to some seemingly interminable, definitely earnest discussion in our Church, that I just wasn’t getting what the other side was getting at, and that I wondered if they might instead rhyme, dance, paint, sing or film it. Anything but more words, words, words. (Her delight was why I still vaguely remember the episode.)
Bach Chorale’s theme for this, its 51st, season is “Music and the human spirit: making the world a better place one note at a time.” Maybe that’s a little preachy, but I’ll take it.
My greatest hope for the panel discussion is that perhaps the Niemöller poem, the play and the impending choral performance, will liberate imaginations and free tongues from banality, or that the panel will at least truly focus on how the arts can so liberate (if focusing on that in prose isn’t oxymoronic).
My greatest fear for the discussion is that it will tame and domesticate the imagination again after its liberation by art.
Isn’t taming the imagination the deep purpose of most of our discussions?
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(Yes, as a matter of fact, I do own a mirror. And I am getting tired of recidivist prose blogging — even suspicious of my motives for doing it. And the utility of it. That too. Thanks for asking. And if I polish this one more time, I’m going to puke.)
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)