Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Author: Harold Pollack
Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.
On a lighter note than the previous post–I enjoyed wandering Paris art museums, taking close-up pics with wide-open aperture. Narrow depth-of-field isn’t always best, but it sometimes creates striking effects with a simple 50mm lens.
I wept Sunday, placing stones at various Holocaust memorials at Paris’s Pere Lachaise. I cried remembering various survivors I have known, many now deceased: The neighbor up the street, my friends’ parents growing up in Rochester, NY. the math professor Lipman Bers, who introduced me to multivariable calculus many years ago. He reminisced in class about the Big Ben-style clock in Prague’s old Jewish ghetto. It ran counter-clockwise in homage to the Jewish tradition.
As human beings and citizens, we have such an obligation to oppose cruelty, discrimination, group hatred, and dehumanizing rhetoric. In every form. Always.
A four-year-old with her toy basket and cute yellow boots plays with her father in the sand. She has no way to understand–not that the rest of us really do, either that the spot on which she is playing was once a killing field, Juno Beach, where so many brave Canadian troops were subject to withering German fire on the morning of June 6, 1944.
Our tour bus from Paris hit the usual sites. Memorials to Allied soldiers pepper the area. We saw no memorials to their German adversaries, who fought all too bravely and well for an unspeakable cause. I cannot honor these men. Yet they, too, left much behind.
Like many of my contemporaries, I was a childhood World War II buff. I’ve probably read a hundred books on World War II since I was a child. I learned world geography from the battle maps of American Heritage accounts of Midway, Stalingrad, and the Ardennes. So I was intimately familiar with our guide’s account of the logistical feats and planning missteps in Operation Overlord’s first day.
I knew of the bombing runs missed, the amphibious vehicles than had sunk. I knew about the currents and tides led many of the invaders to arrive a fatal thirty minutes late or to land a fateful few hundred-yards from their intended site. The greatest and most consequential victory of American arms since 1865 was, at ground level, bloody chaos, replete with tragic mistakes and accidents that led thousands of men to die.
I knew about the American Rangers who rappelled the steep face of Pointe du Hoc, while German troops on the ridge above slashed their climbing ropes and rained down grenades. I did not, until Saturday, know what that rock face looked like from above.