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Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Quiet Americans" by Erika Dreifus

You will go to Germany. You will go, after years and years of refusing to go (even when you traveled through the rest of Europe after your freshman year of college), just as you refused to learn German until circumstances (that is to say, graduate school requirements) forced you to. But if your grandparents, may they rest in peace, managed to go back and visit, way back in 1972, then you can go. You will be practically next door in beautiful baroque Central Europe for a conference; you really should go while someone else has paid your transatlantic airfare. So you will.

     You are an American. You are a grown-up. What’s to worry about? Even now, even this summer of 2004, when your own homeland needs security, and every time you watch the news you’re afraid you’ll hear about another suicide bombing on a bus in Israel.

     You talk with your best friend before you leave. You say: “I don’t know which is worse, at this point. To be an American in Europe—or to be a Jew.

     Your best friend is also an American Jew. She also has European-born grandparents. Hers survived a total of seven camps. Your best friend doesn’t have an answer.

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