This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

May 12, 2005 - One Step at a Time

When I was in 5th grade, my family moved from our blue collar, working class neighborhood to an older, established area. The next day we were visited by one of our neighbors, welcoming us.

She gave us something I had never seen before: lox and bagels.

In retrospect, I suppose Mrs. Shklair was the first Jew I'd ever met. I had no particular preconceptions. I just classified her as nice, funny, and bearing the most extraordinary food.

By two years later, lox and bagels had become our basic Sunday breakfast. And we played with the Shklair children.

In college, I traded my first roommate for another, more congenial and interesting. My new roommate was a Jew, also, and through him I learned that the web of parental guilt woven by Jewish mothers more than equaled the work of their Catholic sisters, whom until then, I thought were the champs.

But I don't think it was until the late 1980's that I ran across people who flat out denied the Holocaust. These were the Aryan nation folks, filled with such obvious sputtering hatred and ignorance that it was impossible to take them seriously.

Apparently, many people did, however, some even claiming to be scholars.

The deniers are wrong, of course. Even as the direct eye-witnesses to the truth begin to fade away, the evidence -- photographs, manuscripts, the simple disappearance of over 12 million people (at least 6 million Jews, and another 6 million of various other groups) -- is overwhelming. An excellent response to the deniers' absurdities is the website www.holocaust-history.org.

Or if you still prefer the tangible weight of a book, typing "holocaust" into the library catalog will deliver over 755 matches.

There are time, when reading human history, I despair. It seems we have barely to scratch the civilized creature to unleash the savage. There are those who believe the Holocaust could never happen again, and certainly not here. I think it could.

I fear the cycles of history, the societal surge, just as the memory of one horror dies, to play it all through again.

But the endurance of the human race rests, as always, with the young. And that's my more hopeful topic for this week: a play, written, developed, designed, and produced by a group of Douglas County teenagers. They were gently but masterfully facilitated by Susan Littman -- but she underscores that this original work is the sole product of the young people.

Their name is the Youth Ensemble Series, or YES. They are associated with the Castle Rock Players. Their play, "One Step at a Time," is actually two plays.

It begins with something that I suspect happens in many high schools today: the bullying of one victim by the crowd. One student is assigned to write a report on the Holocaust. And slowly, the students take on the roles of young people in Germany, at the beginning of the Nazi era.

In the next hour and a half, some truly touching stories are told. And finally, it all comes back to today.

The students not only put in a lot of research, they were also visited, and lectured to, by two Holocaust survivors. The play builds on real experiences.

YES already put on one performance. They'll be doing a couple of more. The next public showing will be at the Philip S. Miller on Saturday, May 14, 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.

It happens that Holocaust Awareness Month was in April. But the lessons are still timely -- and timeless.

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