List do redakcji
Tom and Andrew, dzien dobry;
Since my name was mentioned in the articles written by you in recent issues of the Polish Weekly, I direct my comments to both of you.. Here it goes:
As American citizens, and as responsible human beings looking for the truth, who are not willing to be misguided and manipulated, and who are trying to be fair in their judgments, you must follow certain principles in thinking and argumentation.
Principle number 1. One has to know the facts. Opinions change, fads tend to disappear; facts remain. Sometimes, it is difficult to know what the facts are. However, in this country and in many others in the world, one can discover the facts through reliable sources, if a serious attempt is made. Of course it may take time and effort to do so.
Principle number 2. One must be objective. One must struggle against believing things simply because they are acceptable, or because they give a feeling of satisfaction, superiority, or pride. We all accept certain things more readily than others. But, we do not conduct serious research in order to boost our self-satisfaction. We do it to find the truth, even when the truth is not welcome. We are surrounded by lies: lies by businesses, lies by politicians, lies by crooks, even lies in history books and, yes, lies by governments, especially in time of war. To accept arguments without checking their validity is a childish pursuit which does one no credit either as a person or as a citizen. Here, I would note that it is a mistaken sort of patriotism which proclaims, “my country right or wrong.” Such an attitude has no place among an enlightened population in a democracy.
Principle number 3 involves logic. The most important errors in historical discussion fall into this category. Some people do not see the need for logic and for putting one’s arguments on a factual basis. Then they make mistakes in judgment. It stands to reason, for instance, that in drawing a comparison between two situations, one has to be sure that there are more authentic and significant similarities than there are authentic and significant differences. Tom’s comparison of the Battle of Monte Cassino to the Battle of Fallujah misses two main ingredients: the reason for the war, and the relative strength of the opponents. At Monte Cassino, Poles believed that they finally were able to fight on equal terms with their German enemy for their national survival after Poland had been virtually destroyed by the two overwhelmingly superior forces of Germany and the Soviet Union. The war in Iraq was, as our president said in Cairo, “a war of choice”, and it was waged against a very weak opponent.
Principle number 4. Most of us think we know what is fair, what is just, what is morally acceptable. Most of us would like to conduct our lives along these lines. To do it, we have to be absolutely clear about what the truth is and about the moral ramifications of the situations we encounter. Otherwise, our lives will not make much sense. We must not excuse immoral action, whether committed by government or, for instance, by an employer, simply because “might is right” or because this action leads to success. Power of imagination is especially important here.
Finally, I would like to address a specific problem of Polish families.
First of all, although I am glad that you both say that you respect Polish culture; I would point out that you cannot respect what you do not know. To feel real respect for it, you have to be able to answer serious questions regarding that culture. Are you able to do this?
Most people agree that denigrating any culture, or country, is unacceptable. If you hear accusations that are not based on fact, or are perhaps even malicious, you should try to correct them. The fact that other ethnic groups engage in such activities should not justify similar behavior on our part.
If some older Polish immigrants still live in the shadow of WW2, you should understand that such events do not fade away simply because they happened a long time ago. In this country, the remembrance of the Holocaust is still very much alive. There is hardly a day that it is not mentioned in the media. And who could blame the victims for trying to keep the memory alive? The resolution to “never forget” does not handicap them in their lives. They, and their lives, are informed by the past – not entrapped by it.
The problem for Polish gentiles is that, while every American child knows about the horrific experiences of Europe’s Jews during WW2, Americans, in general, are basically ignorant of the fact that in Poland, under the German occupation alone, 3 million Christian Poles perished along with 3 million Jewish Poles. Ignorance about the Polish experience with Soviet rule is as bad or worse. It is this wide spread lack of historical knowledge that makes some Poles so bitter.
Keep up the good work, both of you
Anna R. Dadlez