It’s About Numbers
In a recently published biography of Witold Pilecki, author Jack Fairweather reveals another of the many astonishing stories that keep coming out of World War II (The Volunteer: One Man, An Underground Army, and the Secret Plan to Destroy Auschwitz). Pilecki was a member of the Polish resistance that had hoped to stop Adolph Hitler from colonizing Poland. In 1939, shortly after the German army rolled into Poland, Pilecki intentionally let himself be captured in one of the German dragnets. His plan was to be imprisoned in Auschwitz, as insane as that sounds given what we know transpired in the camp.
At the time, Auschwitz was not the mechanism for organized mass murder of Jews that it became. Pilecki was a Christian, and like many of members of the first wave of prisoners, he was someone who had a stake in Polish society. Doctors, lawyers, educators—the Nazis considered many of them an impediment to the subjugation of the Polish people. Hence, the need for imprisonment.
In the early pages of this amazing biography, we learn that death in Auschwitz was not yet handled using assembly line methods, but it was still nevertheless prevalent, and often violently random. The workers were told that their diet would only permit them to live six more weeks. The Germans had a formula for the calculating how many more months someone would live: 5,000 divided by the daily caloric deficit. If starvation didn’t get a prisoner, it was a good bet that the brutal work routine, the cruel kapos, or pneumonia or lice would do the job. In the end, once the inhumanity began, it led to increasingly greater levels of inhumanity.
The Nazis kept Auschwitz a secret. They forced prisoners to write letters home telling how well they were being treated; they developed schemes to fool the International Red Cross; and they demonized those who were imprisoned, systematically turning different segments of society against each other so that those on the outside viewed the work camps as a means to a better end.
Sound familiar? At this time, what is happening on the United States’ southern border doesn’t compare to what transpired in Auschwitz’s early days, but given the already deplorable conditions in the detention centers, the United States, as a country, is headed in that direction. Donald Trump demonizes immigrants—in his eyes, they are stealing jobs from native born Americans; they are rapists; they are drug traffickers; and they are violent criminals who band together in gangs. These sub-humans—the Other—aren’t entitled to brush their teeth, eat a solid meal, sleeps on a comfortable mattress, or see their children, who have been removed to separate facilities despite laws and court orders that prohibit such separations. For Trump’s base, this is good policy,. After all, Trump has continued to rail against the “vermin” that are infecting the nation despite the fact that the vast majority of these people prepare our food in restaurants, work the farm fields, perform manual labor in our building trades, and do all sorts of other tasks that members of Trump’s base would never do.
It is for these reasons that I was so disappointed in today’s demonstrations protesting the ICE roundups that start tomorrow. The Women’s March turned out hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago. The March for Science wasn’t as successful as the Women’s March, but tens of thousands rallied. I went to the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., so I didn’t see how many people turned out for an affiliated march in Chicago. I do know that somewhere between 800,000 to 1,000,000 were on the streets in in D.C.
Given recent events, including Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to two detention centers on the southern border this past Friday, I am deeply troubled today’s march only drew from 5,000 to 10,000 demonstrators, according to police estimates. More than half way through this nightmare of Trump’s presidency, there should have been hundreds of thousands of people in Daley Plaza and the surrounding streets today.
Ridding ourselves of Trump is a numbers game. Visibility is what it is all about. Numbers attract the media and counter Trump’s daily antics designed to spread his divisive narrative. The citizenry of Chicago—those who stayed home on a summer Saturday morning—were pathetic today. The same can be said of our leaders. Where was Governor J.B. Pritzker? Where were Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth? Where was my congressman, Mike Quigley? Where was Chance the Rapper and other Chicago celebrities?
Our new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, decided to skip the demonstration, claiming that she was needed in the neighborhoods. Nice try, but she was needed more in Daley Plaza. The need for urgent action needs to be made clear to the population at large.
We hear that getting young people to vote is critical to defeating Trump. If that is true, we are in big trouble. While there were young people in the crowd, the makeup skewed old.
The people who were in attendance were enthusiastic, particularly given the sweltering heat, together with the bright sunlight piercing through some scattered cloud cover. Medical teams and cooling buses were present, providing aid to anyone who was overcome by the conditions. I sat on the ground in front of the television cameras to avoid blocking their sight line. I felt like an egg in a frying pan. I put one of my cameras in my backpack because the metal had become too hot to even touch. After 90 or so minutes of predictable speeches, I was ready to walk with the demonstrators to Chicago’s ICE office at Clark and Congress just to get off the stone pavement and into the cooling shade of the buildings lining the six or seven block route.
Usually people congregate at the end of one of these demonstrations. Not today. I never saw a crowd disperse so quickly. The drivers on the inbound Eisenhower certainly benefited from the conditions. The police had closed the exit ramp that lead to Congress for somewhere around 45 minutes to an hour by my estimate. Had the crowd congregated on Congress, those poor drivers could have been stuck in traffic for hours.
At the end of the day, Trump is prevailing. The vocal minority had come out once again. The other 99.9% of the population remained anesthetized.
[Click on an Image to Enlarge It]
Daley Plaza About 25 Minutes Before the Program’s Commencement
Showing Some Love
Frontwards or Backwards, It Says the Same Thing
Camera Operators Checking Sight Lines
Hmm, Something is Going On
The History Book is Always Repeating Itself
“Close the Camps”
The Fabulous Nuccio DiNuzzo
Michael McDermott Takes the Mantel from Pete Seeger
Two Veterans Confer on Stage: Jesse Jackson and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
“Families Belong Together”
Congressman Jesus “Chuey” Garcia Makes a Forceful Point
A 12-Year Decries the Deportation of Her Father
Impassioned Illinois Lieutent Governor Juliana Stratton
Some Still Believe in the Country’s Founding Principles Despite Trump’s Daily Tirades
Taking to the Streets
Two Peas in a Pod
The Marshals Separate the Media from the Marchers
The Police Lead the Way
The Hardcore Leftists Were Present
Beating It Down the Line
“Sanctuary for All”
Butterflies Are Forever
Passing Under the ‘L’
Abbey Road Walks As the Eisenhower Exit Ramp Is Closed for the March
Signs Left Behind
Photographer Notes: I am now a contributor to GFX Magazine. Here is my experiential review of the two Fuji GFX medium format cameras I used today: https://www.gfxmagazine.com/post/can-you-do-medium-format-photojournalism-with-a-gfx-100.