Wednesday, May 14, 2008


(Irena Sendler, 1943, after escape from Pawiak prison)

I have a couple of postings at other sites to recommend to you, especially if you want hope (not the slick packaged kind) and inspiration.

The first is the story of Irena Sendler, "credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some of them in baskets", who died last Monday at age 98. Ma Vie in KC (a sister lesbian blog) has a great photo of her. Other feminist blogs have been writing about her, and the Life In A Jar: Irena Sendler Project site has other ways to continue her work of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

I've previously written about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising here at Zog Nit Keynmol.

(Sara Tucholsky got a lift from Central Washington's Liz Wallace, left, and Mallory Holtman. Photo by Blake Wolf.)

My second ardent recommendation is to view the video concerning Sara Tucholsky at Group News Blog. I'll copy in their New York Times excerpt identifying her:

Ms. Tucholsky plays softball for Western Oregon University, but in her high school and college careers, the 5-foot-2 player had never hit a home run. On the last Saturday in April, in a game against Central Washington University, she hit her first home run over the fence. But as she began to run the bases, a misstep resulted in a torn knee ligament and she couldn’t continue.

The umpire mistakenly ruled that a team member couldn’t run in her place or assist her around the bases. A member of the opposing team, first baseman Mallory Holtman, the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, asked the umpire if she and her teammates could help Ms. Tucholsky run the bases. He said they could, and Ms. Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace carried her around the field as she gently tapped her uninjured leg on each base.

This means that the competing team who assisted her on her home run LOST their chance at the Division II NCAA championship. Go watch the video and hope each of these young women move on to assume positions of leadership in our world, because they are the best we could have.


shadocat said...

Thanks for the props, Maggie. This story was the first I'd even heard of Irena Sendler, so I think it's up to us to spread the word about what a remarkable woman she was. And that picture---just captures her spirit, doesn't it?

tenacitus said...

Not always, in some games competiotn is stornger.

Maggie Jochild said...

Tenacitus, I think what gets defined as altruism vs. competition is undergoing revision out there. We've been in the grips of the old beliefs about "nature red in tooth and claw" for a long time, and this conviction that human beings look out for number one first has buttressed all kinds of immorality, like war, slavery, etc. But it may just be a case of (a) who's doing the reporting and analyzing? (can't trust the white imperialist's account of the places they want to colonize, can we) and then (b) rationalization after the fact on the part of those who've been left for dead.

Like the Jews who were cast out of Spain and Portugal, huddling in the Ottoman Empire and rewriting Genesis to come up with Tikkun Olam, i.e., g*d made a mistake and that's how come we keep getting trashed. As children, we defend our parents even while they're trying to kill us. Which is the biggest act of altruism of them all, perhaps.

Anyhow, it's an idea I keep coming back to, as epigenetics and brain study keeps forging new territory. I've touched on altruism in other posts, which you can read about at Up To You (there's a link in that post to another related post as well).

I also want to point out something that bears at least noticing: In both these instances, the individuals risking their lives and/or standing were women. I'm NOT going to make an essentialist argument that women are more generous than men, but I would agree that some significant pieces of female conditioning encourage us toward self-sacrifice. Which can be for good or ill, depending on how it plays out.