EXACTLY WHO SHE WAS and where she came from and what she was doing in that apartment is something I do not know. I think she was a relative, a cousin, maybe, but she may not have been. I was a child and she came to a relative's house right after the war when waves of airplanes were returning from Europe and one night, when they flew over, the lady cringed and grew white with fear. She had to be told that they were our planes and the war, after all, over over. Nowadays she would be blamed for overreacting.
It is hard to remember anything more than that, I remember a general sympathy for her, an understanding of what she had been through, a consenus among the adults that she would never be the same - whatever the same was.
She had gone through a certain kind of experience and the experience had changed her, marked her, and she would therefore look at things differently than we would. It was that simple.
I bring this up now because it is a lesson that once learned should not be forgotten. Only it is and it is by me sometimes, and it happen when I write about blacks and women and it happens to otherw when they deal with Jews or Poles or American Indians or whatever group has earned a right to be specially sensitive.
What happens is that you forget that some people have earned their way of looking at the world - earned it the hard way, and that they have a certain right to ask you to prove yourself.
When it comes to blacks, for instance, what you are getting now is the attitude that their gripes are not real or, even if they once were, they no longer are - that history has made it all passe, such a bore. It was the sor of thing you heard at the height of the frenzy over Bakke when whites could not understand why blacks saw the suit as a threat and it happens even now when you get a snicker of condescension when some blacks yell political purge and point at the trail, say, of Rep. Charles Diggs. The snickers ignore the fact that this is exactly what happened in this country time and time again.In other words, when you are black, the word paranoia loses it meaning.
The same is true with Jews. We see, for example, the term "Holocaust Complex" creeping into the language, applied with some frequency when it comes to Menachem Begin, the prime minister of Israel. What exactly the term means. I can't begin to explain except that it trivialized a horrendous and tragic period of history, making it sound almost as if it did not happen. You cannot, almost by definition, overreact to the Holocaust. This does not mean, though, that Begin is always right.
With Poles, something similar is at work. They are accused of not having a sense of humor when they fail to laugh at jokes that characterize them as stupid. Amercan Indians are considered a bit unreasonable in their demands even though they have been sold down the river more times than there are rivers. As for women, many of them are condemned for their single-minded insistence that the law be made to reflect the thinking of the 20th century and that their rights as people be respected.
In many respects, this is the tough, and the reason I am writing this column, really, is that I recently wrote one about the Equal Rights Amendment - how it would be nice to have it and how it would clean up the law how it wouldn't make much of a difference one way or the other. There was. I think, a touch of condescension in all that, the notion that the fight, as I and other men had defined it, was over and it was time for the zealots to retire from the field. The movement, knock on wood, had trimphed.
But having written that, I went off a couple of days later to a friend's house where there were three men and four women and where, after a while, an argument erupted over the progress women have made recently. The men took one side - the side of reason, we thought - and the women took the other side - the side of emotion - and we men were pretty secure in our argument until one of the women opened up.
She is a lawyer and she said simply that she did not want to hear how women are working their way up the ladder and that someday they will emerge as leaders, inheriting, if not the earth, then at least their half of it. She spoke instead of her fight for equal rights, equal treatment, equal opportunity, and how the brightest women of her college class went out into the real world and floundered, going nowhere. Maybe they typed or did research and research and many of them, of course, simply chucked the whole thing. The same people who robbed these women of their futures are still around. You cannot blame women for asking for some constitutional protections.
The thing of course, is that the lady was right and we men were wrong. We were doing what so many people do when they deal with certain groups - ask them to act in a manner that we would consider reasonable but would be unreasonable given their experiences. It is a strange situation for these groups - guilty once, say, for being a woman and then guilty years later for reacting to this discrimination.
It's called double jeopardy and it's supposed to be unfair.