“In the months following Hitler’s ascension to chancellor, the German writers who were not outright Nazis had quickly divided into two camps – those who believed it was immoral to remain in Germany and those who felt the best strategy was to stay put, recede as much as possible from the world, and wait for the collapse of the Hitler regime. The latter approach became know as ‘inner emigration’.”
~ Erik Larson In the Garden of the Beasts
“There is always a choice – either the possible or the impossible one.”
The Book of Rhino
I was involved in “inner emigration” a few times during the course of my teaching career. Once in a while an administrative change occurred that was not compatible with teachers’ preferred methods of teaching. When that happened, some teachers – usually those who were close to retirement – left the profession. Others, like myself, receded inward and taught as quietly as we could in order to avoid detection. We taught under the radar of administrative oversight. Once in a while, inspectors would visit classrooms, clipboard in hand, to check on what teachers were doing. Because my students were so successful academically, I could ignore the checks against me.
I recently realized that I am experiencing another inner emigration right now. For the first time, since I started voting in presidential elections, I am keeping all but the most innocuous opinions to myself. For the first time, I am unsure of how they will be received among friends and family. For the first time, I hint and dance around issues until I sense it is safe to talk about them. And like the inner emigrants in Nazi Germany, I am waiting for the whole thing to be over.
It is very strange to find myself in this state of emigration. I have always voted for issues – the economy, education, the environment and especially social justice – rather than for a particular candidate or political. Because of this, I have voted for nearly every party at one time or another. While I never broadcast my vote, I was always comfortable taking about the issues that determined it. But not this year. My inner emigrant is urging me to keep quiet. In today’s current political climate, I am no longer certain what is safe.
“Berliners came to practice what became known as ‘the German glance – der deutsche Blick – a quick look in all directions when encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street.”
I think with inner emigration one practices a mental version of der deutsche Blick. The impossible choice I am facing this election year is not on any ballot. It not deciding which issue I consider most important. It is determining how and when, where and to whom I break my silence.