We were also busy with the end of the school year, a Kindergartner graduating to 1st Grade, preparing for camping this coming weekend in Ohio, and other items.
We've also been preparing for our own celebrations with the EuroCup 2012 almost here-think American Superbowl but with Polish flags, snacks, and screams and chanting over several Soccer games instead.
Everything has been going well.
And then I woke up this morning.
And read this: President Obama misspoke on 'Polish death camp' during Medal of Freedom ceremony: White House (From NY Daily News)
And this: Poles Demand Obama Apology For “Polish Death Camps” Comment (BuzzFeed Politics)
And this: "Polish Death Camps"-Mind Your Language (The Economist)
And this: "Poland Seeks Apology for Obama Holocaust Comments (Chicago Tribune)
These are just a couple of countless American Media articles regarding this. If you can read Polish, check out and see the nationwide reaction of outrage at being so insulted. See the front page of Rzeczpospolita, filled with stories about Poland's outcry. Countless other Polish language newssites also have this as their feature story.
Essentially, US President Obama, while posthumously honoring Polish hero Jan Karski for his heroism during WWII, called the camps "Polish Death Camps".
Jan Karski was the man who snuck into Nazi death camps in occupied Poland and snuck back out to report to the US and other world powers to report the atrocities he witnessed there.
The White House is attempting damage control by saying US President Obama "misspoke" (Associated Press article).
Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s statement on the words of United States President Barack Obama
This subject is serious enough to have the Polish Embassy in DC's website include a
Against Polish Death / Concentration Camps: A How-To Guide for a year now. Please read it to familiarize yourself with the various terms and their explanations, why reactions are what they are, and how to help in making a change.
I am no politician, I am not suave nor diplomatic. I speak as an average US citizen born in Poland. And I need to share how I feel about this. Here is the communication I will be sending to the President myself. Most likely, he will never read it but at least I stood for what I hold true.
Dear President Obama:
Regarding the phrase you uttered, "Polish death camps", I have to tell you that I am hurt as a Polish American. When the New York Times and other American media sources make this mistake, I am outraged, yes. But they are nobody in comparison to you.
You are the President of the United States of America. There is no more prestigious position in the USA than your position. You represent America. You represent where I moved to, the country, the politics, the society, everything. You carry a heavy burden.
And there is no excuse with such an important position to say such a thing as "Polish Death Camps". It's not OK. It's not you "misspeaking".
Your speeches are written carefully, combed over for grammatical errors, guffaws and worded in such a way as to not offend anyone. Your speeches are written to be sure that your points are crystal clear and not subject to interpretations. They are checked over by others to be sure of that.
How could this happen? Surely, your grasp of the events of WWII and who was the perpetrator and who was the victim is accurate and complete. You are, after all, the President of the United States of America.
In case you don't get it, because I have met many in my time who also don't get it, let me explain once and for all why the words "Polish Death Camp" are so wrong, hurtful and blatantly insulting.
The Death Camps in Poland were not envisioned, created, organized or run by Poles. They were run by German Nazis who invaded and occupied Poland. Poland was not a perpetrator, Poland was a victim.
The English language is not a complicated one. Using the word "Polish" before the phrase "Death Camps" implied one and only one thing-that they were envisioned, created, organized and run by Poles.
I've met many people who believe that Poles were the perpetrators in WWII, that we killed the Jewish people, that we ran the death camps, that Auschwitz was our heinous monstrosity. Perhaps you were unaware of this. But it's a very common thought. And saying words like "Polish death camps" enforces their misinformed view of history, even if you didn't mean to.
Saying "Polish Death Camps" slaps a nation which was victimized in the face. It states that you are either uninformed of how the English language works and/or WWII history, or that you are insulting them. It is nothing else.
To be President of the United States of America means that you cannot use the excuse of being misinformed. You are the President. Not an intern, not a cashier, not an accountant nor any other position.
And this being done at an event honoring a Polish hero who did more than most men could.
Let me be clear, Mr. President. I voted for you. I was more inclined to vote for you again than for Mitt Romney. Much more so. You had my support until this. Without a formal apology, my vote will go elsewhere. I cannot stress that enough.
My children look up to you. They know who you are and know your story and view you as an important person to draw inspiration from.
But this cut. This cut deep. So deep, I cannot put it into words eloquently.
Just know that Poles and Polish Americans everywhere are hurting over this and brushing it off that you "misspoke" does nothing.
What you should do, I don't know. Damage has been done. But whoever proofed your speech did a horrendous job of it. Good luck, Mr. President, you are going to need it.
Note: This letter is also going to be public for others to read.
If you are interested, you can send your own letter to US President Obama here.
Also, an official petition to the White House for an official apology can be signed here. Please sign and pass through your network.
I get it, American English is a language filled with shortcuts. Presumed shortcuts which we often know what they mean, such as "Y'all", "Ain't", "What's Up", etc. I use some of them as well.
But when it comes to diplomacy, when it comes to making yourself completely understood and making sure not to offend, you can't use shortcuts. Perhaps that's what President Obama was doing.
However, we live in a nation where our drive-thru coffee is clearly labeled "Warning: Contents May Be Hot". Coffee, which we assume to be hot or else why would we order it, correct?
So, if we need our coffee labeled with a warning sign that it's hot, why would it not also be apparent that our political officials and our media should use language which is clear, correct and not full of linguistic shortcuts?
If that is what happened and not that our President actually believed them to be "Polish death camps".
What do you think?
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