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The first time I saw Sheryl Sandberg was a few years ago on CNN. It was around 2 pm on a random Saturday afternoon. I remember sitting up, intrigued by her enthusiastic voice and her bubbly face. There was something about her. Something about her vulnerable demeanor and raspy voice that made it look like she was talking to me or people like me.
“What do you tell people who might think that you are too privileged to understand the struggles of ordinary women?” The CNN anchor asked her.
I don’t remember how Sheryl responded but I remember feeling that that was an unfair question. Why shouldn’t she be able to share the advice that has helped her earn a billion dollars with other women? I remember thinking quietly.
“Lean in” became my mantra. Whenever things weren’t working out, I would remind myself to just lean in. She made it OK to struggle with self-doubt and still raise our hands. I chuckled when I heard her talk of going for a meeting and discovering the lice on her daughter’s head. These were ordinary struggles of many women and I was so proud of her for speaking up. For letting the world know of the challenges women go through while raising a family and trying to earn a living. I nodded when she talked of how most of us resent and judge ambitious women while cheering men for the same.
She got it.
And it didn’t matter to me that she probably had hordes of servants picking up after her. It didn’t matter that she most definitely had private jets at her disposal. She was speaking up for women, and in a world so hostile to women's causes, I could never cheer her up enough.
I felt terrible about her husband’s tragic death. I admired her even more when she bounced back. Her courage to share her experiences and her resolution to continue living her life blew my mind.
But now I don't know what to think.
A couple of weeks ago, word got out that Facebook had hired a right wing propaganda machine to discredit and smear George Soros.
In the months of October and November every year, stories about the holocaust flood German media. I have for years followed these stories and every single time, my heart breaks into tiny pieces. It never becomes more bearable or easier to see the haunted eyes and the emaciated skeletal bodies of the victims of the Wehrmacht.
I’m not sure what exactly drives me to watch or read these stories. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m deeply aware that as a foreigner, I would have been high on the list of those the NAZIs rounded up. Or maybe it’s my self-preservation instincts trying to figure out whether it’s time to duck.
One of the recurring themes in these stories is mixed families of Germans and Jews. I’m curious about these families. Mixed relationships in their nature are in the best of times fraught with mysteries and complications that would boggle most people. But how does one have a relationship let alone marry someone whose community is persecuting his own?
In one recently published book "Apfelbaum", a German actor Christian Berkel tells the story of his Jewish family. His mother, a Jew married his father a Wehrmacht doctor but they don't really talk about it. At some point he becomes curious and asks his parents about who they are. His mother tells him that he is a bit Jewish but doesn’t elaborate. She also mentions that she was in a camp but doesn’t explain that it was in fact a concentration camp. His father who had been a prisoner of war in Russia sings him Russian lullabies but he also doesn't say much.
I was reading this book by a Russian writer Victoriya Tokareva . The genius of the book like most great works lies in its simplicity. She talks about the men in her life. The ordinary misery, the poverty, the love, the betrayals, the alcohol and many other mundane things that make up human existence.