If They Had Only Known: If We had Only Known, and Now that we Do

Carol Smaldino
8 min readDec 1, 2021

Once upon a time, I sat in a history class in Brooklyn College where a largely Jewish group of students fervently argued the case against the bulk of German citizens knowing about the Holocaust and about concentration camps. It couldn’t have been, we insisted, and we really didn’t want to know that it could have been. We didn’t want to boycott German products like the loden coats we loved and we didn’t want to hate or blame. Maybe at 16 it was too much to handle and maybe it’s still too hard.

Right before Thanksgiving, on November 23rd, I read the following in a Washington Post by Timothy Bella, under “breaking news”:

“Kevin Strickland exonerated after 43 years in one of the longest wrongful-conviction cases in U.S. history

The Black man convicted by an all-White jury in a 1978 triple murder in Kansas City has spent over four decades in prison”.

Mr. Strickland was 18 when arrested for a triple murder he did not commit. The one eyewitness recanted but went unheard, and died at 57 before she could testify for this round of arguments. The two men convicted for the murders had reached out to swear Kevin Strickland had no role in the killings but they were unheard, their offerings discarded. Law enforcement and then the jury wanted the conviction and the case closed. And so it was.

No hoopla or significant discussion in my neck of the woods after this piece appeared, even from friends and colleagues I consider very progressive.

Just before the piece on Kevin Strickland, on October 28th in the New York Times by the stalwart Carol Rosenberg, there was the following:

For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites

“In a sentencing hearing, Majid Khan, a Pakistani who lived in suburban Baltimore before joining Al Qaeda, detailed dungeonlike conditions and episodes of abuse.”

I quote, in some length because I feel there is the need, and I note also that this is a man who forgives his torturers and refers to the love imbued in him by his practice of Islam:

“Mr. Khan gained attention with the release of a 2014 study of the C.I.A. program by the Senate Intelligence Committee that said, after he refused to eat, his captors “infused” a purée of his lunch through his anus. The C.I.A. called…

Carol Smaldino

A psychotherapist, a New Yorker living between Colorado and Italy (in good times) I am passionate about the role of emotions and awareness for evolving,sanity