(SCENE: A lecture room at an esteemed university. As 30-odd students take their seats and set up their laptops, Professor Evelyn MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS welcomes an older man, Avram COHEYN – a frail 80-something man with thin white hair covered by a Yarmulke. COHEYN sits on a chair next to the professor’s podium.
MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS: Class? (Din gradually subsides). I’d like to welcome Mr. Avram Coheyn to the class. He’s a native of Poznan – do I have that right? (COHEYN smiles and nods), and he’ll be talking with us about his experiences in the Holocaust. I’d like you to give him your undivided attention, and come up with some good questions for him at the end of his talk. Mr. Coheyn?
(Class applauds politely as COHEYN rises)
COHEYN (speaks with faint Polish-Yiddish accent): Thank you, Professor Munchenberg-Scroggins. And to all of you, also, my thanks. I am Avram Coheyn. In Sosnowiec, Poland I was born, in 1929. And from 1941 through 1945, in a variety of concentration camps I was kept. By the Nazis…
(Corey KRETINOWSKI, a 21-year-old political science major, leaps to his feet).
KRETINOWSKI: Godwin’s Law!
COHEYN: (Stops, puzzled).
KRETINOWSKI: Godwin’s Law! He mentioned Nazis! (MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS shifts uncomfortably in her seat)
COHEYN: Er – what is this “Godwin’s Law” of which you speak? Of this I have not heard…
(Jane PLATT-WANCKER, a severe-looking 22 year old anthropology major, rises): “It’s a law on the internet or something. When you mention the Nazis you get banned”
(Ian BIMMLER, a 21 year old Victimology Studies major in a “Che” T-Shirt): It’s the law that says when an argument goes along, there’s going to be someone who wrecks it with a Nazi reference”
KRETINOWSKI: So, dude, your argument is shut down because you mentioned the Nazis.
(Stacy KREEFELD, a 21 year old Womyn’s Studies major with a “Question Authority” button on her Mao cap): I think it means that your argument is done.
KRETINOWSKI: Whenever you mention Nazis, everyone gets to tune you out because mentioning Nazis means you don’t have an argument!
(A few students clap, while a few others look on, confused, and others stare blankly at their desktops)
(Bree EPSTEIN, a 20 year old Sociology major, speaks up): Mr. Coheyn, I don’t mean to lecture, but perhaps you should try to tell your story without any references to Nazis. It might make your argument better.
COHEYN: An argument? What is this, argument? I’m telling my story! When I was 13 year old, my family and I were rousted from our home in Poznan, and force-marched through the cold to the railyard, and packed onto trains by the Nazis…
(KRETINOWSKI, KREEFELD and BIMMLER simultaneously yell): Godwin’s Law! Godwin’s Law!
KREEFELD: You keep mentioning Nazis! Godwins Law says that means whatever you’re saying is invalid!
COHEYN: What? What is this madness? Do you mean that saying the name of the…(catches himself)…National Socialist German Workers’ Party (a few students trade puzzled looks) means I get you crazy kids yelling “Godwin whatsis” at me? This do I have right?
(A few students nod).
COHEYN: When I was 15, I escaped from a concentration camp. A year in the woods I spent, fighting with the Partisans, fighting so that what we went through, my children and their children and my childrens children freynde would never forget – and now, to me you say I can’t say “Nazi”…
(Several students): “Godwin’s Law!” (A few titters of juvenile mirth follow)
COHEYN: …without your verkachte yapping? Distinguished professor Munchenberg-Scroggins, for this you have to say what?
MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS (Looks up from iPhone): I can see both sides, here.
BIMMLER (Shouts): This is what democracy looks like!
(A few students clap and cheer).
COHEYN: What? Millions died, my family along with – and because of some stupid internet rule, their names I can not mention?
(Students fidget, looking amongst themselves)
COHEYN: Because from what happened there are probably some things we can learn! That there are things we, today, can learn about that ordeal, do you not see? Huh?
COHEYN: With this I am finished!
(COHEYN stomps from the room, as the shadows and sun form, completely at random, a series of shapes on the window that read “While invoking Nazis can be lazy rhetoric, lazy invocations of “Godwin’s Law” are, if anything, a bigger hurdle to effective communication, in that they give the invoker an unearned sense of intellectual accomplishment” before disappearing. )