28 January, 2009

Shouldn't Never Again Actually mean Never Again?

In a recent article, Irwin Colter wrote (emphasis added):
"For as we remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust - first defamed, demonized and dehumanized, as prologue or justification for genocide, then murdered - we have to understand that the mass murder of millions is not a matter of abstract statistics. For unto each person there is a name - unto each person there is an identity. Each person is a universe. As both the Talmud and Koran teach us, whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire universe - just as whoever has killed a single person, it is as if they have destroyed an entire universe. And so the abiding imperative: that we are each, wherever we are, the guarantors of each other's destiny."
Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. 60+ years after the end of WWII one has to question where we are. Did the Holocaust teach us anything? When we look to modern day examples of the Holocaust we turn to Rwanda or Darfur. And yet, in the DRC we are under half a million people from having the largest genocide in history...

For unto each person there is a name - unto each person there is an identity.

It is something that is too often forgotten - to each victim there is a name, an identity, a family, a life, a story. We live in this contradiction - at no time in history did people know so much about the world. There are very few (if any) corners of the earth that someone isn't trying to get the word out about what's going on. And with technology becoming more available and things like blogging and youtube - all one has to do is be a little persistent and we can find out what's happening anywhere in our world. But with that freedom of knowledge has come a backlash of turning people into a cause and labeling them. You are just a person with AIDS, you are just someone attacked by the LRA, you are just someone living through the conflict in Sri Lanka, you are just _____. We forget that to each woman raped in the DRC and in Sudan and anywhere around the world (1 in 4 women in the US will experience sexual abuse by the time they're 18) they have a name and their rape is different because it is theirs.

Another unfortunate consequence of the information overload is people's pain becomes a causes which become trendy and people only care until someone else can bump something else into the spotlight. So we start comparing kids in Northern Uganda to cups of coffee and turn Darfur into a media campaign. But does any of this lead to real change? Or do we all just agree to be "displaced" for a night and then go back to our comfort and say we care?

Colter continued:
And so, it is our responsibility to break down these walls of indifference, to shatter these conspiracies of silence - to stand up and be counted and not look around to see who else is standing before we make a decision to do so; because in the world in which we live, there are few enough people prepared to stand, let alone be counted. Indifference always means coming down on the side of the victimizer, never on the side of the victim.

Standing for something, going FOR justice, always means going against the grain. It's being consistent for something until it changes. It means rallying Congress every week, not just once a year. It means changing how you live - denying yourself something because it cost someone else their freedom/life/innocence. It means standing for something - not just when it is cool or when people agree with you. It means consistently fighting for something - moving in the same direction with the same message until change occurs.

What in your life would you be willing to be the
ONLY PERSON standing for?

Indifference has a new name - it happened when we allowed tragedy and pain to be turned into marketing campaigns, justifying it to say we just need to reach an overstimulated culture.

And this is just one example of what I'm talking about...

Maybe as we remember the Holocaust we need to remember the intrinsic value each person has. The values to live in safe, security, with basic necessities, free from violence and exploitation. Maybe as we reflect back on the Holocaust and Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Palestine, the DRC, etc. we need to stand for making the Declaration of Human Rights a reality. What if we cared enough about another person's suffering, displacement, abuse, reality - to give up our cell phones - to band together and put pressure on the cell phone companies to ensure only conflict free coltan was used in mobile electronic devises? Or what if this President, who pushes so hard on equality and transparency, put an embargo on Chinese imports until an independent source can prove no child labor ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD was used to make their ultra-cheap products?

What if we all realized how cheap talk is and actually lived in a world where people acted in deliberate, humble, edifying, strategic ways, ready for the long hall?

What if any of us actually learned anything from the Holocaust except how to look back on it with sadness and nostalgia?