Will Ignorance Rule?
Will we allow ignorance to threaten the success of the Twenty–first Century? Is hate motivating leaders of today? When this occurred in the 20th Century, our total existence was threatened. Hitler and his henchmen came very near destroying freedom and annihilating an entire race with the "Master Plan." Complacency and appeasement almost cost us our future. Will my generation repeat past mistakes, or will we generate a future of compassion and tolerance?
I want to live my life on "the cutting edge" where prejudice and anti–Semitism has no place: I want to share in a culture that is rich and diverse in religion, ideas, and creativity. By reviewing the past, we must help others see how vital equality is.
We cannot allow indifference to slip into our communities. When we allow one injustice to occur, we are breeding hate. Eastern Europe might have saved millions of Jews, but a chain of indifference and lethargy created disaster. Denmark citizens allowed only 51 of its Jews to die because they actively involved themselves in rescuing the threatened. Denmark made a plan without regard of their own lives to save neighbors and even people they had never net. Aggressively opposing injustice is always the right answer: In Schindler’s List, Stern quotes the Talmud; "He who saves one life, saves the world entire." This quote eliminates the excuses of "What can I do?", and "I’m only one person."
The people of Europe would have revolted against the horror of Concentration camps had it been the first step of Hitler’s aggression. But Hitler’s "Master Plan" was much more sophisticated than that. He took ‘baby steps’ at first to desensitize his surroundings. He used the guise of, upgrading Germany’s quality of life by degrading the Jews and other "undesirables." Millions of Aryans saw nothing wrong with sharing their misery with other groups during the Depression. Eventually they had been so indoctrinated and hardened; all atrocities seemed okay for "the cause." This concept is all too–often repeated in today’s society. The principal of tearing down to build their ‘side’ up is an international problem. We can not turn our heads.
We must provide opportunities for all children to be exposed to the past horrors of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It is our responsibility to show the next generation examples of children who suffered and died in the Holocaust. We must show the faces of countless innocents who had no future. They must be presented with stories of the one in ten who did survive, only to realize they were homeless, hopeless, and orphans. The dangers of complacency must be addressed. In this case, awareness is hope. It is never too early to learn that prejudice is unacceptable, and that prejudice must be relevant in all our lives.
We must deter and then eradicate ethnic and religious bias by patterning for young people. They must see daily acts of kindness and cooperation. During the holocaust, different religious groups were fractured. Catholics and Protestants sent mixed messages to the young. Many families "sold out" to the most convenient way. They chose complacency over Godliness. For instance, a priest or preacher might offer aid to one of the "targeted groups." He might recruit help from his parish; but one might be an informant. This would break up the rescue efforts and cast suspicion on the whole resistance. When fear and desperation set in, ignorance runs rampant. When this occurred during the Holocaust, a mania started. It became easier to allow whole families to disappear without questions being asked. Parents and young adults of today need to make public awareness a vital issue. Reading articles about hate and the Holocaust won’t be enough. What children see from parent and older siblings will be the integral part of how the young will view our future.
Equality is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. Varian Fry aided in rescuing hundreds of victims. He began his dangerous escapade using his two week vacation. He had no formal training; but he was willing to go to World War II France and do what he could. Mr. Fry could have chosen to take a relaxing vacation; but he didn’t. None of his qualified friends would go, so he volunteered. He will be "long remembered" because of his extraordinary acts of kindness and bravery. It was not the easy path, but it definitely brought him into "righteousness" in my eyes.
The pathway of least resistance may also be the pathway of destruction. We must present these truths by using examples of heroism to educate and inspire my generation. Miep, Anne Frank’s friend; when interviewed after the war said, "We did what we could. We were not heroes. We were ordinary people." To me, there was nothing ordinary about them.
My generation must be constructive and creative in finding new methods of asserting equality. We must teach the young that narrow–minded, demented individuals can also be intelligent and cunning. The McVeighs; Husseins, Hitlers, and Mussolinis of this world are still very real. Harvesting hate is easy. The challenge is moving my generation in the right direction. Equal opportunities and guarantees for all personal freedoms are the answers to the future.
We cannot allow our future to be tainted with ignorance. We must realize that the decisions made today will set the direction of the future. The shadow cast by the Holocaust must be remembered. We must use the Holocaust to strengthen our resolve of NEVER AGAIN. We must be in the equality "business." To translate Martin Luther King Jr., "Prejudice anywhere leads to injustice everywhere." Hate or Hope? It is our decision.
Bettmann, Corbiss B. "Secret Angels." READ. 20 March 1998: 12–17.
Fry, Varian. Assignment Rescue. New York: Scholastic incorporated, 1968.
Jackson, Livia B. "I Have Lived a Thousand Years." READ. 20 March 1998: 4–11.
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