We lost Holocaust conscience Elie Wiesel over this Independence Day weekend.
I believe that his purposeful life may continue to have gravitas for us, even on this festive occasion for our great country. You see, Elie Wiesel lived much of his life seeking to remind people much too young (or not too young, but prone to forget), how something like the Nazi extermination of Jews could happen. And could happen again.
He feared our tendency to put history in neat little display cases, as if its events were rare or singular. Yet, nothing about the Holocaust was, or is, singular. He would live to see even more nightmares over the balance of his 87 years.
As a side note, Elie Wiesel was a professor at Boston University while I attended, and while I never took his class, just seeing him around campus was moving to me. His Nobel prize, before they started handing them out like coupons, really meant something.
Now, without putting words in his mouth, and with great respect, may I borrow Wiesel’s warning to say I think we could use someone like him today, to scold us into not “norming” the mounting tolls of dead and maimed at the hands of radical Islam. We are still shocked by the numbers of dead in Istanbul, Orlando and so forth, but let’s be honest. We move on…faster. It takes higher numbers of dead to get our attention. And when it happens “over there”, we think, well, that’s…what happens over there.
Elie Wiesel was not a military or political man. He was a conscience. He knew that civilization would always seek the solace of moving on, and thus, tragically repeating the worst of its history.
If we get used to ISIS body counts, hundreds of missing children in Africa, the systematic destruction of Christian holy sites and the erosion of personal liberty, if we “move on”, we are doomed.
In his 1960 “Night”, he wrote:
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
I believe: To move on or get used to ISIS doing its thing every so often, as opposed to declaring zero tolerance and pledging its unconditional defeat, would be akin to killing those victims a second time.