Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Whisper of Hope

May 23, 2006

Wow – I’m still in awe at this opportunity. I’ve been struggling with how to and the ability to prepare myself for this trip. I’m very grateful for the orientation here as it has helped me mentally prepare for the trip amidst the crazy schedule I set for myself at the end of the semester. After the orientation as I sit here on the plane a couple of things come to mind. We have been inundated with so much information through our schooling and again as a recap through this orientation that I fear I have become desensitized to information about it. Or could it be as if we’ve just talked about it so much that now I just want and need to experience it? I need to touch the ground and the brick buildings and smell the ash that still remains. It’s like when people try to explain food to you but no matter how much you explain it, can you ever actually taste the food without actually eating? I know that I am lucky and different from many students who are products of the US public school system in that I spent an entire semester studying the children of the in HS and have had the privilege of going through the museum twice while in HS. I know many of the stories and many of the startling facts – sop while hearing all these facts again and hearing this overview, the things that help me the most are those that make it much more personal to me. I know that “putting a face” on an event like this often helps people, but I sometimes need even more than that. I don’t mean to sound or act selfishly by needing a really personal experience, but without it I almost feel paralyzed. For example it really helped me to hear Joe Kelly describe the number of children who died in the ; that every child in public schools in KY, K – 12 would have to be killed twice in order to reach a similar number to those killed in the . I also remember him describing the feeling of entering a gas chamber and touching the door that sealed the fate of so many people for absolutely no reason. It was really good to emphasize the difference between genocides that are occurring today and the Holocaust as they did in their presentation at orientation. Many, not all, but many genocides today are politically driven with some sort of other motive, where the means to the desired end happens to include the murder of thousands or millions of people. But the Holocaust existed simply to rid the world of a race of people simply because they were Jewish. Granted I know, and do not pretend to ignore the thousands and millions of others who also perished in the Holocaust, but just the purpose of this trip, to connect Jewish history with the life of Christianity forces a (needed) focus onto the Jewish portion of the Holocaust. Through courses in seminary and other things I have read, I know how often Jews continue to be scapegoats for not particular reason. They’ve been blame for so many things, wrongly accused throughout history; it’s like society doesn’t know who else to blame. And in this sense, it was a really good reminder that situations like Rwanda and Darfur are often shared with political uprisings or war. So often we may want to say that of course the Holocaust too was accompanied by WWII, but in fact Nazism and its pure hatred of Jews started before Germany entered WWII. The Nuremburg Laws began before WWII and Hitler had a clear propaganda of hatred for Jews. Ken Jacobson of the ADL spoke about this, but I think he brought up an even greater point. He mentioned a quote (by someone I can’t remember) of the Clinton administration concerning Darfur and the quote basically said that the reason Clinton didn’t get involved with Darfur was because there weren’t enough people who said it was an issue. There are wonderful things about democracy, but downfalls as well – unless the people pose a concern about important issues, then most of the time politicians won’t pay much attention. For good or for bad, they pay attention to what the people say is important. Although not a democracy, was this the case in Germany? Were there just not enough people who knew mistreatment of human beings was wrong or were there some by they just weren’t loud enough? Or did the Nazi party just have that good of a system that silenced these people right away that they never had a chance to sound their voice? Would I have been willing to use my voice if I were in Europe at that time? Or would I have been so immersed in a society that was condemning tolerance that I would have just gone along with it all? I almost feel like this pertains to my “calling” a bit. I still struggle with the idea of a calling because I always want to remain humble rather than feeling special and chosen – but in the same sense that I feel some sort of calling, I hope I would have felt like I would have needed to make a difference back then, the same way I do now. I know it is a calling because I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing anything else with my life. Even if I would try to do something else with my life I know I would never have been happy doing something else. In the same way I hope I would have just known that what was happening was wrong. I hope that I wouldn’t have been happy with my life without doing something and saying something about the inhumanity leading up to the Holocaust. But at the same time I don’t want to come across arrogant – sounding as if I know I would have made a difference and done something about it, that I would have resisted. And ALL in the same breath, should I speculate as to how I would have reacted or is it even worth the time? With an eternity of speculation, can I ever truly know what I would have done if I had lived during that time? Will I ever be able to say I would have been strong? Will I ever be able to say that I could have been a survivor? Can I ever really KNOW how I would have acted, or just hope that I would have acted a certain way and hope that I would have been that whisper that was heard through the shouts of hate and inhumanity?

There were MANY songs that we heard throughout the trip - and this was the first of those many - I've tried to include Podcasts when I have them... so if you would like to listen to the song click here and read along with the words below... (you may have to open a new window)

“6,000,000” – Words & Music by Hank Fellows

In the peaceful mountain valleys
Long after the Second War,
Stand the silent wooden barricades
That held my people long before,
And the wire too has rusted down
That help them from the start,
And the meadows are filled with
Flowers, perhaps one for every heart.

I can almost hear the words they
Might have spoken,
I can almost see them
Standing bent or tall,
I can almost hear their
prayers of love unbroken,
But I cannot stop my tears,
For I can never hear
The words and deeds that
Might have saved them all.

I have seen old newsreel photos
Of men so famous in their time,
I have heard their noble speeches,
Seen parades of grand design,
But I can only stop and shake my head
That men not so long ago
Could close their eyes and turn away
When my people needed them so.

Chorus (Same as above)

And I could almost bear the
weight of all my sorrow
If I felt their lives had
Not been lost in vain,
But I see the world today,
And still tomorrow,
And the story’s just the
Same, the hatred and the pain,
And people die while the
World just looks away.

I can almost hear the words
They might have spoken,
I can almost seem them
Standing bent or tall,
I can almost hear their
Prayers of love unbroken,
But I cannot stop my
Tears, for today I still can’t hear
The words and deeds that
might have saved them all.

No I cannot stop my tears,
For today I still can’t hear
The words and deeds that
might have saved them all.

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