Thursday, September 7, 2006

Lessons Forgotten: Survivors Bear Witness

Yesterday, I went to the following extraordinary event at the New York Tolerance Center: Lessons Forgotten: Survivors Bear Witness. This event paired together survivors from the Holocaust (Fred Margulies), Oklahoma City (Richard E. Williams), Rwanda (Eugenie Mukeshimana), Darfur (Yahya Osman), and 9/11 (Manuel Chea) to discuss their shared experiences, how they healed, and how to combat hatred. I was crying when three of the survivors spoke: the survivors of the Holocaust, Rwanda, and Darfur. I did not like the man from 9/11 (Chea), who kept on speaking of Jesus, and then bordered on antisemite when he spoke of a morality tale where Jews did not help their fellow man. I also did not like how he immediately said he felt sorry for Muslim Americans - a people who have power to change their circumstance if they spoke out against extremism and hatred, but are, for the most part, silent. So I asked a question, mostly aimed at him, but which was answered by the Holocaust survivor (Margulies) and the Rwanda survivor (Mukeshimana). My question was..."You speak of love and tolerance, but how can one be tolerant of intolerance? Namely, radical Islam uses the cover of religion to justify their actions, and calling them on their atrocities is often politically incorrect. So how does one combat such hatred with love, when they seek to destroy us?" Margulies wisely said that he is not tolerant of intolerance, and never implied it. However, the goal is to teach love and tolerance to those who can be reached. The goal is to stop the spread of hatred, rather than to convert the unconvertable. That made a great deal of sense to me. Mukeshimana said that the bottom line answer is not to be tolerant of intolerance, but rather, to not let hatred overcome any of us, because then they win. If we fight fire with fire, then we are all burned inside. She said that in Rwanda, the monsters who slaughtered so many innocents are now living again in that country - often side by side with those who they terrorized. She said that while she may feel anger inside her, to go over there and, say, slaughter those who slaughtered so many, would mean that in some way hatred wins, and it never stops the violence. She said the best way to combat this all is to lead a good life. I take some issue with what Mukeshimana said. It means that the bastards are never brought to justice. It means that there is no justice. It means that the monsters live another day, possibly to slaughter more. It means they never learn their lesson, and THAT means they would feel free to slaughter again. I think that the only way to combat the monsters is to involve some military force - because they only understanbd military force. But at the same time, we cannot become like them, and use torture in our force, or deingrate to their barbarism. I have to say, that the event also brought into focus the atrocities currently going unabated - for a variety of reasons - in Darfur. I have highlighted some of the Sudanese president's utterly insane statements. This man is a mass murderer, yet he is offended that his autonomy might be taken away...autonomy to kill more! And no one cares about the atrocities in Darfur, because, hey, it's black people killing black people. If white people were killing Sudanese - if say they killed 1/10 the number who have died (400,000+ have already been killed, so that would be 40,000 people), there would be protests around the world. You would see angry mobs waving flags around, burning flags, and creating a general mayhem. Hell, if even 1% of the number of those who were killed in Sudan were killed by white people, regardless of the reason, you would see the same result! See: Lebanon. It's sad, it's depressing, and I think it also is all tied into the soft bigotry of low expectations. But anyway. I do care about Darfur, and I am horrified at what is happening, unabated, for a variety of reasons - mostly because of the efforts by China, Russia, and Qatar to block UN Security Council resolutions) So I urge you all to visit the website of Osman's organization - Darfur Rehabilition. Please, get involved, spread the word. There is a genocide perpetuated by Islamic fundamentalist monsters in Sudan, and this has to stop. Lastly, I met this fabulous female Holocaust survivor at the event. She is one of the strongest willed people I have seen - she reminds me of my grandmother, who is also a survivor. She spoke up during the event, saying that the Bosnians were not victims, because they killed so many hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, and never had to pay for this. She is right, of course. And we shouldn't forget who led these Bosnians to slaughter the Jews - none other than the original Palestinian monster, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. We cannot forget the links between Islamofascist hatred and Naziism. At the conclusion of the event, the five panelists were asked if they were able to foresee a time when there will be no more genocide. They all uniformly said no, but that we have to teach people love and tolerance, one person at a time. Sadly, I agree. if the vastness of history has proven anything, it's that mankind is inherently drawn to war, and that lasting peace in the world is impossible. All we can do is change hearts and minds one at a time. And that's largely why I started this blog.


felix said...

Thanks for asking the right questions.

Red Tulips said...


Thanks! I also think that there should have been an Israeli victim of terror at the event, but c'est la vie.

Manuel said...

Hi Red Tulips,

This is Manuel Chea. Funny how I find your blog and comments on the panel discussion that I was part of. You mentioned that my morality tale on Jews not helping as bordering anti-semite. Yet you failed to mention that I only paraphrased the well known parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus on that tale (and he was teaching a Jewish crowd) did say that a Priest and a teacher of the law did not stop and help a man who was robbed and left for dead. Subsequently a Samaritan did come and help and save the man's life. The point of that tale was that someone of a different ethnic and religious tradition displayed what Jesus was teaching about "loving your neighbor as yourself" and wasn't a criticism of Jews. What he was teaching here was that we must consider the concept of "neighbor" that our neighbhors are not only people of our own ethnicity, or our own faiths, or nationalities. The concept of "neighbor" as Jesus taught meant that we must love people of all kinds of ethnicities, faiths, nationalities, gender, etc. If my paraphrasing of the parable gave you the impression of "borderline anti-semitism" then I must apologize.

Don't forget that I tried to extrapolate the concept to the present time by pointing out in general that I heard of cases of individual Israelis helping an injured Palestinian and vice-versa. That is as I explained were real life examples of loving your neighbor as yourself.

As for my comments about Muslims Americans, I did not say I felt sorry for them but that I felt sorry for any backlash against them as a result of 9/11. I have no qualms with you saying that they should also speak out against extremism and hatred. Yes they should.

Your question was a very good one and I'm not going to top Fred Margulies's answer which was superb. But I will say that to me tolerance does not extend to those who commit acts of hate and so Mr. Margulies is correct in saying that he does not tolerate intolerance. We cannot change them and I agree with Mr. Margulies in saying that we should work to stop the spread of hatred.

I talked about forgiveness but that also is in the context of letting go of my own sense of anger, bitterness, and desire for retribution. Unfortunately, the time given to the panel to speak was short and so I wasn't able to elaborate further. I did also say that forgiveness of someone like Bin Laden does not mean that I do not seek justice. Forgiving Bin Laden does not mean that I absolve him for what he's done. He must answer for his crimes and suffer the consequences. I would certainly agree with you that "those bastards must be brought to justice."

Once again, the time alloted just wasn't enough for all of us to elaborate and I have to pick and choose what to focus on. So I chose to focus on loving and accepting one another regardless of our differences, and to spread this concept one person and one heart at a time. As a Christian, certainly I used Jesus to highlight this concept and nothing more.

Thanks for your comments in this blog. For me it is feedback and I do wish we talked afterwards. I think you would have realized that our views are really not as dissimilar as you might think.

Red Tulips said...

Mr. Chea:

I am shocked that you found this blog!

I am touched by your response. I tried to find you afterwards, but didn't get to speak with you.

Your response here was thoughtful and touching, and I thank you for it. In fact, your response makes me glad that I have a blog. I am going to copy and paste your incredible response and put it on the main page - because I think it is that important.

Thank you again, and I am glad the misunderstanding was cleared up.

With deep regard,

Red Tulips