I grew up among Shoah survivors. I consider that experience my inspiration for a life of fighting for justice and against all forms of bigotry.
The motto of survivors was and is, “never again.” This has nothing whatever to do with political affiliation, religion, or the pursuit of some advantage or profit. It is about standing up against injustice and bigotry against any group. As MLK put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” No foot in the door should be tolerated when it comes to this. Even the most civilized of countries can turn to the dark side as we saw throughout Europe in the last century.
This is not a matter of forgiveness or reparations or anything like that. It is speaking up and acting in the face of bigotry and injustice in every case. Considering that our nation has its dark side, this is an essential part of making America its best self. It is essential in other countries too. I have met with people who do this under the worst tyrannical governments – the USSR, China, Uganda (of Idid Amin), P R Congo, the Philippines, and many more. That Pakistan produced a Malala Yousafzi should show us how strong this is.
Back in the days of the civil rights movement we heard these same accusations. The protesters are communists trying to bring America down. The protesters are doing this for money or advantage. The protesters are just trying to make the rest of us feel bad.
Well, I suppose that last part has some truth. However the agonbite of inwit (as James Joyce called conscience) should lead to inspiration towards the ideals of a universal family of humanity, which is a basis of our Biblical tradition. In fact that Bible is all but meaningless in ethical terms without that principle. The Torah repeats 36 times, in various forms, “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (where we were enslaved based on a national security argument by Pharaoh). It was Amos who wrote, “To me, O Israel, you are just like the Ethiopians.” It was Jesus who taught the parable of the Good Samaritan (the Samaritans being a despised people in his day). There is no cover in the Bible for bigotry. The same is true of the Koran. Both sdcriptures have their dark passages, but the principle of a universal humanity is the basis of ethical behavior in our Abrahamic traditions.
When I see the fight against bigotry and injustice demeaned as for profit or political advantage I am seeing attempted justification for bigotry and injustice. This is not about the past, but about the present and the future.
I say these things as someone who has refused to be silent and who to this day stands up against what is wrong and for what is right. That is why the survivors’ motto is…