Monday, May 5, 2008

One thing leads to another

There's a saying that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. Some things, it's important to remember.

In late 1930s Germany, certain groups were required to wear identifying marks. Jews, communists, homosexuals... it was a long list. Well, one thing led to another, and next thing you know soldiers are stripping these people naked and tattooing serial numbers on their arms while taking delight in telling them that their daughters and sons and mothers and fathers they were just separated from were being gassed to death as they spoke.

In America in 2006, a radio host suggested requiring all Muslims to wear armbands (at the end of the show he revealed the suggestion to be a hoax). Not all, but many of his callers agreed with the suggestion. The incident was posted for debate on a message board I read, with a number of outraged responses. And then... a couple of posters who said, well, of course it was a bad idea, but they didn't understand all this outrage. After all, they were just armbands. What would it really matter?

They really had no idea.

Last night I attended my community's Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance) service. The speaker commented that she had never seen a community come together to observe Yom HaShoah as ours did, that it was more commonly limited to the Jewish congregants. I was very proud of the ecumenical group that put together such a moving event. One of the things I came away with was a renewed sense of the importance of remembering the horrors of the Holocaust: not understanding how one thing leads to another enables a few twisted souls to lead an entire society down a dark, dark path.

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