Remember The Future
From the Ottawa Citizen:
Remember the future
November 11, 2009
It is once again our annual day of war remembrance. The day has been "clustering" with other anniversaries: Monday, for instance, was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and also the 71st of Kristallnacht -- the night when, across Nazi Germany, a murderous onslaught was launched against all Jews.
Wars stretch over months, years, sometimes decades; everyone has heard of the "Thirty Years' War," and the "Hundred Years' War," even if they have, thanks to state education, no idea to what these words refer. But Kristallnacht -- "the night of broken glass" -- observed in its way all of the Aristotelian unities.
In a single night, hundreds of synagogues across Germany were simultaneously attacked and trashed, along with thousands of Jewish businesses, by Nazi thugs, led by men in the smartly tailored uniforms of the S.S. Something like 100 Jews were murdered that night -- a tiny number in light of millions to be murdered in the following years, but "it was a start" from the point of view of state propaganda. That night, about 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up, to be sent off to the new concentration camps of Dachau and Sachsenhausen, the spanking new facility of Buchenwald with its smell of fresh paint.
State-controlled media began to prophesy the "final end" of German Jewry, in "fire and the sword." State legislation now banned Jews from public buildings, from public entertainment, from using public transport, from sitting on public park benches. Jews, who had for centuries been the leaven in the extraordinary cultural life of Germany, were now publicly removed, in violence and humiliation, from theatres and concert halls and art galleries and cinemas and publishing houses. Everything they owned was expropriated.
And the good citizens of Germany stood by. To their credit, it appears only a small proportion joined in the vicious assaults. God alone could read the minds of the rest of them; or explain the reply so many gave to allied soldiers at the war's end, when shown the evidence of Buchenwald and Auschwitz: "We never knew."
Canadians are no better than Germans. Human beings are what we are. In similar circumstances, confronted by apparently invincible state power, and in the presence of unambiguous evil, the great majority will stand silently by. An interesting minority will cheer, however.
I sense this when I look at the indifference of the great majority of Canadians today, to real evils that are exposed in our own public life, to the dark encroachments of our own increasingly arbitrary bureaucracies, to the progressive extinction of our liberties by our own Nanny State. These evils are arguably modest on the scale of what exploded in Nazi Germany, but we are utter fools to neglect the rising temperature in our own witches' cauldron.
Let me not drift off-topic. The Jews have been called "the canaries in the mine" of history, and there is profound truth in this. I am struck by this "blurb" from a tract by David Solway, the remarkable Canadian poet (Hear, O Israel! -- just published by Mantua Books):
"Hatred of the Jew is the perpetual vestige of Western resentment and vexation against its own civilizing imperative. This too was Winston Churchill's understanding of Jew-hatred, which he described as Western civilization's revolt against its own central values as manifested in art, science, and political and religious organizations ...
"The spectacle we are observing today -- the reluctance to deal adequately with terrorism, the political contriving against our own best interests, the serpentine efforts to exculpate the enemy, the relativizing of moral principle, the Left's betrayal of its own liberal culture, the renewed 'treason of the intellectuals', and especially the mounting acerbity towards Jews in the court of public opinion, and the isolation of Israel as a pariah state -- is merely the modern instantiation of this long offensive against our very survival."
As a (Catholic) writer who has been called a "Jew-lover" by quite a few phone callers and e-mailers over the years since 9/11, I should like to admit the charge, and stand by the position. The synagogues of Europe have been painted with swastikas again, this time mostly by Islamists; the president of Iran has openly prophesied the "final end" of Israeli Jewry in "fire and the sword" -- and the Chamberlain president of the United States seeks negotiations with him.
As World War II stirred from the ashes of World War I, so World War III seems to stir from the ashes of World War II. On this day of remembrance, we must think of the future.
It is the third verse of that beautiful rondeau, "In Flander's Fields," that we have forgotten:
"Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep."
© Ottawa Citizen