Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Get Over" the Holocaust?!

In response to a disrespectful, shameful opinion piece in the Beacon:

The truth is, Weinreich does not advocate "forgetting" the Holocaust, he simply advocates allowing it to become part of the historical record, doing away with the visceral reaction it evokes in most people. As people rail against "forgetting", Weinreich may sit and smirk in self-righteous contentment, thinking that he never advocated that, and "can't people read?" However, he is still wrong, and the amount of common sense Weinreich ignores leads one to the conclusion that the purpose of this ill-conceived piece is primarily to create a stir and promote the visibility of the author and publication as "cutting edge".

First of all, I doubt the author would ever have the temerity to publish such a piece about the Armenian Genocide. Much as the proverbial Jewish bus driver deriding the haredi he meets for being so "different", and t...hen apologizing profusely upon learning that the man is Amish, Weinreich probably feels a certain comfort level with the material of the Holocaust, and his familiarity has bred a certain level of casual disrespect and, yes, even perhaps some contempt.

In reply to Weinreich's substance: historical events are slowly scabbed over and eventually scar at their own pace. Indeed, the destruction of the Temple, the massacres at Massada, York, Medina, the Crusades and Inquisition, the Chmielnicki Massacre, all these atrocities are remembered by the Jews. However, given time and rebuilding, the acuteness, or freshness, as Weinreich calls it, of the memories, is replaced by historical context and often, religious meaning. This is a natural process that we can witness as occuring in relation to our own personal tragedies and troubles. It is also a psycho-social reality on a national level. So, the very process Weinreich so coldly suggests happens on its own.

However, the crucial difference between Weinreich's proposal and the natural occurrence I describe above is as follows: When this process occurs naturally, it is part of a healing process that gives perspective and comfort. But when it is demanded before its natural process has barely begun, it is inflammatory, self-promotional and repugnant. As a writer who (to be most charitable to Weinreich) hopes to help the national consciousness of the Jews on the road to recovery, he ignores the needs of the nation and the magnitude of the damage done. The very fact that many read his piece as suggesting that we "forget", shows just how untimely his writing is. It is an obscenity.

Parenthetically, it is important to remember that Jewish tradition is full of rites and rituals whose purpose is to assist in this process. The shock element of the laws of Aninut (one whose close relative has just died) leads to Shiva, a period of mourning, which leads to progressively less intense periods of remembrance and sadness. It is important to remember however, that Judaism keeps personal and national days (Tisha B'av for example) to revive and freshen the memory of tragedy and evil in our minds. We are never to allow the events of our personal and national lives to become desiccated history. Even with the natural process in place, we are supposed to break out of that from time to time, each year, to remember the events in a real, fresh, immanent way. So Jewish tradition and religious imperative recognizes the scarring and healing process, and supports it, even as it sets aside certain times to recall the events memorialized in the full color of their experience.