Holocaust Memorial Day: Finding truth in the movies
It is Holocaust Memorial Day and a scene from a movie is playing over and over in my head.
Movies are commonly used as educational tools to help us remember, to help those of us who were not physically there – understand. Schindler’s List is probably the most famous of these and there are countless films of witness accounts. These are all invaluable however the scene I am thinking of comes from a completely different type of movie, one that has nothing to do with the Holocaust and everything to do with freedom. Please take a look (it’s short):
An American woman in Russia is being chased. She runs for her life, to the one place she knows without a doubt, she will be safe – the American embassy. Running, the bad guy getting closer and closer, she screams “I’m an American! Open the gate, I’m an American!” These magic words open the gates of safety for her and she flies into the arms of a strong American soldier. Safety! The soldier closes the gate and faces down the enemy telling him to get away from the gate. No questions were asked, no documents presented and no hesitation. An American was in danger so she was protected.
When I first saw this scene (in 1997) it thrilled me. To me it represented the power and magic of America. The might of America. I believed it. Anywhere in the world, I too could say the magic words and receive the protection of America. The protection of freedom against tyranny.
The world has changed (and maybe I have grown up a bit).
Today, I think of all the Jews who desperately needed protection and were denied. So many ran frantically from embassy to embassy, trying to escape the Nazi regime only to have the gates slammed in their face. And (shame upon shame) the refugees who managed to escape, only to be sent back to Europe, back to their deaths.
I think about the American Ambassador in Libya and how Mr. Obama went to sleep as his Ambassador was being murdered. I think about the CIA operatives who were there, desperate to come to the rescue of their fellow Americans – were told to stand down.
It is wrong to send people to their deaths. It is wrong to order people to allow others to be killed, to be quiet and do nothing. It is wrong to have the ability to help and do nothing. It is wrong to lie to the families of the victims and say: “it’s not our fault. We didn’t know”
On Holocaust Memorial Day people tend to freely throw around the phrase; “Never Again”. Never again will such horrors be allowed to happen. Never again will the Jewish people be dependent on others for rescue. These are nice sentiments but reality is a little bit different.
Strange that the truth becomes so clear from looking at a fictional Hollywood movie. Sometimes things removed from reality make it easier to comprehend the bigger picture…
Imagine if the soldier at the gate in the movie had asked the woman to present documents proving that she was an American and explaining why she was being chased by a local. Imagine if he had told her that he would be happy to let her in but had to ask permission from his superiors first.
Israel is (supposedly) a sovereign nation, here to insure that the Jewish people will always have a homeland, a place where they can find security and protection. On the other hand we are often told by the nations of the world that we should not defend ourselves and that those who attack us, attempt to damage and kill us are justified. In fact it is our “best friend” who has the largest leverage over us and to whom we (supposedly) must look for our legitimacy and for permission when it is time to thwart those who wish to exterminate us.
America was called by her founding fathers the “New Zion”: the new Israel. She was the hope of the nations of the world, the place where oppressed people looked to – at least there, in America, there is freedom. There is hope.
I used to believe in the might of the American government – to do right, to protect freedom. At minimum, freedom for the American people. Benghazi taught me otherwise.
There was no magic in the declaration: “I’m an American”. The American government couldn’t be bothered with the protection of her own representatives. The American people were too busy with reality tv stars, Mr. Obama’s brilliant smile and his wife’s trim arms to care that the promise of America was being flushed away…
Now I believe that hope lies with the individual. Freedom is in the hands of the guard at the gate. It is up to you and me.
In the movie the guard opened the gate to let in the woman. In Benghazi CIA operatives broke direct orders in attempt to rescue their fellow Americans. Holocaust survivors, betrayed by their countries, lived because of individuals who helped them – people who hid them at risk of their own lives, people who gave them food, shelter etc.
WE are the guard at the gate. It is up to us to hold the line. It is up to each and every one of us to make sure that freedom does not die.