As a Holocaust scholar, I am deeply disturbed by indifference. I have a lecture that is based solely on the dangers inherent in not caring or choosing not to see what happens to people who become invisible to dominant groups. It can happen slowly and insidiously in which we turn our backs and close our eyes to people in our own community who need help. Our community can be the whole world. Or our nextdoor neighbor.
It is the test of the character of any society as to how they treat the downtrodden and the “others” among us. The fact that we even have an us/them mentality creates the possibility as well as the likelihood that “they” will be treated at best unfairly, and at worst…well, I think we know what worst can lead to. I am consciously attempting to focus regularly on areas in which I can lend a voice, a hand, a dollar to assist those people who need a voice in their own support.
Many historians believe that there are no lessons in the Holocaust. That to know a man can throw a baby in the air and use her for target practice, or bury a young mother alive, or starve an elderly couple offers us no redeeming lessons in life. I believe that the lesson must be that we cannot allow indifference. We have voices, and we live in the United States. We can offer that voice to our political representatives, our clergy, our family, or our friends in support of anyone who is discriminated against because of race, creed, color, religion, cultural background, nationality – anyone. I will continue for the rest of my life challenging myself not to be quiet in the throes of hatred and indifference. I hope that you will join me.