By Beryl Wajsman
This has been quite a week. As we write this it is Remembrance Day. It has a special resonation this year with the terror attacks that resulted in the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo. In this dark and dangerous era, we always remember how much we owe to those who chose courage as we wrote in this space last week.
This past Sunday, we were reminded of courage yet again. As nations in the free world had official commemoration ceremonies for their veterans, many also celebrated yet another victory of freedom. Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and for those too young to remember that time please read our Robert Frank’s important piece on the page opposite.
Yet just as the recent Canadian deaths cast a shadow over our Remembrance Day, so too was there a shadow over the celebrations of the fall of the Wall. For this past Sunday was also the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken of Glass”, the Nazi pogrom against the Jews of Germany that resulted in the burning of some 150 synagogues, the destruction of thousands of Jewish-owned homes and businesses and the murder and maiming of over 10,000 Jews.
These events are metaphors for our time. They teach us that even amidst commemorations of victory, we need to be vigilant in our resolve that they never recur again. Soldiers’ courage must always be accompanied by an engaged citizenry conscious of the responsibilities of freedom. And aware that liberty is fragile.
Just as today’s theocratic tyrannies unleash mayhem on the free, so too do we still witness state sponsored lies against Israel, the frontline nation in the west’s existential battle against today’s new “ism.”
And with the UN’s General Assembly and its other bodies like the Human Rights Council controlled by dictators and despots, the need for an informed and involved commonweal of free people is greater than at any time since the fall of the Wall. The World War and the Cold War may be over, but the tactic that incited and sustained the enemies of freedom then—the tactic of the Big Lie—is still very much in evidence and in use today.
That tactic perverts truth, radicalizes many to terror and nullifies the innocent. All is not right in this world. Yes, we should join in the celebrations of freedom, but let us never forget that Kristallnacht did not start with bullets but with words. And so did the first genocide of the 21st century—Darfur.
The sonorous drumbeat of history goes on. And the antidote to the words of hate, of exclusiveness, of nullification is not more law. It is individual vigilance. Individual responsibility. Individual service and sacrifice to defend the just; promote the truth and eradicate evil. The kind of service and sacrifice our veterans showed and our soldiers show today. Against all odds, a vigilance that will never give in!
The words today may be more nuanced, more subtle, clothed in perverted legalisms, but they are just as deadly in their impact. Does mankind learn? Hard to say. What can be said is that despite mankind’s fleeting encounters with courage and conscience — as we saw in Berlin 25 years ago—the pendulum of history seems to rest too long and in too many places in the Berlin of 76 years ago.
One yearns that the appeasers and the cowards and the haters will be vanquished. But we can never be sure of that. We cannot yet allow ourselves the luxury of basking in freedom’s glow without remembering tyranny’s shadow. For that is our only surety that Kristallnacht will not be a metaphor for all time.
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