Monday, January 26, 2009

There, But For God

In the closing scene of the show “Cabaret” (as currently performed at the NewRep Theater in Watertown, MA), the Kit Kat Girls all slap a Star of David on their chests, and the male dancers appear as Nazi soldiers. There are times in one’s life when you have a ‘there, but for God, go I’ experience and I think Jordan must have felt that way. When she put on the Star I saw she had tears in her eyes and was clearly moved by what was happening –despite the fact that it was only a show.

It would be extraordinary not to have this happen at least once in a lifetime. For me it has happened three times. The first was when Allison Krause was shot and killed during the Viet Nam war protests at Kent State. During those very volatile years I made it a point to go to as many protests as possible. We even took over a college library, but it was Emerson College and no one noticed. It was a time of protest but it was also a time when young people were divided about the war. The National Guardsmen who shot Allison were also young people. Some would have been in school but were serving their reservist time. Everyone was frightened and however it happened, the shooting started and four students were killed. Allison Krause, however, could have been me – which I realized when her teary eyed father appealed to the people who were calling her a traitor and other horrible names, to stop it. Allison was student exercising her right to protest. In fact, it is still unclear if Allison was actually protesting or she was merely walking across the campus and got caught in the cross fire.

The second time it happened was when I was visiting Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in the concentration camps. We were walking through the museum and there was a picture of a family taken from the rear. It was a mother, father, and two small children standing on a hill. Behind them were about ten uniformed men with guns clearly aimed at them. For whatever reason, and although the children were older than I, my heart started to beat and I felt scared. “It could have been me”, I told the tour guide. “And it can be again”, she replied.

The third time I felt this way was the other night when I saw my daughter standing with a yellow star on her chest. What would we have felt if, in fact, we had to watch our children suffer the humiliation of the Nazis and, in so many cases, die. I must confess that I am always confused when I hear that Hamas mothers send their children off to die
in suicide missions. The one thing I know is that Israeli mothers would never send their children on suicide missions. While they understand the need to fight for survival, they would never say, “Here’s a nice breakfast. Now go sacrifice yourself and kill a few people on the way.” We could argue about whether or not the Israeli’s overstepped and bombed the wrong facilities. But we could also argue about whether or not Hamas fighters hide in places which they surround with civilians, so it appears the Israelis are targeting women and children rather than inadvertently killing them in a bombing. Who knows? But if the value of life for these people is such that they send their children to kill and die, chances are there is no value of life – only religious fervor.

As a mother, happily sending any child to die is very hard for me to grasp. As a human rights advocate, it is additionally difficult to cope with the idea that anyone would deny the right to live free to another human. But I feel sure if more people felt the ‘there, but for God, go I’, there would be a whole lot less of ‘there, because of God, I have to go.’ We’re just sayin’… Iris


Anonymous said...

Thank you Iris! I only widh more people everywhere thought likewise....

Anonymous said...

I hope we never turn our back, because it could happen again.