Sunday, May 16, 2004

From Silence

I haven't posted much (if anything) of substance this week. Not even much of no substance.

Some events, some images, demand more than I can give at first. The tortures in Abu Ghraib prison, the decapitation of Nicholas Berg, these have left me stunned and silent. I still don't have my own words to speak of them.

But I have found some words that convey the horror, pain, and determination I feel. They are all from Elie Wiesel, who survived Auschwitz.

I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.

I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I've been closer to him for that reason.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.

Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.

Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.

No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.

Not to transmit an experience is to betray it.

Some stories are true that never happened.

The act of writing is for me often nothing more than the secret or conscious desire to carve words on a tombstone: to the memory of a town forever vanished, to the memory of a childhood in exile, to the memory of all those I loved and who, before I could tell them I loved them, went away.

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.

There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.

We have to go into the despair and go beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else.

But where shall I start? The world is so fast, I shall start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large, I had better start with my town. But my town, too, is large. I had best start with my street. No, my home. No, my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself.

"I love silence," Katriel continued. "But beware; not all silences are pure, or creative. Some are sterile, malignant. My father can distinguish between them with ease; I only with difficulty. There is the silence which preceded creation; and the one which accompanied the revelation on Mount Sinai. The first contains chaos and solitude, the second suggests presence, fervor, plentitude. I like the second. I like silence to have a history and be transmitted by it. My father and I ... my wife and I ... we can sit together whole evenings without exchanging a word, and yet, when we get up, we know we have told each other all there is to tell. If I have not succeeded with you, it's my own fault. I accept the blame and beg your forgiveness."

Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.

The third rope was still moving: being so light, the child was still alive...For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, the same man asking: "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice within me answer him: "Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows."

A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent.

Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.

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