There’s a lesson that comfortable people always seem to forget and always seem to have to relearn with misery and blood. As Benjamin Franklin said best, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
In 1943, the Jews of Europe had been betrayed by those who did exactly that, and were paying the price for Europe’s physical cowardice disguised as appeasement and America’s moral cowardice disguised as isolationism. They learned the one lesson that so many of us forget — that all we really can rely on are ourselves, and our obligation to action lies only in ourselves. As Camus noted with Sisyphus, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. “ Even though we are often doomed to fail in many of our endeavors, the effort and the goal are sufficient in themselves.
And nothing is more true about that than the nobility of the victim who stands up to an oppressor even though he or she knows that the effort is doomed. In the midst of the greatest abomination of the 20th century, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto displayed the spirit that redeems humanity. As Marek Edelman, a survivor, notes,” “No one believed he would be saved [… ] We knew that the struggle was doomed, but it showed the world that there is resistance against the Nazis, that you can fight the Nazis.” Too many people today are too willing to accept evil for the sake, not of safety, but mere comfort. Today would be a good day to offer a prayer in remembrance of their spirit and of what can grow if people do not recognize and oppose evil.
Edelman notes that in spite of the moral cowardice of Democrats like Obama and Clinton today, America continues that tradition:
Interviewer: Not a day seems to go by in Iraq without a terrorist attack, and in the last few days two Polish soldiers and a Polish journalist have died.
Edelman: And do you know any war where nobody dies? I don’t. Alas, it’s in man’s make-up; there’s a fatal flaw there that makes him kill, for pleasure or over some silly beliefs.
Interviewer: So this war is one over some silly beliefs?
Edelman: Now, now. Who started killing people? Americans didn’t invade a wonderful democratic Iraq. There was a dictatorship there, torture, terror.
Interviewer: But there are people who say it’s not our business.
Edelman: And whose business is it? Every war with fascism is our business. In 1939 there were also many people who said that the war in Poland was not their war, and what happened? Great nations fell because politicians listened to those who were saying that it’s not worth dying for Gdansk [Danzig]. If only we’d intervened militarily after Hitler re-entered Rhineland we probably would not have had the war and the Holocaust.
Interviewer: Many people do understand that, but they don’t understand why the Americans have to go to the other side of the world and fight over Iraq now.
Edelman: And why did they go to Europe then? Who defeated Hitler and saved Europe from fascism? The French? No, the Americans did. We thanked them then because they saved us. Today we criticise them because they’re saving somebody else…