The Washington Post is hosting a contest to determine America's Next Great Pundit. Almost 5,000 people submitted op-eds to become one of ten finalists, who will now go on to duke it out in a Survivor-like competition. The ultimate winner gets a column in the paper for 13 weeks. Considering one of the finalists is a Nobel laureate, it's not much of a surprise I didn't get chosen. In any case, here's my failed submission:
I recently visited the Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem that memorializes the victims and honors the countless heroes who resisted the Nazi genocide. The museum cuts like a chasm on top of Mount Herzl, creating a near-overwhelming feeling of constriction as the walls close ever tighter around you. By the end, it’s hard to breathe.
I thought I had left the Holocaust behind me when I returned home to the United States. I was wrong.
Apparently now in Washington, issues are too cumbersome, earnest debate too burdensome. It’s much easier to claim you caught the other side practicing their best “Sieg Heil!” in front of the mirror. Like Yad Vashem, American politics has become suffocating.
When Jews discuss the Holocaust, we often invoke the mantra “Never Again.” We promise ourselves that never again will the Jewish people submit to subjugation and annihilation. We promise ourselves that never again will the Jewish people precariously cower behind the inconsistent protection of other nations. Most importantly, we promise ourselves that never again will the Jewish people allow a similar fate to befall another group.
Listening to the rhetoric, it appears some American politicians have adopted the same “Never Again” creed. In fact, it seems they see a looming Holocaust everywhere they look, exaggerating comparisons to inflame emotions. Thus, intellectual integrity is sacrificed for political points.
Take for example Congressman Grayson’s (D-Fla.) speech blaming Republicans for the “Holocaust” of allowing thousands of Americans to die from lack of healthcare. While letting so many Americans slip through the cracks is simply despicable, it hardly compares to a system designed to efficiently murder six million people. But at least Rep. Grayson seeks to address a real problem, unlike the ridiculous and harmful myth of Nazi-inspired death panels.
Every spurious claim of genocide not only cheapens the political debate, it also dishonors the memory of the victims of the real Holocaust. Worse yet, for every real genocide we allow on our watch – like Cambodia, Rwanda and Sudan – we fail our moral obligation to humanity that underpins the “Never Again” creed. Clearly, some politicians have lost the right to ever again say “Never Again.”
When visitors of Yad Vashem funnel out of the museum, they suddenly find themselves atop Mount Herzl overlooking the lush Israeli countryside. Both figuratively and literally, they can finally take a breath of fresh air – a gift we desperately need now in Washington.