There are certain thought experiments that ought not to be performed. Here’s one:
Does the visceral reaction we all have about the Shoah – and by ‘all’ I mean we Jews and you Gentiles alike – have a best-before date? I’m thinking it does. And I don’t think it will be any later for Jews than for Gentiles.
It seems to me there are two elements to the Shoah that have been doing all the heavy lifting. These are its pathos and its injustice. With respect to the former, the Anne Frank diary is designed to remind us that these were all people like you and me.
But hold on. So were the victims of Mount Vesuvius.
Ah, but that was almost two thousand years ago.
And almost two thousand years hence won’t the Shoah be almost two thousand years ago? Masada was almost two thousand years ago. We might think it tells us something different than does Jonestown. But do any of us feel its pathos?
Then how ‘bout the Shoah’s injustice? These were all the victims of an injustice beyond human comprehension.
But hold on. So were the Amalekites. Moreover, if systematicity adds to the horror of an injustice, wasn’t the Amalekite genocide just as systematic?
So once again it would appear that time heals all wounds, be they inflicted on the ancestors of others or on our own.
When people die they need to be buried. But on a finite planet from time to time cemeteries have to be emptied and turned over to the more recently departed. And it’s likewise with memorials, regardless of what they memorialize. Shoah memorials sit atop some pretty pricey real estate. I give the ones in Berlin and Washington another fifty years tops. I give Yad Vashem even less. Why? Because when we run out of Palestinian land to expropriate to our own uses – and that day is rapidly approaching – we’ll have to reassign our own land to something more productive than commemorating our grievances.
There is no Italian who can trace her roots back to the Colloseum, nor can any modern day Greek lay claim to the Parthenon. Picture a grammar school field trip to the Alamo a thousand years from now. How many of these kids will identify with a bunch of white men who died fighting to ensure Texas would remain a slave state?
In many jurisdictions it’s a criminal offense to question the historicity of the Shoah. 1500 years after the fact it still made sense to Torquemada to burn at the stake anyone who questioned the historicity of the Empty Tomb. So maybe a hundred years hence revisionism will still be in the German Criminal Code. But I doubt it. Not unlike asserting the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, the criminalization of historical revisionism is a political gesture, and politics is never static.
As I say, these are the kinds of things that don’t bear thinking about. Not only are we cheapened by what we end up thinking about them; we’re cheapened by our thinking about them at all. This didn’t bear thinking about. So let’s not.
Categories: Social and Political Philosophy