A true hero…
We lavish praise on the athletically gifted, buy their jerseys, follow their tweets as if they were oracles.
We idolize the super-rich, as if the sheer amount of money they’ve acquired makes them somehow worthy of worship.
We shout derision at those that oppose our political candidates, so certain are we of the superiority of our beliefs, over-looking the giant redwood in our own eye while we heap shame on the mote in theirs.
We ignore those who most need us, accuse the poorest amongst us of laziness, of unworthiness, while we sip expensive red wine from our Riedel stemware.
We complain about our tax burden, howl about immigrants and free-loaders, as we wait in line to upgrade to the newest iPhone, or sit in traffic in our new Lexus.
What has happened to us?
How short our collective memory, how cold our hearts.
The world lost a true hero over the weekend, Elie Wiesel.
He was not a hero because he survived Auschwitz.
He was a hero because he never stopped pushing us to look at what we did not want to see.
He was a hero because he managed to find faith and light and love after experiencing the absolute worst of humanity.
He was a hero because he dedicated his life to remembering what had happened to him, to his mother, father and sister, to over six million exterminated, when each and every memory brought unspeakable pain.
If he could make himself remember, surely we could as well.
Surely we could face our collective inhumanity, right?
Yet here we are today, sending barely a glance at the suffering in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, in Somalia or Sudan or throughout Africa, choosing not to look into the eyes of the millions — over 65 million just last year — who are risking everything hoping to find a place of safety where their children can grow up free of fear.
Would we do less for ours?
We are the same people as our grandparents who turned their backs on what was happening right before their eyes, who refused help to those on the St. Louis destined for the death camps.
We sent them back to certain suffering and death without a twinge of conscience or guilt.
How is that different from those seeking safety and a future from Honduras or Guatemala or Syria?
We have learned nothing, it seems.
Yes, we lost a real hero over the weekend, someone who earned our respect and attention in the way he lived his life, in his reminders of the need to fight our basest natures and rekindle the goodness in our human hearts.
He was never afraid to speak truth to power, as when, on camera at the White House event honoring him, he implored President Reagan not to visit a German cemetery where Nazi war dead are buried.
I hope you remember him.
I hope you ask your listeners to remember him.
I hope you find a way, every day, to shine your light on the good.
That seems the least you can use your platform for today.
That seems the best you can use it for every day.
“There’s a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don’t lose courage. You’ve already escaped the gravest danger: selection. So now, muster your strength, and don’t lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer – or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night