6 Million Lessons

When I was 16, I wrote an essay for a National Holocaust Memorial Council contest. It was 1988. I lost the essay, but some of it still echoed in my head, especially this week. So I wrote their archives, and they sent me a copy. It’s full of 16-year-old angst and drama and awkwardness, but maybe it will echo for you too.

Dearest America, 

I am not a Jew.
And yet I can hear their screams even when you cannot. Why?
Why can I hear the crying of six million dead
when you cannot hear the millions who still live?
Haven't you learned the dangers of deafness?
Hasn't the importance of compassion and unity been proven? 

Haven't enough people died by stereotype and belief?
Or did they die for nothing?
Surely not, America. 

Surely all your scarred citizens have taught you something, 

something about Humanity and Belief and Peace, 

something about the dangers of generalizing and categorizing and Death. 

I would like to think there was a higher purpose, 

a prevention of wider death,
an extension of the brotherhood of man,
Which attempts to justify that which was not just 

Oh, America, you are sinking into your deafness 

But you cannot afford not to care
You cannot risk the life of a man for
the safety of a crowd. 

Crowds die too, America. Crowds die on death trains, Crowds die in gas chambers, Crowds kill crowds, America 

And crowds cry out. 

And I don't know how to make you hear the cries that dominate my fears except by screaming out myself 

Somehow, somewhere,
We have grown afraid
to care. 

We are living in a numbing dream - Of ignorance and silent screams 

This silence echoes of another nightmare, America. Can't you hear it? 

It is a dead silence, dead six million times
It is heavy with blood and stereotypes and memories It is small and quiet, but it grows. 

Look at yourself, with all your
poverty, bombs, corruption, and neo-nazis.
Group is separated from group and person from person, yet you pretend they are together. 

A war may begin in the ghettos, America, but it ends in the gas chamber. 

Does this stench of coming horror seem familiar? 

What's a gang war among friends, America?
What's a spray painted comment on a school wall? 

They're only children,
They will grow out of their hate.
It 1s such a small thing,
but it is a shadow of the holocaust I shudder to see. 

The new Nazis, the modern racists, the white supremacists, can anyone predict their power?
can anyone risk their fury? 

Ignore them and maybe they'll go away. America.
All the racism and anti Semitism will just fade away like a summer sunset.
You don't care, do you? 

WAKE UP AMERICA You're dreaming again. 

You are forgetting how the other wars began 

And the other wars were real 

The other wars were wide awake. 

Oh, America, I suppose I sound so paranoid.
I suppose it seems that I do not appreciate all the progress we have made in understanding one another since the Holocaust. I do.
I see the children who can't see the lines
between Jew and Gentile 

Black and White
Rich and Poor
And I sing with gladness, America, 

I do. 

But I see the children who live the lines,
the children who believe in their superior race, 

The children who hate Jews
Because their parents hate Jews
More children than you realize, America
More parents than you know
And I cry with fear, America, 

I do. 

Teach the children to understand, America
Teach them to accept another's beliefs and dreams and songs, 

Without making them sing along.
Teach them about society,
Without making them lose their sense of self 

There are six million dreams a child can dream, 

Teach him to dream them all
Six million lives a child can live,
Teach him to live the one he loves, 

Teach him that all the lives are separate.
No one must die so he can live
No one must fall off their ladder so he can climb up his 

Teach him that all  the lives are together, 

Each must help the other survive
Each needs the acceptance of the others 

Teach that child,
Teach all children,
About the Holocaust
About what happens when people base their superiority 

On the murder of another people
About the importance of the brotherhood of men to each man's survival 

Teach them the meaning of genocide
Teach them about Jews and Gentiles, Arabs and Buddhists 

Teach them about their proud, separate heritages
Teach them all the differences
And then 

Teach them all the similarities 

Teach the children how to tolerate, and compromise and listen 

Teach the children how to love, America
Teach them how to care
Teach them compassion and hope and togetherness 

Teach them peace 

And perhaps, then, America
You will have learned your six million lessons 

And prevented another six million deaths. 

© Parents for the Planet, LLC 2015-2019