Friday, June 29, 2007

Yom HaShoah 2006

(Originally posted April, 2006).

Several years ago, I went to Fort Benning, GA, to participate in the School of the Americas Watch protest vigil and memorial service. On Sunday morning, as thousands of people processed onto the base, names and ages of the victims of the SOA grads were chanted into the morning air. After each name was chanted, we responded, "Presente!" (Present), until we could no longer hear the chanting. Then, we began adding our own names to the list, our own list of martyrs whose lives were cut down by violence and hatred.

It took four hours for the chanters to read through all the names of the Central American dead.

Yesterday, here at school, we held a remembrance service for the victims of the Holocaust, the day of remembrance called Yom Hashoah. Psalms were lamented, testimonies were read, and the Jewish members of our community led us in saying the Mourner's Kaddish. Then, we were invited to read the names of Holocaust victims. We only read a fraction of the names, of course. With twelve million dead (6 million Jews), we would be reading names for weeks, months.

I stood in the lobby, reading name after name. I began to shake as I realized that here was a father, and here is his child, and another, and another. Here are two siblings. Here are husband and wife. Here is an old man. Here is a child. And here is a whole village, gone.

I processed onto the army base, the names being chanted. Here is a mother. Here is her child, and another. Here is an old woman. Here is an infant. And here is a whole village, gone.

Name after name after name. Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Colombian. Jew. Catholic. Protestant. Rich, poor. Old, young.


We chant name after name after name, process in memorial vigils, raise up the Mourner's Kaddish.

What we do to each other, as humans. What I want to know is, when will we stop creating new lists of names to be mourned?