Last month in San Francisco was an exhibit "Silent Voices Speak" on the
Holocaust (sorry, Bill, I use the cap. "H" for specificity), with a lecture
program including many persons who risked their lives to save Jews and/or
others from the Nazis. There were also some speakers who in other wars
resisted--at some point--other atrocities and war crimes; one such speaker
was Daniel Ellsberg. Having been to the opening, I did not go on the evening
Ellsberg spoke, but I'd wanted to, a bit, to ask "What took you so long? We
knew, how could you not--or, if you knew, have waited?"
But what would I have said to the guy who stood with his gun by the
tracks, or marched beside the rounded up "prisoners" to the tracks, when the
various Berinsteins and others whom I suspect were my relatives, one day in
1942 when a ghetto in the Bialystok area was emptied for Treblinka? "Hey,
it's alright, guy, you've been remorseful ever since"?
More to the point, who am I--who are any of us--to forgive these folk?
Ellsberg, and likely--through his VVAW work and (attemptedly) his vote
against the Gulf War, etc.--Kerrey, may have made up for their complicity,
and in Kerrey's case direct responsibility--on that imaginary balance, that
little seesaw of numbers saved versus numbers lost, of good works vs. bad, at
the heart (wrong word, this) of the Utilitarian ethics which is a real part
of our moral feelings. But even if "we," on this basis, forgive
them,...isn't it only those killed--no, not even their relatives--whose
forgiveness counts? (In any case, it's too easy for us. Gee, I'm sitting
here in my study, "Hey, sure, Kerrey's repented, it was just war,
whatthehell". --Though I suppose one could argue similarly re
There is a nugget of fact that really affects the issue, though. Did
Kerrey and his crew know they were killing civilians. If they didn't, then
hey it's war. If they did--well, again, saints are forgiving but is it so
saintly to be forgiving over someone else's loss?
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