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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Lest We Remember...

In the early spring of 1971, I stood before a video camera reciting the words "The people of Israel live. Next year in Jerusalem" in both English and Hebrew. Then the camera panned down the line of 11 "defendants" as they were sentenced, ending with my sentencing as Eduard Kuznetzov for hijacking a plane in Russia. The film I was appearing in for the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis, was part of a worldwide public protest that resulted in Kuznetzov's death sentence being reduced to 15 years in prison. Six years later, Kuznetzov was part of a two for five political prisoner exchange between the United States and the USSR and he immigrated to Israel.

The title of the video was "Lest we forget." It served a valid purpose of bringing awareness to the USSR's policies which had held emmigration to 4,000 people in the decade of the 60s. The defendants had legitimately purchased all the tickets on a small aircraft under the guise of going to a wedding, intending to reroute the plane to Sweden. They never actually saw the plane they were intending to hijack as they were arrested before they got there. In the following decade, due to increased awareness, public protests, and pressure on the Soviet Union, emmigration increased to 250,000.

Now, Eduard Kuznetzov and his 15 co-conspirators, are largely forgotten. And that's good. The Soviet Union disintegrated in the 80s and a form of democratic government arose in the 90s. Say what we will about corruption and power politics, it is a different world than it was in the 60s. It is counter-productive to continuously dredge up hurts from the past when we need to move on. Keeping score on an international level means we can never, ever, put conflict behind us. This is true in Israel and Palestine, in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the Northern and Southern United States, and in North and South Korea. It is true of mainland China and Taiwan. It is true of North and South Viet Nam. It is true of Germany and France. It is true of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Herzogovia, and Serbia. It is true of Native Americans and European settlers. The list goes on and on.

When we cite 9/11 with the words "Lest we forget," we are not honoring the memory of those who died, but preserving the memory of those who killed them. We are memorializing a deep seated hatred between cultures and constantly driving the death toll up in countries on the other side of the world in order to even up the score. And when the score is even, we keep fighting to win. And when we have won, we are attacked to even the score.

I am concerned, not that we forget, but that we continually preserve the memory of hurt and pain... that we remember. In order to live in peace, we need to forget the score.