Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sobering Break...


It's Fall Reading Week here at Princeton Seminary, which means that it's time for me to get caught up or get ahead in my reading for the semester. There's need for both. But yesterday, Bridgette and I took the Seminary's yearly tour of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Now, it would be quite normal, I'm sure, to sit here and wax eloquently about the deep and profound experience that it was, the fact that I'm still processing everything etc. But to be honest, I don't exactly feel that way. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not in ANY WAY trying to downplay the memorial, the trip or the holocaust at all. It's just that I'm surprised that I was not moved more. In some ways, I think it has to do with the fact that none of it was really new to me. I had been fascinated with the Second World War form an early age. I had read about Hitler in grade 7 (not fascinated with him in any sort of "wow he was cool" way at all) and in Canada, this was in many ways the most recent war when I grew up, so it was the one most studied and talked about. There was never an attempt to downplay the depth of depravity that the Nazi's had sunk to in the holocaust, if anything that was the one thing that was emphasized the most - we had to remember to make sure that something like that would never happen again.

So, as I travelled through the museum, in some ways it was like returning to things that were familiar with me. I definitely got a new look at them, there were new images, tangible artifacts that were amazing... but in some ways, it was still a museum to the past. As much as I tried to put myself in that place, there remained a certain level of detachment. I couldn't escape the fact that this horrific event happened apart from me, not just geographically, but in time - it happened a full generation before I was born. But maybe, that's simply the way it must be. Maybe, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe, for those of us that cannot remember the event as a lived experience, it is simply enough to remember that for millions upon millions - it was. And unless we are vigilant, it can again be a horrific event for millions more...

2 comments:

theonegoing said...

Did any part of the museum for you relate the horrors of the holocaust to the present time?

Did the exhibits address the reality that our world that (my assumption) feels significantly smaller? In light of that, how should we respond as individuals, groups, nations, etc. to similar acts of genocide and aggression by brutal dictators?

My assumption is that the museum provided a view into the past but also included a challenge for the world as we move into the future.

Mr. Higgins said...

You were not moved but were reminded, if I gather correctly. I can see that happening to me as well. I would like also to think that there needs to be some forgetting in all of this as well.