There’s hardly a day that goes by when a patient doesn’t need help in finding his or her voice to feel empowered. The fear of talking honestly and appropriately about what one hears, sees, and thinks is an on-going challenge.
Worse yet is to think of all the abused teens and adults who are unable to tell anyone of their experiences or children who are forbidden to reveal dysfunction in their family, whether it be emotional or physical abuse, or illness of any kind. They are told NOT TO TALK ABOUT anything which might bring shame to the family. Yet, such silence impedes their emotional development and leaves permanent scars.
On a far more global level, I was reminded today of that very need to find one’s voice as I watched the film, AGAINST THE TIDE, a documentary which one critic writes “bravely traces forgotten history and rattles the skeleton in a couple of famous men’s closets.” Specifically, that critic is referring to Rabbi Stephen Wise and President Franklin Roosevelt whom one actually sees in this film as doing little in the years when they could have done so much more to save European Jewry from the Nazis. Roosevelt – who was seen by many in the immigrant community as one of our great presidents, a man who helped to save this great nation of ours – was convinced by Rabbi Wise and others like him that it was not in his best political interest to rescue “those Jews.” Although that is something I regret to say I was not aware of before, the film makes it known that Roosevelt as well as some outspoken anti-semites in his cabinet did what they could to stall immigration, even when it was possible to save lives that could have still been saved. In those instances, men found their voices, but what came out of their mouths were bigoted, inflammatory, anti-semitic remarks which only the likes of Winston Churchill had the courage to defy.
In the film we learn about Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook in 1915, in Lithuania. He and his family immigrated to Palestine in 1929. As a known activist, he was sent to Poland in ’37 to help organize illegal immigration. When WWII broke out, he came to America and was neither intimidated nor silenced by anyone, although his dramatic appeal to the public embarrassed those who were fearful that WWII would be viewed as a Jewish invention, thereby stirring up anti-semitism here at home. Now, in retrospect, many view him to be one of the most successful, un-sung Jewish heroes who fought to raise awareness in America about the fate of the European Jews. He formed the group that came to be known as the Bergson Group, running full-page ads in newspapers reluctant to give the events of the Holocaust proper front page placement. The New York Times, for example, tucked news of mass murders of Polish Jews in the middle of the paper. One can only assume that the publisher, a practicing Jew, feared that the paper would be seen as being too Jewish, supporting what some would view as a “Jewish War.” Bergson and his followers, however, held rallies, marched to Washington and was no doubt a thorn in the sides of comfortable and solidly assimilated Jews.
As for those who lived and died in the concentration camps of Europe and for all those in every country where genocide has occurred and is occurring today it is not often possible for those who are so victimized to have voices. They are silenced into submission and worse!
Therefore, those of us who are able to do so, must supply OUR voices when faced with crimes against humanity. We must not empower abusers or murderers be they governments or individuals by our silence, no matter the cause for which they claim to be fighting or the costumes they hide behind.
In the best of circumstances, what it means to find one’s voice is the importance of knowing how and when to be an advocate, how and when to identify what’s really important, what is evident to us, and what we feel is worthy of our concern. We must not deceive ourselves into believing that what we know to be true is not true. We owe it to ourselves to speak out. Doing so defines who we are and how we wish others to experience us.
I suppose had I said nothing after viewing this film today, I would be guilty of exactly what I am saying none of us can afford to do … and that is to remain silent.