Tuesday, December 12, 2006
It is 4:30 in the morning, and here I sit in front of a monitor, putting down my thoughts because I know that there will be no sleep for me until I do this.
I awoke an hour ago, hot and sweaty, shaken by my dream. As with most of us, I do not usually remember dreams, although they occur most every night. But this one was so clear, and so personal, that I choose to remember it. My heart tells me that I must remember it.
Evening had been a normal one. My Chicago Bears were playing on ESPN in the Monday Night Football game, in St. Louis against the Rams. While the Bears won, I was concerned about their erratic defensive performance, the strength of this team. My middle son had joined me in the second half, so I had someone to discuss the game with as the final quarter ended. Our conversation turned to the arrival of the Christmas season. I told my son about the weekend visit my wife and I had from our five year old grandson. The lad is very excited, but not about the obvious. He is very precise, and can hardly wait for Christmas, because three days after Christmas, his Uncle Patrick will be home on leave from the Air Force. He also knows that his cousin Keith will be home on leave from Afghanistan for both Christmas and New Year, an unexpected bonus.
I cannot say what may have triggered my dream, as I deliberately avoided watching any news, or reading any news web sites today. I did not want to let the news of the day spoil the feelings of contentment from having our little houseguest this weekend, or preparing for our youngest son getting his first leave home in almost two years. And yet, a vivid dream not only interrupted a sound sleep, but focused my attention on who I am.
In my dream, I was in Europe, and it was Christmas Eve. I was in a Catholic church, shortly before midnight Mass was to begin. Although it seemed strange that I was in Europe, never having been there; being in a Catholic church for Christmas was a normal event for me. I picked up a parish bulletin before being seated, and was conversing with an unknown fellow American. The bulletin mentioned that this was a special Mass of Reconciliation, and that Jewish neighbors of the church had been invited to attend the service.
While standing in the back of the church, I watched an elderly Jewish man enter, remove his hat, and walk up the side aisle. I do not know how I knew he was Jewish, any more than how I knew I was in Europe. It just was something I knew. The elderly man went about half way up the aisle, and slipped into the unoccupied last seat at the end of the pew. In seconds, a woman at the opposite end of the pew asked him to move, as she was saving space for some friends. The man smiled, apologized, and moved several rows back, again seating himself at the end of the pew. This time a man asked him to move, as that pew was reserved for his family. The old man again moved back a few rows before trying to seat himself. And for the third time, he was asked to move. By now, he was past the last pew, just in front of me and the man with whom I had been conversing. The old man looked at me, and said that he had never been to a Christian service before, and had hoped to sit close enough to the altar to watch the celebration of Christ’s birth. He looked at me with sadness in his eyes, and glanced at the mostly empty church. “I guess”, he sighed, “there is no room for me, again.” As he raised his arm to put on his hat, the coat sleeve slid back, revealing the dark numerals tattooed on his forearm. And then he was gone.
The man I had been standing with and I did nothing as the old man left. But after he was gone, the fellow American turned to me and said “It is happening again, and we did nothing”. The American looked me in the eye, and asked a simple question. “We did nothing”, he said again, “so what does that make us?”
Indeed, what does that make us? Or more to the point, what does that make me? It was at that point that I awoke. I lay in bed for some time, expecting to fall back asleep in the pre dawn darkness. But my head echoed with the repeated phrase “And what does that make me?” So here I sit, wondering why this is so disturbing that my sleep has been disrupted. And then the pieces began to fall into place.
I had watched the Israeli settlers leaving Gaza, followed almost immediately by the start of daily rocket attacks on Israeli towns from the vacated areas. Land for peace seemed not to be working, yet I did nothing. So what does that make me?
During the summer, I watched and read of the military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. While thousands of Hezbollah rockets rained down on Israel, I saw news reports that seemed only to mention Lebanese buildings that had been hit by Israeli artillery or aircraft. Despite the glaring prejudicial tone of most news reports, I did little to counter it. So what does that make me?
I have read the disturbing reports of the significant increase in anti-Semitic acts all across Europe, but like most Americans, it has been a side piece in the news. It is their problem, not ours. There are no American voices crying shame on you at Europe, so what does that make us?
I have followed the John Bolton departure as our ambassador to the United Nations, knowing that we are losing a good and decent man. He has confronted the outrageous corruption and hypocrisy of the U.N in a direct fashion, advocated eloquently and effectively for American interests, and was the only diplomat to defend Israel in front of the General Assembly when faced with the most egregious displays of anti-Semitism yet seen in that organization. Among other issues, he pointed out that Israel was the subject of more resolutions of condemnation that all 191 other member nations combined, by the U.N. Human Rights Commission. His departure is the result of blatant politics within our own country, yet I did nothing to protest this display of Congressional malfeasance. So what does that make me?
I have seen former high officials of our government castigate Israel with both malicious and fallacious statements. Former Secretary of State James Baker once stated “F**k the Jews, they didn’t vote for us anyway”. He was rewarded with the Chairmanship of the Iraq Study Group. Former President Jimmy Carter has written another book which propagates media distortions and erroneous material, again blaming Israel for every problem in the Muslim world. He is rewarded with prime time news interviews, to help sell his book. Like most Americans, I have not let my voice be heard to refute these sentiments. So what does that make me?
I watch the evening news, and hear spokesmen of different advocacy groups blame Zionism for the spreading hated of America and the West because of Zionist influence on America’s foreign policies, and our continued support of Israel. The networks failure to offer any refutation of these claims is never criticized, as we continue to believe it is a journalist’s obligation to not take sides. Yet they do take sides, by not countering these allegations. As a viewer, what does that make me?
Leaders of Muslims states, most notably Iran, make almost daily threats that they will destroy Israel, bringing on a second Holocaust, all the while claiming the first Holocaust never occurred. Yet I do not yell my outrage at this disgraceful activity, and my government continues to pander to despots’ intent on destroying an entire nation. So what does that make me?
The leader of my own faith visits a Muslim country, and prays in a Mosque with the very people who continue to discriminate against and persecute the tiny Christian minority within that country, yet speaks not of this injustice. I do not give voice to this inequity, so what does that make me?
My father told me that the first step in solving a problem is to ask the right questions, so that you can identify the nature of the problem, and fix the root causes. I am far from resolving any of the problems I have mentioned, and the scores of related issues that are too numerous to describe here. But I am beginning to ask the questions, the first of which, for me at least, is “What does that make me?”