by Max Budovitch:
The last three days was an opportunity to reflect on the important moments of the 20th century as well as a time to look at our actions since its end over a decade ago. Today the United States celebrated Veterans Day. On Tuesday, Berliners remembered both the breaching of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989 as well as Kristallnacht which occurred on the same date in 1938—But we are not reflecting hard enough—As Americans attended parades and thanked veterans across the country, the Obama administration announced that America would likely maintain a presence in Afghanistan until 2014. Yesterday, Israel moved further from peace by announcing plans to build 1000 housing units in East Jerusalem. If the 20th century was a shipwreck, the 21st looks just as bad.
America, England, Israel, and other victors around the world can reflect amorally on their past and present actions. Germany, on the other hand, must rightfully reflect on the crimes against humanity which the Nazis perpetrated under Hitler. Tuesday was a somber day in Berlin as Germans reflected on the night when Nazi gangs vandalized Jewish establishments in the city. Historical memory may be manipulated to fit the fabrication of “right” and “wrong,” but it is time for us to dig deeper and question the actions of the West more conscientiously. Dan Meridor, the Israeli Intelligence Minister, cancelled his trip to London last week for fear that he would be arrested for war crimes under Britain’s principle of universal jurisdiction. Whether one believes in the merit of universal jurisdiction or not, when a leader of a modern democracy and an American ally is under threat of arrest for war crimes, we must question. When Wikileaks documents were released in October that detailed the crimes committed by American and NATO personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must question.
The citizens of the West have a great power of reflection; we do not need to take into account the many states and communities that lie below us on the scale of global power. The narratives that lie lower on the totem pole are washed away, leaving the Western narrative as popularly durable in our minds as it is deceptive. We, as citizens of regimes that hold great sway in the global order, need to find a power of introspection. Not because other nations do, but because it is our moral duty as privileged citizens in a global community. Our dark actions lie out of sight and out of mind while our global order blindly marches onwards.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
(Siegfried Sassoon, Suicide in The Trenches)