This past Thursday, while presenting before a group of seniors at the JCC, I found myself quoting Joseph N. Welch who had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy. “Have you no sense of decency, Sir?” asked Mr. Welch. That very same question, I explained, could have been put to Jacob’s ten sons who nonchalantly sat down to break bread after having cast Joseph into a pit. Little did I realize that I would be borrowing Mr. Welch’s words the very next day.
James Strohman, a lecturer at Iowa State University, gave the following assignment to his students: “Write a paper that gives a historical account of 9/11 from the perspective of the terrorist network”. Have my eyes deceived me? Surely Mr. Strohman can’t be serious!
If he is – then I would like to suggest other topics lacking any sense of decency that Mr. Strohman might entertain to assign his students:
Write a paper that give a historical account of the complete annihilation of Jewish communities in the Rhineland from a Crusaders point of view. Should Mr. Strohman possess a rare moment of lucidity, he might realize that, for the most part, the Crusaders never gave a second thought to the consequences of their actions. Why, the Crusaders never gave a first thought – or any thought, for that matter – to what they were doing.
People caught up in a frenzy of pillaging and immolating rarely stop to think of their actions being so dastardly. Pillaging and immolating are visceral actions – not rational actions – and visceral actions are devoid of perspective. Add to that that the Crusaders were quite likely well satiated with strong drink and caught up in a frenzy.
This Passover marks the fifteenth yahrzeit of 30 Seder participants at the Park hotel in Netanya. Given his penchant for handing down unusual assignments (I’m being extremely kind), Mr. Strohman might have his students write an account how Abdel – Basset Odeh, carrying a suitcase of four kg of cyanide together with explosives, walked into the hotel’s dining room and with one swift action murdered 28 innocent Seder participants (two died soon afterwards of injuries) from the perspective of the suicide bomber. Should Mr. Strohman experience a flash of clarity, he might conclude that Palestinian suicide bombers are never sons or daughters of leading terrorists.
Hamas and similar terrorist (excuse me, I believe the current politically correct term is militant) organizations may be evil, but they do value human life – provided, of course, it is the life of their own offspring. Mr. Stohman might also conclude, in a rare lucid moment, that typically, suicide bombers are on the fringe of society. Provide these outcasts with brainwashing and conditioning, and individuals with suicidal tendencies can now leave this world knowing they have done so by contributing to a much greater cause. Voila! Once again the desperation of the Palestinians comes to the fore.
The piece de resistance for Mr. Stohman’s creative assignments (I’m being sarcastic) would be to have his students write about Holocaust victims from the perspective of say, John Demjanjuk or other Ukrainians of similar ilk, who willingly contributed to the Nazi war effort. Should Mr. Stohman be overcome with a dose of discernment, he might discover that a good many Ukrainians were inured to life having little value.
Thanks to Uncle Joe Stalin, the Ukrainians themselves were victims of genocide a mere decade earlier. During the Holodomor, or “murder by hunger,” some seven million Ukrainians were systematically slowly starved to death. Understandably, so many Ukrainians no longer possessed the ability to think of life and death the way most others do. Accordingly, the Nazis chose wisely when it came to who would serve them best in their Concentration Camps and Death Camps.
I have no idea how Mr. Strohman’s assignment will pan out. I also have no idea what was going through his mind when he handed down that assignment. Last but not least, I have no idea whether Mr. Stoman has any sense of decency when it comes to assignments such as these.