David Rosen
David RosenCourtesy

The creator of the universe has given humankind the ability to forget. This is both a gift and a curse. Without the ability to forget, how might we forgive? Our ability to forget provides room to heal and to protect. Similarly, the necessity of remembering is of great importance. By remembering, we can help to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. However, when we remember too long and too hard, we don’t allow room for forgiveness, rebirth, and growth. When we forget, we allow others to fill the void with half-truths and outright lies. When we forget, we don’t have the strength to stand up to these lies or half-truths.

There is a balance that must be struck between remembering and forgetting. Both are vital and needed like fire and water; we need them for life and we must guard against them from death.

This past Memorial Day was a poignant reminder of this delicate balance. It is a day set aside to remember the sacrifices made by those who died serving our country. It is a day to honor their memory and acknowledge the cost of our freedom. On Memorial Day, we are called to remember the past, recognize the present, and commit to a future where their sacrifices are not in vain.

The truth of this balance has played out time and time again over the generations. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” He could not be more right. We are seeing this play out in many arenas. We see this playing out in the West in general, in the United States, on college campuses and specifically with the conversation on Israel and Antisemitism. Here is one example to illustrate the point of forgetting from Global Affairs.org:

“Is Global Engagement worth it? Young Americans Appear Unsure”
A slim majority of Millennials (52%) falls on the “active part” side (of global engagement), while a slim majority of Gen Z (52%) falls on the side of staying out. Prior to Gen Z this year, no generation has ever had a majority preferring to stay out of world affairs, going back to 1978.”

This statistic clearly demonstrates our failure as a society to impart upon the young generation that the United States has played a critical role in securing and promoting freedom across the world from North America to Australia. Somehow the message has gotten muddled. We failed to teach our people that this world is complex and that no country stands completely free of blemish. All countries have blood on their hands to some extent.

The question isn’t whether or not a country has sinned; the question is how a country has reacted to that sin. Slavery is a sin as old as mankind, and the United States is the only country that fought a civil war over it that was not imposed upon it by any outside force. This was an internal battle for the soul of America, which cost the lives of approximately 700,000 soldiers. This is the message we ought to have been teaching our young people.

Instead, the message that slavery built this country, or that the founders of our nation were just white slave owners who don’t deserve recognition for their massive contribution to freedom, liberty, and equality has seeped into the consciousness of far too many in the United States and around the world.

Moving forward to guard against the erosion of these values, we must consider what’s in front of us, what’s behind us, and what’s next. This is the only accurate way of understanding our position in the world. To mostly look at current statistics or current trends is to really only have a third of the picture. This is a huge mistake that many are guilty of. We must understand that to truly understand the world, we must take into consideration all three parts of the picture.

On many levels The United States, Israel and the US Jewish community, are all victims of their own successes. In realizing their individual, communal, and national successes, they have forgotten the golden rule of three: past, present, and future. They left a void for those who are dissatisfied with the current circumstances to create an alternate narrative. These bad actors have accomplished this under the radar, and by doing so, they have created a snowball effect. Clearly, there were far too few measures put into place to protect against this type of activity.

Any good society must build within it a system for continuous maintenance and implement a high-level strategy for planning out the future. Built into it must be a recognition that even in times of calm and peace, measures must be taken to continuously promote the truth of our history, the reality of our current state, and the promise of tomorrow. There must be a place within society and government that transcends politics. When we fail to do this, we are exposed to a very dangerous reality where there is nobody stewarding the ship for the greater good.

It could be argued scientifically that success breeds stagnation and that comfort breeds complacency. It’s not a failure on the part of individuals to become complacent; it should be expected. It’s a failure of the planners. In this vacuum, it is only a matter of time until stagnation is replaced by attack, which is then replaced by corrosion from the inside out. Hungry people attack while satiated people rest.

While embracing our ability to forget and being thankful for it, we must create a system that helps us to remember the past, recognize the current, and plan for the future. Doing this, we can ensure that we do not leave any opportunity for bad actors to fill the void.

This past Memorial Day served as a powerful reminder of the importance of this balance. It is a day to honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives, a day to reflect on our past, and a day to commit to a future where their sacrifices are honored through our vigilance and dedication to the principles of freedom and liberty.