Sunday, March 10, 2013
Small But Powerful Stories
I'm almost finished with an excellent biography about Lieutenant General Victor Krulak. This morning though, I caught something that fascinated me. Mr. Coram argues throughout the book that LtGen Krulak tried to hide his Jewish ancestry. To illustrate how hostile the mid-1900s was to African-Americans, Jews, and Catholics, he throws out a small but powerful story of Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn.
When the Battle of Iwo Jima was over, the Marine Division's head chaplain -- a Protestant -- chose Rabbi Gittelsohn (the first Jewish rabbi to serve) to give the "single, nondenominational service to honor the Marines who had died on Iwo Jima." But apparently several of the chaplains objected to a Jewish rabbi presiding over the service. But he did it anyway. And he gave a beautiful and brief sermon that was later broadcast around the world. I few of the sentences remind me of Lincoln, particularly the last few:
"Here lie officers and men, negroes and whites, rich men and poor–together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy....
Whoever of us lifts up his hand in hate against a brother, or thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and of the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn, sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the rights of Protestants, Catholics and Jews, of white men and negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them here have paid the price[....]
We here solemnly swear: this shall not be in vain. Out of this, and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this, will come–we promise–the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere. "