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The Gantseh Megillah

The Outspeaker
The New Year is traditionally a time when we tend to reflect on events past, as well as those yet to occur. For some of us, it is hard to feel hopeful about the latter, given the objective experience of the former.

I believe very deeply in my fellow beings. Our very real capacity for compassion and empathy sustains us in the face of what we are forced to witness on a daily basis as presented in the media.

I love my country.

We have raised a standard second to no society that has ever been conceived. We are a living experiment in tolerance and diversity. We have put forth the concept that common people can govern themselves; a concept alien to the world at large until some two centuries ago. This experiment was fully expected to fail by that same world.

To prove the validity of our ideals, we endured five years of bloody civil war, a war that left 600,000 of us dead and hundreds more broken in body and mind. For most of that conflict the armies of both sides were made up of citizen soldiers, volunteers who enlisted to fight either for the sovereignty of their state, or for the concept of union that their grandfathers fought to establish. In many cases these men enlisted for very short periods of time, some for as short as six months. When their enlistments ran out, many of these men chose to re-enlist once more for six months, and continued to do so again and again for the duration of the war, when they could have honorably chosen to return home.

After the battle of Gettysburg, both sides found it necessary to institute drafts, a policy that was administrated in a shameful and corrupt manner. The South exempted men who owned a minimum number of slaves, the North, for its part, allowed exemptions to be obtained by paying a substitute to fight in the draftee’s stead. This unbelievable inequity gave rise to the popular phrase “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

Still, soldiers on both sides fought and died for an ideal, for their state, for the Union. Most of all they fought for the one reason that has motivated soldiers throughout history. They fought for each other. All they’ve ever asked of us who stay at home is that we think long and hard before sending them into combat that we pay close attention to the rhetoric of our elected leaders, and not let hollow and mendacious arguments stand in place of reasoned thought.

I am not going to rake any politicians or individuals over the coals this month. I feel too tired and distressed with recent events to do so. Rest assured that I have plenty of material for that enterprise, and will share it with my friends during the coming year.

For this one season, I will ask each one of you to try to let some veteran know how thankful you are for their sacrifice. Shake your grandfather’s hand. Next Veteran’s day place a flag on your uncle’s grave. Write a letter to some kid lying in a V.A. hospital and ask if he or she needs some small item of comfort. Let them know that you know what they have done, why they did it, and what it has cost them. Leave the politics to the politicians for this one short time.

I have.

Finally, let me wish each and every one of you a healthy and happy New Year, and thank you once again for your indulgence.

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