I can't believe that it's crept up on me again: Today I discover that today is Holocaust Memorial Day, and I'm fresh out of onions!
My wall calendar has to get with the plan! It mentions Burns Night and Australia Day on either side but skips over Holocaust Memorial Day. The shame! Are haggis and Waltzing Matilda more important than the Chosen People?
Of course, I have decidedly mixed feelings about commemorating a supposed historical event that you can get arrested for discussing in most European nations, so maybe it's just as well my calendar has left it out.
Leaving aside the question of whether it actually happened, or the degree to which it happened, is Holocaust Memorial Day really about remembering holocausts? I would say it's quite the opposite. With the date chosen because of its connection to Auschwitz concentration camp—Jan 27 is the date when it was 'liberated' or more accurately passed from one totalitarian regime to another—the day is all about remembering one holocaust, that of the Jews, at the expense of all the others.
Regardless of the word's origins, I take it that "holocaust" is essentially a term for mass slaughter, carried out using various methods, for political or ideological reasons; and that the Jews are no more special, valuable, or worthy of commemoration in this respect than any other large pile of bodies. Indeed, it could be argued that the word "holocaust" has wider applicability than genocide, a word that evokes too strongly the idea of killing a specific race. Mass slaughter is just as likely to be driven by class, cultural, or religious factors as by race—if not more so.
Yet, you can be reasonably sure that you won't hear too much about all those other holocausts today — maybe a token mention of some of the more recent, trendy ones (Darfur, for instance, as this fits in nicely with the ongoing neocolonial agenda in Mali), but don't expect to hear much about the real big hitters, namely those carried out by communist states in places like China, Cambodia, and the Ukraine, the last of which reportedly involved a large number of Jews on the killing side.
With Holocaust Memorial Day being such a one-sided event, it's not surprising that it gets overshadowed by the birthday of an 18th-century Scottish poet and an uneventful date in the history of a rather uneventful nation. Sorry, but outside The Liberal Zone, few people are much interested in a Judeo-centric Holocaust Memorial Day. If the Jews want the rest of us to respect their tragedy and feel their pain, here are a few fair-minded suggestions that might help:
- Stop trying to make the word holocaust refer exclusively to the Jews.
- Support the open discussion of whether the Jewish holocaust actually happened and the degree to which it happened. With a few exceptions, anybody can question the authenticity of all the other holocausts and quibble about details. So why not the Jewish one?
- Give equal value to all holocausts that can be historically proved. This also means that much greater representation should be given to these other holocausts in movies and TV documentaries. I'm pretty sure that Jews can pull a lot of strings in this department.
- Rotate the day on which the holocausts are commemorated, i.e. sometimes January 27th, sometimes other dates associated with the tragedies of other groups.
A more realistic and workable solution, however, is that each community should just stick to commemorating its own dead, rather than trying to foist them on the rest of the world, as if corpses were some kind of easily-transferable international moral currency.