The Burden

Eternal Flame at Yad Vashem
The Eternal Flame at Yad Vashem

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the words “Never Again” have been repeated often and with earnest conviction. The vow to never again fall victim to a ruthless campaign of mass extermination reinforces a commitment to uphold the most sacred values of humanity.

The Nuremberg Trials revealed the depths of Nazi depravity to a mortified public. In presenting chilling testimony and horrific evidence in an open venue, the televised proceedings served well to propagate the Never Again ethos. This solemn oath is commemorated in an eternal flame, which flickers within the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in Israel.

The Mistress

Never Again, however, is often seduced by the tempting overtures of Can’t Happen Here. And when Never Again yields to the enticements of Can’t Happen Here, the eternal flame of remembrance is extinguished—just as a married man’s vow to his wife is collapsed as he embraces a mistress.

Can’t Happen Here is a seductress of fools. She preys on those who would readily relinquish their pain of remembrance and burden of responsibility in exchange for a reckless tryst with unfounded optimism. 

Rabbi Asher Resnick tells us, “Pain is reality, suffering is a choice.”

The reality is that six million Jews were tortured and murdered at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Our suffering—our burden—is to digest the pain of those felled by the Nazis and to make it our own. And in doing so, our empathy and understanding will guide us in wise directions. And this burden of comprehension should be passed down through the ages, so that succeeding generations may also benefit from its lessons.

But Can’t Happen Here will employ any means necessary to lure an unfocused man from his burden. 

“Never Again is needy!” Can’t Happen Here advises. “She will make you do things, she will get you canceled, she might even get you killed!” implores the mistress.

And the mistress is correct. Never Again is needy. For one day Never Again’s evil twin may arrive to wreak havoc in their lives. And Never Again will demand that her husband take decisive action to confront her malevolent relation.

Can’t Happen Here has no such sister. Can’t Happen Here will make no demands, she will not get the man canceled, she will not get him killed. Can’t Happen Here requires no effort.

Can’t Happen Here is an attractive choice.

It is also true that the man’s bond to Never Again has grown tired with age. The burning passion that had once fueled the man’s commitment to Never Again is now but a faint glow of indifference. The man no longer regards his oath to Never Again with the sanctity befitting a lifelong vow. Each passing year brings their relationship yet another step closer to an unspoken resolution of complete abandonment.

The man breaks with Never Again and moves in with Can’t Happen Here.

Years later, while sitting comfortably alone at home reading a book by the fire, the man hears a knock at the entryway. The man opens the door to find a woman with a kindly, yet unfamiliar face staring back at him.

The woman grins. “I have come for you,” she informs the man.

“What? What are you talking about?” the puzzled man asks.

“Do you not recognize me?” the woman responds.

“No, why? Should I?”

“Fool!” the woman cackles. “You’ve become so enchanted by your mistress that you’ve grown to forget my features!”

The man’s knees quiver under him as his mind focuses to recognize the woman—she is the sister of Never Again. The man collapses to the floor in a trembling heap, stricken with an understanding of his fate. The man had heard rumors that Again had been unleashing pain and misery a continent away, but he didn’t think the beast would journey across the ocean to bother with him. 

“Can’t Happen Here may be intoxicating—but I am inevitable!” the creature hisses while grasping the man’s wrist.

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