The Sunflower

– An Introspective View Essay, Research Paper

Simon Wiesenthal asks the question, What would I have done ? We are asked to put one s self in his place. This is not an easy task. One knows little to nothing of the actual feelings and struggles involved in being persecuted, unless one actually has been persecuted. As this author has never suffered such severe persecution, one must call upon the force of one s imagination. Even with the most active and vivid of imaginations, one falls short of the comprehension necessary to obtain a clear and succinct overall picture of oppression. But, as the question being asked is one of great magnitude and importance, a personal answer must be found. In the opinion of this author, the above question deserves a personal answer from each and every rational human being.

This author found great admiration for the answer given by the Dalai Lama to the above question of Wiesenthal. One can easily see a certain temptation to equate Wiesenthal s question with one s own situation, as the Dalai Lama did. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of an oppressed people. As such, he is in a unique position to answer Wiesenthal s question. The Dalai Lama found forgiveness for Karl in his heart , but also claimed a belief in forgiveness without forgetting. The Dalai Lama then equated the struggle of the Jews with the Tibetan Peoples struggle to regain freedom from their Chinese oppressors. This author found the Dalai Lama s story of a Tibetan Monk who served nearly eighteen years in a Chinese prison to be fascinating. After the monk s escape to India he was asked what his biggest fear in prison had been. The monk replied he most feared losing his compassion for the Chinese. This tale is one of forgiveness and redemption that may be beyond the scope of the average human being. To have suffered oppression for so long and to still worry about your oppressor is a phenomenal act indeed. In contrast to the Dalai Lama’s answer is the one given by Harry James Cargas. Mr. Cargas found a deeper question within the parameters of Wiesenthal s original question, namely “Should Adolph Hitler be forgiven ?” This deeper question raises a specter one may overlook, when first studying Wiesenthal s question. Does a forgiveness of the one constitute a forgiveness of the whole ? Mr. Cargas also raises a very admirable question as to the entire state of what forgiveness constitutes. He ponders, “Perhaps when I forgive I raise myself above the other” and “who am I to forgive.” For Mr. Cargas the question is not whether one can or should forgive Karl, “but dare we do so?.” Mr. Cargas felt forgiveness is something to be earned and that many times death bed confessions come far to easily. Mr. Cargas gave summary of his position thusly, “If God chooses to forgive Karl, that s God s affair. Simon Wiesenthal could not, I cannot. For me, Karl dies unforgiven.”

This author has pondered the Wiesenthal question at great length and depth. Can forgiveness be an option if one puts one s self in Simon Wiesenthal s place ? One must also ask one s self the question, as Mr. Cargas did, of who is really being forgiven. One must then consider in whose name this forgiveness would be given. One must also bear in mind whether a single man or women has the power to give forgiveness for an entire people. Human forgiveness may in deed be out of reach for acts of great wickedness. The depth of the Wiesenthal question is immense. Every rational human needs to formulate their own answer to this enormous question. For without introspection, the world would be reduced to a fate of repeating the horrific mistakes of the past. This author has found this hallowed ground, this highly sought holy grail of an answer. One can find it within the words of Mr. Wiesenthal s own book. They are the words spoken by Simon Wiesenthal s friend Josek:

“You would have had no right to do this in the name of people who had not

authorized you to do so. What people have done to you yourself, you can if you

like, forgive and forget. That is your own affair. But it would have been a

terrible sin to burden your conscience with other people s sufferings”

One can see a certain fulfillment in such an answer as Josek gives. This author finds great wisdom in Josek s words. One can not truly forgive an act such as Karl s, unless it is committed against one s own self. This author finds it impossible to forgive Karl, were one in Wiesenthal s position. Karl s true forgiveness is then up to a higher universal power. May this power have mercy on those who act without rational thought of consequence. And, may this power have mercy on this author for the above decision.


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