OpinionU.S. News

The necessity of the past, present and future

We are called to remember the past, recognize the present and commit to a future in which our people’s sacrifices have not been in vain.

An illustrative image of a military cemetery. Source: DeepAI.
An illustrative image of a military cemetery. Source: DeepAI.
Daniel Rosen
Daniel Rosen, a former leader of the pro-Israel group Torcpac at New York University, is the founder and president of Minds and Hearts, another pro-Israel advocacy group. He previously worked in the Jewish Agency’s spokesperson’s department.

The creator of the universe has given humankind the ability to forget. This is both a gift and a curse. Without the ability to forget, how can we forgive? Our ability to forget gives us room to heal.

But the necessity of remembering is also of great importance. By remembering, we can help ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

When we remember too long and too hard, we don’t allow room for forgiveness, rebirth and growth. When we forget, we allow others to fill the void with half-truths and outright lies. When we forget, we don’t have the strength to stand up to these half-truths and lies.

A balance must be struck between remembering and forgetting. Both are vital, like fire and water. We need them for life and we must guard against them because they can bring death.

Memorial Day is a poignant reminder of this delicate balance. It is a day set aside to remember the sacrifices made by those who died serving our country. It is a day to honor their memory and acknowledge the cost of our freedom.

On Memorial Day, we are called to remember the past, recognize the present and commit to a future in which their sacrifices have not been in vain.

This balance has played out time and time again over the generations. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” He could not be more right. We are seeing this play out in many ways: in the West in general, in the United States, on college campuses, and in the conversation on Israel and antisemitism.

Here is one example of forgetting from Global Affairs.org: “A slim majority of Millennials (52%) falls on the ‘active part’ side [of global engagement], while a slim majority of Gen Z (52%) falls on the side of staying out. Prior to Gen Z this year, no generation has ever had a majority preferring to stay out of world affairs going back to 1978.”

This statistic clearly demonstrates our failure to teach the young generation that the United States has played a critical role in securing and promoting freedom around the world. We failed to teach them that this world is complex and no country is completely free of blemish. All countries have blood on their hands to some extent. The question isn’t whether or not a country has sinned; the question is how a country has reacted to that sin.

Slavery is a sin as old as mankind and the United States fought a civil war over it. This was an internal battle for the soul of America that cost the lives of approximately 600,000 people. This is the story we ought to have been teaching our young people. Instead, the message that slavery built this country and that the founders of our nation were just white slave owners who don’t deserve recognition for their massive contribution to freedom, liberty and equality has seeped into the consciousness of far too many in the United States and around the world.

On Memorial Day, we reflect on our people’s sacrifices. It’s a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. To guard against the erosion of these values, we must consider what’s in front of us, what’s behind us and what’s next. This is the only way to understand our real position in the world. To look at current statistics or trends is to see only part of the picture. Many have made this mistake.

In numerous ways, the United States, Israel and the American Jewish community are victims of their own success. In the process of achieving this success, they have forgotten the past, present and future. This created a vacuum that allowed those dissatisfied with current circumstances to create an alternate narrative. These bad actors have created a snowball effect. Clearly, far too few measures were put into place to protect against this.

Any good society must build a system that maintains that society in the present and plans for its future. It must recognize that even in times of calm and peace, measures must be taken to promote the truth of our history, the reality of our present state and the promise of tomorrow. There must be a place in society and government that transcends politics.

When we fail to do this, we are exposed to a very dangerous reality in which no one is steering the ship for the greater good. Success often breeds stagnation and comfort breeds complacency. This is not a failure on the part of individuals. It should be expected. The failure to counter it is a failure of the planners. It is only a matter of time until stagnation is replaced by attack, which is then replaced by corrosion from the inside out. Hungry people attack while satiated people rest.

Memorial Day serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of a balance between past, present and future. It is a day to honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives, to reflect on our past and to commit to a future in which their sacrifices are honored through our vigilance and dedication to the principles of freedom and liberty.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates