Elie Wiesel's July 4th essay on America (from Parade Magazine), is now available online. It's a beautiful piece, relaying his personal testimony of what America means, both to him and the world.
The true nature of America was revealed to Wiesel almost 60 years ago:
Even now, as America is in the midst of puzzling uncertainty and understandable introspection because of tragic events in Iraq, these words reflect my personal belief. For I cannot forget another day that remains alive in my memory: April 11, 1945.
That day I encountered the first American soldiers in the Buchenwald concentration camp. I remember them well. Bewildered, disbelieving, they walked around the place, hell on earth, where our destiny had been played out. They looked at us, just liberated, and did not know what to do or say. Survivors snatched from the dark throes of death, we were empty of all hope - too weak, too emaciated to hug them or even speak to them. Like lost children, the American soldiers wept and wept with rage and sadness. And we received their tears as if they were heartrending offerings from a wounded and generous humanity.
Ever since that encounter, I cannot repress my emotion before the flag and the uniform, anything that represents American heroism in battle. That is especially true on July Fourth. I reread the Declaration of Independence, a document sanctified by the passion of a nation's thirst for justice and sovereignty, forever admiring both its moral content and majestic intonation. Opposition to oppression in all its forms, defense of all human liberties, celebration of what is right in social intercourse: All this and much more is in that text, which today has special meaning.
And that same American character remains consistent and on display today:
In extreme left-wing political and intellectual circles, suspicion and distrust toward America is the order of the day. They deride America's motives for its military interventions, particularly in Iraq. They say: It's just money. As if America went to war only to please the oil-rich capitalists.
They are wrong. America went to war to liberate a population too long subjected to terror and death.
We see in newspapers and magazines and on television screens the mass graves and torture chambers imposed by Saddam Hussein and his accomplices. One cannot but feel grateful to the young Americans who leave their families, some to lose their lives, in order to bring to Iraq the first rays of hope, without which no people can imagine the happiness of welcoming freedom.
Hope is a key word in the vocabulary of men and women like myself and so many others who discovered in America the strength to overcome cynicism and despair. Remember the legendary Pandora's box? It is filled with implacable, terrifying curses. But underneath, at the very bottom, there is hope. Now as before, now more than ever, it is waiting for us.
A holocaust survivor, talking about hope and the strength to overcome cynicism and despair, and endorsing the policies of George W. Bush. Take that Michael Moore.
Hope, a wonderful concept to base a campaign on. I hope the Bush campaign is listening, because that word has great resonance with the American people. And it's a word not in the vocabulary of the "extreme left-wing political and intellectual circles" as Wiesel called them. Of course, those folks are more commonly known as the Democratic party.