Voices Against Indifference Initiative

A Decade Inspired by Elie Wiesel

sponsored by

The Leon Levine Foundation

Sandra and Leon Levine

Essay Contest

3rd Place


Elie Wiesel Contest

By: Sarah Long

8th grade, Charlotte Country Day School

“Indifference is the cancer of our age, the fount of our evils.” “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” As we explore our past through Night, by Elie Wiesel, we realize that these words may be more than a clever cliché.

Is indifference a cry of resignation?” Is humankind too weary, too fed up, too blasé to lift its head and stare with conviction at the world around it? For when humans are inhuman, good men are sometimes out of touch. There is the foundation of the Holocaust, the greatest recorded genocide mankind has ever known. Wiesel asks, “How can a citizen of a free country not pay attention? How can anyone, anywhere not feel outraged? How can a person, whether religious or secular, not be moved by compassion?

“Compassion” means a deep feeling of sharing the suffering of another in the inclination to give aid and support, or to show mercy. A nice definition, but one can boil it down to the word care. At my Junior High level, it seems that the most important word is “responsibility.” Is notresponsibility just care? It is easy for everyone to say that they care, that they’re responsible in duties and promises. To go further, with little thought it is easy to say that we’d have been there in the Holocaust, breaking down the walls of Auschwitz.

For most Americans at this time, 9/11 is the greatest atrocity we really remember. We all watched the towers fall on the news and stared with horror at what we saw. Yet, did we all jump in our cars and race to New York? Did we, the fortunate, all offer to take in orphaned children? Did we all walk the streets offering cell phones to afflicted people? Did we even think about doing that? Even for just one person?

Elie Wiesel says that he “tries to sensitize the reader or the student.” While reading this book, hate and anger and frustration surfaced in me. Yet, Eliezer is a very serene and quiet man. He channels his emotions into doing constructive things to help others. The hard part is getting from Point A to Point B. Night let me know what happened, and that is the first step: education. When we learn, we attach emotions to what we learn. Wiesel wants us to feel compassion for what happened so that it will never happen again. Strong emotions are the building blocks for action.

My father is adopted. We celebrate his “Chosen Day” with as much important as his birthday. He feels very strongly about his luck to be chosen over the many other babies and children that end up in foster care, and his good family that adopted him. He wanted to be able to do something for the Children’s Home Society that found him a home and provides extensive services for both adoptive and foster children and families. We are very philanthropic toward CHS, and that is a wonderful thing. Writing a check is very easy in this contemporary world, but it is only one component of action. That is why we, as a family, twice chaired the Nutcracker Ball to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Home Society. That is action, which does more to raise awareness than writing a check. We helped to bring a lot of people together to improve the situation and needs of the less fortunate children in our society.

Action starts on a small scale. “Before we can change the world, we must first change ourselves.” This compassion can lead to much action. Says Wiesel, “The anger is in me but the hate is not. I use my words to shout-that is how I express my anger.” Hate is the wrong way to start. Revenge is not the way of any successful people now or before. Compassion and support of neighbors and those who aren’t neighbors is very relevant.

This situation in Darfur today is horrifying. Innocent people are being persecuted because of small details that separate them from their friends and neighbors. After the Holocaust, the general consensus was, “Never again.” It’s happening. Again. Eliezer’s village had not heard of Auschwitz or barely even Hitler because of poor communications. Now we have email and Instant Messaging and great telephones and some people still don’t know what’s happening close to them. “I have no doubt that indifference is no option,” states Wiesel. Indifference is the downfall of society. Indifference is the opposite of action.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Elie Wiesel states that, “I have no doubt that evil can be fought.” He asks rhetorically, “How many destinies, how many lives, how many dreams were shattered by the Nazis.” We must believe in the humanity of the human being. Being born gives you worth.

Wiesel says, “I’ve published 47 books-yet I feel that I haven’t even begun.” Maybe we haven’t.