The shame of silence

Yesterday I spent the day at Milken Community High School reporting on the Righteous Conversations Project, a group that pairs teens and Holocaust survivors for intensive one-on-one dialogue.

In recounting their survival stories, survivors often say that egregious acts of silence aided and abetted their torment. As the statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke famously said, all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

But doing nothing is itself an act. As Susan Sontag shrewdly observed: “Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.”

No matter the circumstances, not to speak out is statement making; it is an act of acquiescence to what is.