I am still trying to make sense of the shooting at Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. When I lived in Lawrence, Kansas in the late 1990s, my wife and I went there frequently. I taught religious school there for a year and my wife practiced with an Israeli Dance Troupe. I know the place all too well.
Unfortunately, I am also familiar with the suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller. In late 2005 or early 2006, Mr. Miller was in the habit of distributing his “Aryan Alternative” newspaper in Springfield. To my shock and horror, he delivered one to my house. At first, I thought it was directed at me personally as a Jew but later learned that he delivered them to our entire neighborhood.
Because I am a humanist and a scholar, I thought the newspaper was worth saving so that future generations could see it. I gave the copy I received to Bill Garvin, the Drury Archivist. When news reports identified Mr. Miller of Aurora, Missouri as the suspect, I asked Bill to retrieve the newspaper. I want to share some of it because it horrifies me that we, as a society, knew of the extent of Mr. Miller’s hate but did not stop him. I also want to use this as a reminder that potentially important documents may not appear so important or significant when we first encounter them. The historian’s, the archivist’s, and the humanist’s efforts to record and capture the human experience is a necessary component if we wish to understand ourselves and our world.
In a coincidence, I just happen to be teaching Elie Wiesel’s Night, which recounts his experiences in the Holocaust. We cannot forget what has happened in the past and we must do whatever we can to eradicate hate from the world. We can ignore suffering, nor can we ignore the actions who are perpetrating hate.