I saw the movie “12 Years A Slave.”
I have seen other movies on slavery, such as Amistad and Glory, but none were as potent and realistic as this was.
I came out with my head full of feelings of pain and injustice, as if I had just lived through those 12 years as a slave myself.
I literally felt sick to my stomach and the room felt as if it was spinning and I could hardly breathe.
My wife said to me, “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel bad.”
And I responded to her, “I feel bad that they (the slave owners and traders) weren’t human.”
I cannot tell the story of Solomon Northup or of the horrors of slavery any better than the movie in fact did.
But what I can convey is my shear disgust for how anybody could enslave and mistreat others the way the Black people and others throughout history were.
As a Jewish person, my own people have a history of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and this took on a whole new meaning.
As great actors as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner were, The movie, The Ten Commandments, did not show the depths of Hell of slavery as much as the breadth of Heaven of redemption.
And while the Pyramids of Egypt were built not with massively powered Caterpillar earth movers and construction equipment, but with the flesh and blood of my people under the whip of servitude 3,500 years ago, similarly the Capitol of the United States and The White House were built with Black people in chains and hung by the noose.
In the movie today, the plantation owners said they could do what they wanted to the slaves and without fear of retribution or sin, because the slaves were their property.
What is unbelievable is that anyone can believe that anybody can be the property of anyone other than G-d, the Master of the Universe, him/herself.
The slave trader in the movie, tearing apart a family and selling the mother and her children separately, when questioned on his ability to commit such atrocity, says matter-of-factly,”my sentimentality extends the length of a coin.”
For a buck, what will a person not do?
In history, we have seen individuals and whole societies cheat, steal, rape, enslave, torture, murder, and commit every treachery and treason…for a buck or even just because they could.
What is the lesson for all of us?
People can do great good in this world, but unfettered by faith, conscience, reason, or fear of justice, they can do great, great evil–and for that we can never let our guard down.