My dear Uncle Dick passed away a few years ago. He was an exceptionally good man; a role model and a mentor.
He taught me much about the world. And tyranny and evil. And how to fight it.
Uncle had grown up in Nazi Germany. His family was among the last Jews to stay there.
They left because Nazi youths hung him from a tree, and by the Grace of God, a farmer came in the nick of time and cut him down.
His family then fled to the sanctuary of the USA.
In those days, immigration authorities protected our borders. They vetted potential newcomers. The officials interviewing asked him why they should let him in the country. His reply has become a rallying cry for me:
“Thank the Lord, I just escaped the evil fascists. If you let me into America, I will help you fight and defeat them. This is everybody’s fight.”
They did let Uncle and his family into our country, and he did join the Navy and fought the Japanese imperialists in the Pacific Arena.
After graduating college on the GI Bill, Uncle went on to an illustrious career as a probationary social worker for the City of New York. Even though he had served honorably in the victory against the Axis Powers, I think Uncle made his biggest contribution to the fight against evil in the Halls of Criminal Justice.
Uncle believed that people must obey the law, but also that the law must be applied fairly and squarely. He had such a strong notion of righteousness that judges often asked his informal opinion on cases. As an Officer of the Court, he could sit in on trials even when the accused was not his client. Judges would often take him aside and ask his assessment of the proceedings. How best to apply the law? They knew he had a strong notion of the Right Thing to Do.
After serving the City justice system for decades, Uncle retired, but then spent years mentoring the next generation of officers. It was very, very important to him that government officials applied the law as a matter of doing the right thing.
“I have personally experienced the government turning against the people,” he told me shortly before he died. “I have seen the evil that is unleashed when people in power use laws to persecute others, for their own agenda.”
“That can never be allowed to happen.”
Yes, Uncle. You have taught me well about the evils of tyranny. This is everybody’s fight.