Fredman: Marijuana and memorial

To read the names of victims of the Holocaust is right. It is an attempt to seek out spiritual wickedness, name it and stop it. Addressing something as serious as the slaughter of six million Jews is something the world needs, purely and simply. Hatred is wrong. Killing is wrong. And there is far too much of both still today.

But every day should be a remembrance day. And I’m uncomfortable that this one — Holocaust Memorial Day, from sundown today to sundown tomorrow — is just for Jews. Eleven million people were victims of the Holocaust, and tens of millions more died in the war started by the Nazi regime. Millions of people die every day. In the 24 hours of name reading, 18,000 children will die of hunger. The world is filled with disaster, and here we are, reading names of six million Jews, “our people,” when a holocaust of children — 6.6 million — die of hunger every year. Who reads their names?

Yom Hashoah — Hebrew for “a day of the Holocaust” — shouldn’t be a singular day, and it shouldn’t be seen as memorializing the definitive Holocaust. If any good can come out of the Holocaust, it is the realization of what Bob Marley reminds us of when he sings, “When the rain falls falls falls it don’t fall on one man’s house / Remember that, when the rain falls, it don’t fall on one man’s house.”

A battered people’s first inclination is to circle the wagons and put up walls. But when such a mentality persists, it becomes infectious. The wagons are pulled too close, the walls built too high. I believe our wounds — those of Jews around the world — have been sufficiently nursed, and I think it’s time we begin to nurse the wounds of others, too. Marley asks, “How long must we suffer, till we just learn these things that we must be united?” It’s time to realize the dangers of ethnocentrism. Humanity is a bigger group, life even bigger, and Being the biggest of them all, and the fact that we’ve yet to learn this is the Holocaust’s greatest tragedy.

Out of my frustration with many of the ways the Holocaust has been treated, and out of the awareness that this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day happened to begin on the evening of April 20, which is National Pot Smoking Day each year, I came up with the completely and utterly ridiculous idea of merging the two. People I spoke with didn’t like the idea very much. But in listening deeply to their discomfort, I learned something about myself and the way I choose to be in the world.

I seek to be a post-relativist absolutist; I believe it is important both to deeply realize that all beliefs are relative and then to stand firm for what I believe to be true and right. On the one hand, as Marley sings, there are “so much things to say,” each justified in a way. But we need to remember “to fight spiritual wickedness in high and low places,” with clarity and passion.

To hold and believe firmly two completely opposite and contradictory truths and not get lost between the two is a great challenge. Too many of us form firm beliefs without understanding that ultimately all points of view are equal. We are understandably not yet ready for complete relativism, because everything can only be recognized as equal in a time when we have successfully fought all spiritual wickedness, when our collective consciousness is so large that we will have become one fluid, shifting, adapting and ever-moving self. Nonetheless we must try to get there.

I am well aware of the negative impacts of marijuana: It can ruin lives, economies and countries. There are those who stop there and denounce marijuana as evil. In a relative world, though, all things both contain and go beyond good and evil. Whether or not one smokes marijuana, one can be open to what marijuana may teach.

Marijuana can help break boundaries, lift things from the places and roles to which they are generally assigned, so we can taste again what it is to see the world as if you are new, as through the eyes of a babe. We may come to experience what it is to be unattached, free; to see the world, as some texts suggest God sees it, when good and evil fade; as richly complicated, frightening, beautiful, awesome, boring, peaceful, warring, all at once and yet stretched across time in a way that everything blends and balances to silence, or “OK,” or Being.

Still, why conjoin Holocaust remembrance with marijuana? I would point to Marley’s 1979 album, “Survival.” Mixed in with the usual messages of love, peace and the power of music, Marley sings of suffering, brutality and trouble, as well as the need for real revolutionaries to emerge, to rebel, to work — not to remember suffering, but to be aware of its existence right now, and to acknowledge our own perpetuation of it, our place in what Marley calls the “Babylon System”: essentially, a system in which the ego sees itself as fundamentally True and acts accordingly in a way that denies the greater and truer Self that encompasses all Being. I am as guilty as — if not more so than — anyone in this false and cruel awareness of reality. A pair of shoes, a nice dinner and my Yale education are all things I purchase for myself instead of using the money to save lives. The “Babylon system is the vampire,” Marley cries, “ … sucking the blood of the sufferers … sucking the children day by day.”

Holocaust Memorial Day, as it has thus far been observed, roots us in the world. April 20, the awareness symbolized by marijuana and sung about so powerfully by Bob Marley, brings us a vision of another world, just as the Sabbath offers a taste of the world to come, a better version of today, where the universe simply wants to be. In fact, it doesn’t even want to be, it just is. While being rooted in the world is most important, I have my eyes set on a redeemed world, and I yearn to live in it even now.

Micah Fredman is a junior in Berkeley College.


  • Scott

    No! Marijuana prohibition is causing the harm. This is supposed to be a free country, people should be able to smoke if they wish!

  • '72 alumna

    While hunger may be due to poor or evil governments, it is not at all like the Shoah, which singled out particular groups for human-inflicted destruction.

  • Freedom to be ill

    I do not denounce marijuana. I denounced numbing one's feelings, especially on aday memorializing the killings of Hitler's acid"rain, rain, rain."

    Free country? Yes--but health care isn't free when the poor arrive at emergency rooms with emhysema, lung cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver---all from the freedom to smoke and drink toxic chemicals. Why add marijuana to the list? Didn't ecessive ganja contribute to Marley's death at 29?

  • Mike

    This is one of the most unforgivable pieces of bullshit I've ever seen printed on this page.

    If you think it's wrong that people are dying of hunger, go help them. If you're unsatisfied that Jews are the only ones memorialized explicitly during Yom Hashoah, why not memorialize the others? How does marijuana even relate to any of these things?

    As far as I can tell, it doesn't, and your broaching of these weighty issues is merely a way of getting people to listen to your asinine rhapsodizing about how much you love getting stoned and listening to Bob Marley. And yes, you'll succeed at getting people to read your column(look, here I am, reading) but you accomplish that at the cost of being a complete douche.

  • duderino

    Marijuana does cleanse perception, so to speak. It does allow you, if you so choose, to see the world in a new, fresh way, more aware of the complexities and duality of everything that exists, of your own limits. But the trouble lies in associating genocide, the most fervent of states of actions, with being high, the most passive of states. To think, to reflect, to be aware, is not solve the problem.
    In order to live in the world, one cannot just reflect on it. Philosophers do not save laves. Politicians, doctors, artists do.
    The will to act is necessary for tikkun olam, and I worry that marijuana may sometimes obliterate that will.

  • duhduhduh

    Bob Marley died of malignant melanoma (on his foot) that spread to his lungs and brain. A treatable problem that his Rastafarianism didn't permit him to take care of. Pot had nothing to do with it.

  • Anonymous

    This column is absurd and extraordinarily offensive. It trivializes the Holocaust. It trivializes the systematic murder of my family. It trivializes the starvation and beatings my grandparents went through for over two years.

    Please, Fredman, get off your pot, open your eyes, and think before you write.

  • poop

    #2. "How long must we suffer til we just learn these things that we must be united…That until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained. Now everywhere is war, war…Burnin' all illusion tonight…Give me the food and let me grow" -Bob Marley

  • Bob Marley

    #3. "Herb is a good thing. Herb is a good thing…How they going to tell you its not a good thing. They tell you that cus herb makes you think a bit, makes you rebel…would God say its illegal?"

  • Bob Marley

    #4: "The stone that the builder refuse, will always be the head cornerstone…You're a builder baby, and here I am a stone, so don't refuse me baby, cus the things we refuse are the things we should choose." -Bob marley

  • Bob Marley

    #5: "Herb cause you to rebel…I and I a liberate zimbabwe, I and I build the cabin, I and I plant the corn…wake up and live…Dready got a job to do, and he's got to fulfill that mission, to see his hurt is their greatest ambition, yeah!
    But-a we will survive in this world of competition, cause no matter what they do, Natty keep on comin'through, and no matter what they say-ay-ay-ay, Natty de deh every day. yeah! Natty Dread rides again, through the mystics of tomorrow, Natty Dread rides again: Have no fear, have no sorrow, yeah!

  • Anonymous

    Fredman, Fredman, Fredman… Where to begin with you son… ? I hear your twisted logic, but i feel there is a more ethically sound way of combining 4/20 with Yom Hashoah: Basically, you smoke yourself retarded (10-15 g depending on your weight and gender) all the until you cant feel the pain of the mass man slaughter in Nazi Germany.
    Try it next year instead of eating your own soul.

  • WTF

    What the heck was that? Nonsensical gibberish. Utterly tasteless and insulting.

  • troubled

    I love you, Micah, but really?! I get why we need to remember Shoah; I get all your Bob Marley quotations; and I get how weed opens your mind.
    But my question remains: what's pot got to do with the Holocaust?
    NOTHING. Nothing. Nothing.

  • Micah responding to troubled people

    Thank you for your note. I would be glad to explain. For the first question of why Marijuana has a special day, I do not really know, but nor was I the one who originated the idea, so I hope you'll excuse me for the existence of such a day. If I were to defend the day though, I would say that marijuana is not really a killer in the way many of those other drugs are. I am not an expert on the subject, but I believe that marijuana itself is not so harmful. It is more the smoking of it that is harmful, but there are plenty of options for using marijuana without smoke - such as cooking it into oil and baking with it or using a vaporizer which heats the marijuana enough so that the THC vaporizes but does not cause smoke. I may lose you here, but I believe (and I believe it's a jewish value) that there is something to learn from every action, every person, every experience, every object - basically everything that exists. Marijuana being one such thing, I would say it has a lot of lessons to teach. These lessons are available from a lot of other sources, and perhaps I should have chosen to simply teach the lessons and leave the Marijuana out, but I also feel there is a value in provocation; putting together any two things that don't necessarily belong together (there being put together might even be called sacrilege) can draw to the surface aspects of both things that we may never have considered.. And if we can learn from any one thing, we can also learn from a combination of things. The lessons that Marijuana offers, which I hoped to illustrate in my article, are simply put, a heightened sense of awareness. For a first time smoker this heightening may result in dancing, eating, laughing and other seemingly indulgent experiences. But this heightening of awareness is not limited to pleasurable things. In my opinion we have numbed ourselves to suffering. Have you read Peter Singer? As I said in my article, 18000 children die each day, and we go on with our lives, drink our coffee, write emails, skip classes, etc. I think if we really felt the suffering of the world, we would live our lives in very different ways. My hope was that marijuana or at least the lessons it offers would break us out of that numbness, force us to contemplate how we choose to live our lives and and consider making a change. At the request of the Slifka center Student Board, as the education chair, I was asked to organized the name reading of the Holocaust victims on April 21. Despite my frustration with such a reading, as expressed in my article, I felt it my duty to plan the reading. I sat outside of dining halls, I sent out tons of emails, and an email was sent out to the entire Slifka community, but only about 14 of the 24 time slots for reading were filled. Only 14 people. I don't know what one does with that information, but I felt pretty shitty on Tuesday. Part of that feeling was connected to the memorial of the Holocaust itself, but I think a stronger part of it was the feeling that Holocausts and suffering will continue to go on for a long time. In my eyes the essential solution is that we begin to care about each other simply because we are human beings, and that is what I hoped to express in my article. I'm sorry I didn't make that clearer, but I hope this helps.

  • Freshman

    Good job, YDN. You have proven once again that your writers know absolutely nothing about the world and instead write about how smoking pot is related to the Holocaust. This is one of the worst articles ever.