Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Madness, Martyrs and Memory

At the Holocaust Museum in Washington this day, the history of human hatred marks a moment of convergence as an 88-year-old shooter, enraged about Jews and blacks, opens fire only hours before the scheduled performance of a new play about an imagined meeting between 15-year-old Anne Frank, who died in a Nazi concentration camp, and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy murdered in Mississippi a decade later for whistling at a white woman.

Today's gunman who killed a guard, James von Brunn, runs a racial-hate website about the book he wrote about going to jail after attempting a "citizen's arrest" of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1981.

The author of the play, Janet Langhart, an African-American writer, was at the museum this afternoon with her husband William Cohen, the former Secretary of Defense, during the shooting but was not injured.

In her play, Langhart imagines an exchange between the two victims of a hatred that has nothing to do with themselves as individuals.

"We're all here together in the darkness," Anne Frank says, "yet alone at the same time until we're pulled into the light, until we're remembered."

"Remembered?" Emmett Till answers. "By whom?"

These two children were robbed of their years--she would have turned 80 this week, he would have been 69 next month--but they will be remembered tonight not only by Langhart Cohen's work of art but an octogenarian madman acting out an abomination only hours before.

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