My youngest son gifted me with Viktor Frankl’s famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning. I had last read Frankl’s book in the summer just before I turned 23 in the autumn of 1976. I remember putting it down after the initial reading. I came back to it after my October birthday, feeling it was more the kind of book one would read in the autumn.
Frankl was a Jew. He was held by the Nazis in various forced labor camps in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufenberg and Turkheim, from 1942 to 1945. You should know his life was marred by criticism from other Holocaust survivors who complained Frankl actually posited his form of logotherapy in formal papers presented from 1937 to 1939 to the Goring Institute, a Nazi psychiatric think tank and, it follows, his acceptability to Nazi philosophers made him unacceptable to Holocaust thinkers. This dogged Frankl and his publishers for the rest of his life. One wonders just how long one had to suffer in concentration camps before his existence becomes worthwhile to other sufferers and their advocates.
I will have to leave that decision to others. I really just started out to share a sentence from Frankl’s most famous work (for which he was criticized as “self congratulatory” and so mendacious as “to make himself the hero of the book rather than a simple survivor.” Perhaps so, but I never spent a night in a Nazi death camp and, so, I stand in awe of those who did, both the living and the dead.
Be that as it may, here is what Frankl wrote in a very famous sentence in his very famous book. I quote it to offer some kind of clarity to our present American situation, wherein advocacy journalism (which cannot itself actually be journalism, for the adjective takes the precedence in purpose and not just in place), identity politics (see previous statement) and the cooling of the historically beneficial American melting pot mark the summer of 2019 as a blazing precursor to an even hotter summer coming in 2020, with an election year that may be the most vitriolic in our history.
Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms — the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
We ought to seek clarity, you and I, before 2020 gets here. Clarity might be achieved by deciding what we want our history to look like in 2021, both personally and as a people. Despite what some potty mouthed persons might tell us, no one on our border is drinking from a toilet, but there is a humanitarian crisis in the nations below the Rio Grande. If Mexico were Canada this conversation would not even be taken. We are going to have to gain clarity for our Southern neighbors, all the way to South America and not search for our clarity from them, or from persons who might claim to be their advocates.
Frankl might not haven been acceptable to all his fellows. I do not think for one moment I have more to offer than he. Perhaps I should not even be allowed to interpret him. However, I do think he is on to something when he insists this one thing: all our rights might be taken from us legally (all the Nazis did were legal when and where they did them, they were just unethical and immoral in any place and time) but we can still insist on this freedom over our own attitudes and, so.our actions.
I do not have to sympathize with any Untruth Squad, regardless of its party of origin. Seriously, there are plenty of lies to go around these days. You and I can insist on our own right to be active and happy and free.
And so we ought to insist on the freedom of our own minds.