RememberBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:27 PM GMT
See Also: 'Remember' Episode Guide
In her dreams, B'Elanna Torres finds herself living the life of an Enaran, a race of telepathic beings who are being transported home by Voyager. During the dreams, her young alter ego Corinna falls in love with a boy from the Regressives. She later betrays him to his death at the hands of her father, a high-level military official who may be covering up the mass extermination of Regressives by claiming to be "resettling" them.
When Torres realizes that her dreams are the memories of an Enaran on the ship - who dies under mysterious circumstances - and accuses the Enarans of carrying out genocide and covering it up, the kindly telepaths are horrified. But one young woman agrees to let Torres share the memories she received from the old woman, and the cycle of remembering starts again.
It's an ironic word, "remember." To re-member means to put the pieces back together. Of course, we can't reconstruct the past - can't rescue the people or rebuild the cities. But we can save the stories. Usually. A holocaust is literally destruction by fire--the stories all burned along with the bodies. Nothing left to remember.
Holocausts aren't easy for me to write about. I'm a Jew, and all Jews are holocaust survivors. On Passover, we remember the exodus from an oppressive regime which tortured and killed our ancestors. The prayers of thanksgiving are in the first person--we explain to our children that we praise God for rescuing US, not just those distant forebears. "I give thanks for what God did for me when I went forth from Egypt." Further on in the seder, we sit in silence, in memory of children who did not survive the Nazi concentration camps to celebrate the Passover. Even Jews who do not bear the tattoos of the Nazis were marked for death, spared by a war that killed millions of others.
But at least the Jewish community survived Nazi Germany to tell the story of the Holocaust, and to piece together the lives they had before. I'm very disturbed that we've never seen a living Jew in Star Trek's future--that, as far as we can tell, Judaism only exists for our 24th century counterparts in the Holocaust Museum. Even so, we're better off than the Regressives. The Enarans left nothing of them, not even in a museum. There's nothing left to re-member.
I'll tell you what I thought was the most disturbing scene in this episode. Not Corinna's betrayal of her lover, nor the deportation of unwilling Regressives, nor the execution with the three pillars of death lined up like crucifixes. What got me was the scene where B'Elanna charged into the farewell party, demanding that people hear the story of the genocide, and nobody from Voyager wanted to listen.
There are Bajorans and Talaxians and African-Americans on Voyager, all survivors of holocausts. There's Chakotay, victim of Cardassian oppression and progeny of Native Americans, standing beside Janeway, a descendant of settlers in Indiana. I wonder if the Maquis leader ever thinks about the irony of their backgrounds, a thousand years of the Federation captain's ancestral history displacing his own. In "Remember," they're too busy being embarrassed at Torres' outburst to think about that. It's easier to let bygones be bygones, to pretend that such exterminations don't happen. Among the Enarans, there's not a single survivor to tell the victims' story. The holocaust is remembered by one of the conquerors; she can bear witness to the events, but the Regressives themselves are gone. No one will ever know what they really believed, who they were, what they stood for.
After "Remember" aired, some discussion ensued online about whether the Regressives represented a real threat to the Enarans--as if they somehow deserved their fate. The Nazis said similar things about the Jews: that they were unclean, that they resisted Aryan progress. The Turks said similar things about the Armenians before slaughtering them, as did French Catholics before the Holy Crusade to destroy the Albigensian Cathars. Blaming the victims is a lot easier than confronting the lies, sometimes perpetrated by good people who don't know the whole truth, or can't cope with resisting an entire society's hatred.
Were the Regressives really slaughtered? Are we supposed to ask that question? Nobody but one old woman claimed to remember anything; maybe she just felt terrible about having let her father execute her boyfriend, and the strain of that caused her to believe his tales after his death. Maybe it actually happened the way the Enarans said, and the Regressives died out after the resettlement. Maybe the whole incident was one of those science fiction devices like "Persistence of Vision": B'Elanna let herself get possessed by an evil alien as an excuse to have sex, and what she saw didn't matter, it was just a reflection of her guilty feelings. She never personally witnessed the mass executions.
We hear similar claims about the Holocaust as well from right-wing revisionist historians. No one actually came out of a gas chamber to tell what happened inside...so, say the skeptics, maybe the chambers didn't exist. Maybe the concentration camps were resettlements, just like the Nazis said they were. Maybe there's some other reason for the mass graves. Throughout history, revisionists have had explanations for all the most horrific human events--maybe the slaves wanted to be brought to America to escape plagues in Africa, maybe the Indians wanted the English to come "civilize" them. People who could have acted to stop the atrocities believed whitewashed versions of events for years. Who would want to believe a horrible truth, let alone try to end or explain it? (I love the fact that "Remember" was directed by Winrich Kolbe - a German.)
If we don't tell someone about what the Enarans did, it could happen again, Torres reminds Janeway, who's busy reciting noninterference directives--the same sort which governments (including our own) have used as excuses for staying out of other nations' "ethnic cleansing" programs. Though the systematic slaughter of six million Jews was on an unprecedented scale, the ugliest truth about the event we call The Holocaust is that Nazi Germany wasn't the first instance of holocaust on a national scale. It wasn't even the first time it happened to the Jews. And it won't be the last, if nobody remembers.
I remember a couple of years ago, sitting in synagogue on Yom Ha'shoah, the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust. "Never again," we recited, in English and Hebrew. Halfway around the world, Serbs were slaughtering Muslims by the thousands. We watched it every night on the news. Another entire community destroyed.
I think about the woman B'Elanna transferred her memories to--on whom the responsibility now falls to find the truth, to tell others, to do something to stop it from happening again. She's bound to be extremely unpopular, vilified, threatened. Perhaps even wiped out, like the old woman who gave B'Elanna her life story, and like the Regressives themselves.
Some might argue that letting the sins of the past go will make for a brighter future--that pointing to horrors and saying, "This is our nature, to slaughter like animals," can serve as an excuse for more horrors rather than a call for change. Yet history doesn't mean anything if the events of the past become nothing more than anecdotes, a gate, a museum.
Forgiveness is the first step in healing--people have done awful things, and have got to face up to them, but we also must see some potential for growth. It's necessary to reconstruct what was lost, remind the world that the horrors can happen again, and then put the pieces into new patterns to make sure that they don't. "Remember" has to be more than just a word.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.