To contrast, a candlelight vigil is an assembly or gathering of people outdoors after sunset for one or more purposes to protest for an oppressed group of people, and such vigils may also be used for religious or spiritual purposes whereas a candlelight memorial is for a person or group of people who has died tragically or unfairly. A candlelight vigil and memorial are often mixed together. A memorials significance is understandable, especially as a condolence to a victim’s friends and family or solidarity to like-minded people. In short, in its most basic element, it is an expression of love. But for people who frequent candlelight vigils, what is its significance?
If it is to change minds or even to pressure people to sway to favor…good luck. There would have to be reasons….a speech…something emotional and symbolic for people who do not share the vigil. The only other way I can see that goal being accomplished is if someone is deeply swayed by emotion to change their opinion. Like I said before….good luck.
If it is to “show the presence of” (a cause, a community, etc) or to simply “never forget,” doing something else will pretty much guarantee either. Holding a debate on an issue, for instance, will not only check those two just mentioned off the list but may actually change some minds.
What I am trying to lay out is that it seems candlelight vigils are useless, tantamount to saying something while saying nothing at all. It reminds me of a candidate running for office. However, I do find one useful thing about it. I have been to several candlelight vigils in the past and I have found most of them sobering experiences. Check candlelight memorial on the list. Causes including Transgender Remembrance Day, AIDS Day, and many others may easily illicit melancholy but I have also felt a sense of doing “something.” But another issue arises if you look deeper into that feeling. That “something,” in the shadow of anything is very, very easy to do. Just show up. Then, if you have felt what I have felt from the realization of actually caring for what you are supporting then you will come to see the joke of what you have done or been doing. To be less abstract, if you really care about a cause, ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT. It takes at least a bit of humbleness that comes with self-reflection to not only notice but truly appreciate when people really do care. Those people get their hands dirty.
Yousef Munayyer has highlighted a movement barely noticed in American media in the May 18, 2001 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. This movement, which several others including Harvard Professor Dr. Wendy Pearlman called it the Second Intifada (or “Shaking Off” or “Struggle”), may just capture the moral high ground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…if it were to not only persist but grow.
Dire straits don’t even begin to describe the turmoil in the so-called Holy Land, where a lasting peace between Israeli and Palestinian would be both ironic and quite possibly problematic to the religious identities of both indigenous populations. The convoluted story goes something like this. On one side you have people who want to wipe Israel off the map and the other side believes that all Palestinians are terrorists. But when you put aside the narratives of people who are not an Israeli Jew or Palestinian, it gets a little more complicated. In that little strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean, the two sides have become a little more multifaceted. I have heard of many Israeli Jews who not just believe but actually fight for Palestinian self-determination, but let us leave that for another story. This story comes from the other side who also would like to occupy the middle-ground.
Non-violent Palestinians may just hold the strategic key to finally settling the conflict. It has the power to face and destroy both the “wipe Israel of the map” and “all Palestinians are terrorists” narratives while depolarizing the situation. Palestinian youth may see it as a more useful form of resistance compared to violent resistance, one that doesn’t taint their distress with vengeance. Just as important, Israeli forces may run the risk of delegitimizing their current policies if they use violent force against non-violent protesters. Hopefully, it could bring the focus of the conflict where it should have always been…to discuss the nature of their struggle, their intent, and ultimately their identity.
And through this perhaps a new side can finally solidify. It is not the side of the Jew or Israeli verses the Muslim or Arab/Palestinian but of the moderate versus the extremists on both sides who wish the other did not exist.
Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell…
–excerpt from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Lord Tennyson