Lesley Stahl: You don't think they turn into savages even for the act?
Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
For me the word "war" is crucial. Historical and cultural horrors are part of our very bones. And create wars literally and figuratively. Listening to Dr. Gabor Mate, in Alberta, in 2010, he presented a talk after Glen and I gave our talk, Gabor said his family left Hungary when he was two. AND that the chaos and fear and anguish of living in an environment of war and oppression, lives in his bones to this day. To the benefit of each of us, I would state that from those horrors of what the bones live, Gabor writes books and does work that unravel the bones, and that speak compassion. That engage the heart.
Yesterday after our BBC interview, Glen Flett, said to me that he learned something about me, something he did not know until that interview. What he said is (to precis): "When you said that you were not angry or vengeful at me and the others who killed your Dad, but that you were angry and rage-filled about the horrors of life, that is how I felt as a child." I thought about "voice."
I do not know how our very lenghty interview, with some truly potent questions, will be edited. So, I will share further, that when I was 18 years of age, I tried to end my life. Pain so deep was sucking my very life away. I was reading three books which underscored that as humans we are all capable of any amount of acts. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer; No Man is an Island, by Thomas Merton; and, Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl.
When I put those books down and decided to swallow a large bottle of Tylenol, I did not know then, what I learned a few hours later, what I know to my very core, which is that love is the essence of our very being. My Mom standing next to me after my stomach was pumped. Saying, "Margot, I have lost Daddy. I can not lose you too."
At that time it did not occur to me that the act of writing was and is itself an act of love, of hope, of possibility. That the act of reading, of sharing our voices, is an act of love, of hope, of possibility.
Sawbonna, for me, for my vocation, is of and about shared-humanity and our capacity to love and be loved. Sawbonna the word I learned from the man who, if I believed in easy scripts, I am not supposed to love. But I do. Even as I might not belong to a religious group or community, I cherish what I know of those people who inspire us: Rumi, Jesus, Sophia, Hildegard of Bingen, among others. Three other humans for whom I hold respect and gratitude, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Like Gabor, their work Mentors us to continue to grapple which shared-humanity. With Mystery too.