Sunday, January 28, 2018

Revisiting the Ordinary Nature of Evil

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Survivors of the World War II Holocaust gathered to commemorate. Each year their numbers grow smaller.

It is no secret that supporters of neo Nazi groups increase in number each year.  In December of 2016, I wrote the following post (reblogging below with minor changes).  Since then, we have had many incidents of hate in our nation, including (but not limited to) the events of last year in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Friday before last, I had dinner with a man who I went to high school with.  His parents were partisan fighters during World War II, and there is a picture from that era that includes his father in the Florida Holocaust museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

After our dinner, I asked myself, could I have done that?  Could I have battled evil if I had been called?

That's the thing about evil.  It can show up

The Ordinary Nature of Evil

Today is not a day like all other days.

I do my best to keep my blog lighthearted, to gladden the hearts of my readers with pictures of flowers, trees, and the sky.

I could wish that our world held only beauty.

But our world has two faces - the face of beauty and the face of evil.  If you wish, you can stop reading now, and come back tomorrow.  I rarely get political.  The next few Sundays will be an exception.

But I hope you'll stay with this post, because the future of our country depends on YOU. 

There is another group of people whose population is shrinking daily.  In the next few years,  the remaining survivors of what we call the Holocaust (or the Shoah) will also be gone.

It doesn't take long for history to be forgotten or even denied.  It doesn't take long, when times seem favorable, for the purveyors of hate to come out and spread their vile messages.  It doesn't take long for attacks to take place, for people who dress differently than most of us to be targeted and beaten, or for people who have names identified with certain religions to be targeted on social media.

It has already happened in upstate New York.  It may have happened where you live, even if you don't live in the United States.

It is true that there have been other genocides both before and after the Holocaust.  But the Holocaust is personal to me because members of my family that did not immigrate to the United States may have died in the liquidation (what a word!) of a couple of cities in Europe.  It is personal to me because my childhood best friend's mother was a concentration camp survivor.

And now, before our eyes, here in our beautiful United States, it has happened again.

We the people have the power to make it stop.  We must use that power.  NOW.  This hate can not be permitted to grow any more.  Why?  Because history teaches us what happens when it does grow, when good people do not speak out, when good people turn a blind eye because "it's not about us".

The objects of evil can be quite ordinary.  Let me show you one.

Picture taken Hanukah House, Binghamton, New York, December 2012

Take this star, for example.  Pretty harmless looking, isn't it?

Have you ever heard of the Nuremberg Race Laws?  If you haven't, this link will teach you about them.

In the Germany of the late 1930's, Jews were forced to register with the government.  They were required to carry identity cards marked with a large "J".  They were banned from certain occupations.  Their businesses were taken from them.  They were targeted at school, at work, at home. 

This doesn't happen to sound similar to various recommendations floating around our country about what should happen to Muslim residents, does it?  The calls for hate start small.  Let's have a registry (see the George Takei link below).  Let's make them carry identification cards.

So, what happened in Europe in the late 30's and early to mid 40's?

Among other things, Jews were forced to wear badges. As the Nazis conquered country after country, the Jewish residents of this country had to wear badges, too.

Not wearing one of these badges could be punished by death.

Such a simple thing.  Again, the hate started small.  And then it got really, really big.  It eventually led to the deaths and torture of millions and millions of people, all over the world, not just in Europe, both military and civilian.  The numbers are staggering. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking it couldn't happen here, or think that I am exaggerating and should just "chill out".  Many good people of the 1930's thought that way, too.  Few could imagine what did end up happening.

The people of today have one big advantage over the people then.  We have the lesson of what happened in the 1930's and 1940's.  We even have the lesson of what happened in our country.

Our country, you ask?  George Takei, an actor from the original Star Trek TV series and an activist, was a childhood survivor of internment camps, right in the heartland of our country.

We ignore that lesson at our peril.  Not just if you are Jewish.  Not just if you are Muslim.  Most of my readers are neither Jewish nor Muslim.  It doesn't matter.  It is time to say no.  It is time to think of other solutions.  Are we a people of little imagination?

There's one more thing the purveyors of hate are prepared for - the next terrorist attack in our country, because it will come. It may well be another "lone wolf" attack - a person turned by propaganda and hate into a killer.  When it does, it may well become the excuse for "measures" to "protect our citizenry" to be put into place.  History has taught us all about those measures, time and again.

Freedom?  Or Security?  This is our hour of decision.

We must stand together and speak out against all occurrences of evil in our country.  Otherwise, to paraphrase a famous poem, there may be no one left to defend us when "they" finally come for us.


History will be our judge.

6 comments:

  1. "Could I have battled evil if I had been called?" you ask. You already know the answer. Because we are going through it again, so if you wonder what you would have done then, look at what you are doing now. That tells you everything. Are you going along with the currents of hate right now? Or are you part of the #Resistance?

    Of course, now we have the clear lessons of history to guide us. We know where this path leads. Perhaps that's the difference. Perhaps that's why we don't have to make the mistakes of the past. Perhaps we can put a stop to the attrocities that are to come if we were to just blindly go along.

    Keep speaking out. We all need to. We will not do this again.

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  2. You make some valid points. The problem these days is we are more tuned to the noise out there rather than the facts.

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  3. Interesting post. My brother's wife is the daughter of a concentration camp survivor. I think some people want to believe that this is not real.
    For what it's worth, I shared this on Google Plus. Sometimes I wonder if anyone goes there any more though.

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  4. Very powerful and thought-provoking post, first thing this Monday morning, Alana. I definitely think we need to stand together and speak out against all evil. It is ironic that while I'm writing to you, a lot is happening in my country which makes me wish to take a stand and say the same thing as you are saying here. The choice between freedom and security is perilous. But we need to speak out or stay spineless all our lives.

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  5. It is so easy to forget evil exists when it doesn’t happen to us . Its insidious, slow poison slowly but surely infects us all. Thank you for reminding us to be watchful and vigilant and stop it before it gets too late

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  6. First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    -- MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

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