Sunday, December 11, 2016

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, like this beautiful tree turning color here in upstate New York on November 12.

Or this beautiful tree from late October.

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.

These last few days, we've been going back in time: to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  To the space program, and the passing of a 95 year old hero of that age of exploration.

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 is happening once 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.

I will be interested in the comments I get. If they are thoughtful and respectful (even if they disagree) I'll happily comment back.  If they are hateful, I intend to publish them, and let them stand for all to read, because they will only prove my point.

Next Sunday, more from Hanukah House in Binghamton, New York.


  1. Thank you for speaking out. It is important that we all do so against the atrocious hate-filled culture that is developing.

    1. I only hope that I (and others who started to speak out before I did) can have an effect.

  2. I am appalled at some of the things that happened after the election here in my home state. A teenager hanging a noose in the boys bathroom in Royal Oak. A young woman being threatened with fire if she did not remove her headscarf in Ann Arbor. Children in a middle school cafeteria yelling 'send them back'. When I was in Germany a few years ago, it seems that everywhere I went they were telling their residents to never forget the past atrocities. Here in America, some folks act as if they never happened. It's disgusting. So much so that I have been unable to blog about it. Thank you for speaking out.

    1. Hate has been a part of our past, in the United States, more han we would care to admit. If we feel we were past it - these past few weeks and months have proved we are far from past it. Thank you for reading and caring, Denise.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you for being part of my inspiration.

  4. What can a citizen do when the all-powerful leadership of the country is evil and condones evil-doing among its followers? That seems to be where we are at this moment and it is scarily similar to the Germany of the 1930s. We can continue to speak out and oppose racism, misogyny, zenophobia, and anti-intellectualism in every forum available to us, but will it be enough? Time will tell.

    1. I fear some of what you fear, too. And I thank you and others for caring.

  5. A sad truth is that one's ability to incite fear and division paves the road to power.

    1. It is a sad truth, Kenneth, repeated over and over in history. Thank you for stopping by.

  6. It is frightening what has happened to this country and now with the horrifying results of the election, people have been emboldened to spew their hatred even more. Next summer I will be visiting several countries in Europe including Poland, which is the country of my ancestors. Auschwitz is on our itinerary and it will be hard to see, but I could not go without visiting there because now, more than ever before, it is important not to forget what happened. Thank you for your post.

  7. Good post. I feel almost helpless... I throw in a few quotes now and then ... Well, we as a people need to have a zero tolerance for hatred. We must try!

  8. It won't happen again. Not here. Not against anyone. At least, I plan to stand against it. We must remain vigilant.

    Last spring, during the annual reading of The Diary of Anne Frank (happens usually in April for all the 8th graders), the topic of the survivors dying off came up. The kiddos had been taught that they would be the last generation to overlap with the survivors, and while I don't think it's penetrated yet, I think some of them will remember that.

    They teach the Holocaust at school. It's even expanded in the last couple years. Let's hope those lessons stick.

  9. I haven't read the news lately so wasn't aware that so much hate was already shown among people. I have read and watched documentary on concentration camps and how much people suffered during those times. It's terrible that we are going back to those barbaric times. I am glad you called it out in your post.


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