When in the Course of Human Events . . .
In 1972 I sat in the parlor of an old house in western Norway. It belonged to my great aunt, Kristina, and my family had occupied the spot for literally hundreds of years. There was an old hay thatched smoke house where they stored salt cod, flat bread, and dried hams. There was a dairy barn for their cows. A half hour’s drive in any direction were more relatives – who owned sheep farms, grew hay, and lived in homes with four to six inch thick solid wooden walls, some of them hundreds of years old; one of them was the house where my grandmother was born. I was nine years old, and it was still a time when Norwegians had vivid memories of the German occupation. During my last visit, many years ago now in 1992, the Norwegians still had searing memories of the Nazi occupation. The Germans seized their weapons. They forced them into hard labor. They starved them.
A week or two after that visit in 1972 we were in Denmark, home country of my grand-father. We visited my great aunt, Anna, her husband, Viggo, and dozens of cousins. They, too, had vivid recollections of the war. All of them had a searing hatred, those long years later, of the Germans. Viggo was deported to Germany because he was a skilled furniture maker, as the interior of their house in Odense could attest. He was forced into hard labor and worked in Kiel, near the German-Danish border, barely escaping with his life when the allies bombed the city.
As the years passed, and in no small part as a result of that trip to visit relatives in Scandinavia in 1972, I developed an interest in being a Guardian of Memory – what you might simply call, “a historian”. I developed an interest in European history, particularly ancient, but with a keen interest in the Second World War as well. I remember and I know: it is what a Guardian does. And one of the things I remember and know is what happened in Europe between the 1920s and 1940s. I know why it happened, and I know how it happened. First and foremost, the war was a race war, plain and simple. It was a war based on the lie that some people, by virtue of a series of often imagined and inconsistent traits, are superior to others; it was a war that came about because a mediocre man with a feral talent exploited a desperate people; and it was a war that came about because too many concurred with the worst ideas humanity has ever produced, and people who knew better either fell silent, reassured themselves, or were bullied into silence. Such silence, as a Guardian, would for me be a betrayal of myself, my students, my country, indeed, of my very species. My knowledge of history tells me that no matter what the danger, no matter what the risk, I must speak.
For I have not merely seen but studied, first hand, the potential end results of a rhetoric that feeds on the lie of the subversive Other. That attacks people for their faith, their color, their language, their political persuasion. In the wake of the rhetoric of this campaign, and it’s outcome, I will no longer be silenced. Let me be clear: there is no compromise with such a world view. None. College administrators, even as I speak, are calling for respectful dialogue between two very contentious world views. But one of those world views has embraced racism, open advocation of cruel and unusual punishment, crushing of free expression, violence against others, crimes against humanity, and has embraced the KKK and Neo-Nazis; and the vehicle for this message honors nothing of Mosaic law, nothing of the teachings of Christ, nothing of the ministry of Peter or Paul, nothing of the compassion and faith of Mohhamed.
Indeed, this worldview, indecent in the extreme, goes against everything we know to be true about Biblical teaching and human ethics in general. We have seen where this ideology leads, and we are not going to follow its path without a struggle not just to push it back, but to destroy it, pull its foundations to the ground, and sow its ground with salt if need be. For anyone variously to stand with, support, or vote for such an idea is to embrace the idea itself, plain and simple. There is no argument, no discussion, and I frankly think college administrators are wrong, if not worse – they are potentially guilty of normalizing this, that out of respect for alternate points of view and diversity, they will be hoisted on their own petard, as they fearfully, confusedly grope towards what they view as an appropriate response that will protect students, looking to their physical and emotional safety as they aid and abet this ideology as it metastasizes to its potentially catastrophic conclusion.
The industrialist in Germany thought Hitler a little extreme here, a little extreme there, but believed that they could control him. From the start let me openly confess that, yes, I am already a clear example of Goodwin’s Law – and of course it didn’t take long to get there. However given the catastrophe in Europe and throughout the globe in the middle of the last century, given the rhetoric we have heard in this campaign, and given the breathtaking ignorance and immorality and lack of decency of some sixty million voters, I think prudence is warranted and the analogy apt.The vote itself was a criminal act – as one protest sign read, Your Vote Is A Hate Crime. There is no half way here: children have now played with matches near an arsenal. In future blogs I will explore what I perceive as some of the origins of this cataclysm.
For now, the purpose of this blog is simple: to critique American politics and political issues from a variety of perspectives, but above all to subject the frequently cruel and savage policies of the GOP from a Biblical point of view. At the basis of the great religions of the west stand compassion, empathy, the notion that we help the least among us; the Right cannot claim the mantle of righteousness, and at the same time embrace Social Darwinism. They are frauds . . .