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Good Guys versus the Bad Guys

The more you dig into history, the more muddled and self-incriminating it can become... Beware the black-and-white answers, the right vs. wrong, and the good vs. evil arguments!

More and more it seems that the very ones who insist so adamantly in such extremes and rigid beliefs - are the ones most capable of committing the heinous deeds themselves. This plays out time and time again through the history books... the settling of the American West, with piecemeal resistance and "savagery" by Native Americans led to the far more savage and systematic wiping out and relocation of what is left of them.

And boy do we love to beat the "Hate the Nazis" drum. It's like a fundamentalist heterosexual railing against homosexuality. To this well-intentioned zealot, such acts and orientation seem completely foreign... disgusting... unnatural... and therefore easy to hate and vilify.

Yet in the great irony of ironies, the German public was led down a precisely similar path in regards to their eventual and now-permanent relationship to the Jews, even if this lasted a period of just around a decade in the history of a people which goes back many, many centuries!

"Where did this hatred come from?" you ask. "How could they do such a thing?!"

Short answer?

"They were evil people."

The long answer involves scholarship and understanding...

There were several: A growing menace in the East in form of the Russian Revolution and a manifesto written by a German Jew named Karl Marx for one big starter... political threats to German unity, including the short-lived Communist take-over of the government offices in Bavaria; this same Communist Party apparatus stocked with many well-known Jews and championing a cause that wanted the end of German statehood; Germany being that primary barrier nation between this new Soviet Union and Western Europe; and a religion and accompanying dress and culture that was highly exclusionary and different than that of the typical, good-citizen German Catholic or Protestant (read up on how peaceful that split was to get an idea of German convictions and the nature of being highly judgmental)...

Quite a cocktail of fear from which an angry veteran corporal of WWI could use to rally people to protect Germany... protect the good German people from the Bolshevik hordes, the wealthy Jewish businessman who never bothered to assimilate that much and didn't mesh with the other "good" Germans...

And few gave Hitler much thought until a Great Depression sent Germany on its face. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and suddenly this outraged party leader seemed to make a lot of sense.

We know the results of that one-sided, blinded rage. It was a brutal, searing impression upon this author to go to Dachau concentration camp and see those conditions as a schoolboy - that cold, ugly face of a totalitarian state which employed a system of thug tactics and demanded a single, blinded allegiance behind insane policies of "racial purity" and Aryan supremacy... I've been to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam, and I tip my hat to Steven Spielberg for adding an incredible movie at the end of that tour. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Yet as we look back upon WWII history, it has become easier and easier for people to make their ever-so-tempting black and white selections, forgetting that this same characteristic is what created the Nazi Party...

Why do we do this?

Because it's easier. It's easy to have the good guys and the bad guys. It's easy for the simple minded Christian to have Charlie Manson as the face of non-believers. It's easy for the modern American atheist to use the members of the Westboro Baptist Church to represent all that they don't like about religion.

After all, if you treat and deal with people on an individual, personal basis, you might find some of your favorite beliefs getting knocked about. It will make you uncomfortable, and you might even end up agreeing with much of what this hated "enemy" believes - which will incur a similar dislike and ostracism of you by your own kind!

BY NO MEANS does this mean that we aren't right to seek out what is good and noble in this world - and to alert others to what is evil and dangerous... but perhaps that's what the Good Book was trying to convey when it implored mankind not to judge one another (much as religion has been the pulpit for some of the world's biggest offenders).

So how about this photograph?

A car...

A town ruins...

This is Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in France, where all of the men and boys were lined up and shot, and the women and children put in a church, before it was set on fire. Over 600 people and a town were wiped off the map in a matter of hours... After WWII, French President Charles de Gaulle forbid that it ever be rebuilt. It was left to stand as a reminder of German cruelty.

Black and white, right???

I stumbled across the following article, which I was reading in preparation for a tour I'll be leading of six couples in France next month. I added this stop into the mix, after they had expressed interest in seeing a good bit of the Normandy beach cemeteries and memorials. That we will do, but this seemed like a great curve-ball...

So was this article I stumbled across...

And if and when you read this, comfy in your chair of historical understanding and disdain for the German people - who likely will never be fully forgiven, certainly as long as films about the plight of Jews in WWII remain front-runners in any Oscar race - think about your black vs. white viewpoint as you get to know the characters in this story.

And when you are done, think of American sentiment towards Germans at the end of WWII, had George Patton been captured and burned alive by partisans who kept resisting after the war.

I think history has done its job when we are all humbled by it and think long and hard before pointing fingers... "I would have done this!" "I am horrified by that!" "They deserved it!"

Matthew 7:1 says it best: "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

The older I get, the more it is starting to make a great deal of sense...

Copy and paste - and you be the judge...

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