22 April 2010


A friend pointed out to me that while from time to time I have said something about the Shoah, most recently when I noted Yom H`Shoah, the remembrance of the Holocaust; I have not said much about the other genocides that have happened in the period of the bloody 20th century and our own time. He has a point.

I think there are things to say:

  • Genocide is not a white, gentile, black, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, male or some other category sin. It is disturbingly, all of us. As Goldhagen noted in Hitler's Willing Executioners whole societies, in the case of the Shoah the entire German society, in R'Wanda's case the entire Hutu majority are complicit. Before you tell me this, I know there are the heroic exceptions. They do three things: the save some potential victims; they act decently and bravely but most of all they indict their societies.
  • Genocide is not of a political viewpoint or policy. Hitler was radically right wing, Mao and Stalin were leftists. Stalin, arguably the most vicious and efficient killer of that triumvirate of evil was a Socialist, and a former candidate for Orthodox priesthood.
  • There is no such thing as acceptable murder, no such thing as justified genocide. No matter what a particular population thinks of another, it is morally evil.
  • There are no innocents. Yes, I was not born in Germany, nor in time to be either a victim or a killer. But I have lived through the times of the Killing Fields in Cambodia, the Madness in R'wanda, the dual genocides attempted by the North in Sudan -- I have not stopped them. In the case of R'wanda, America and the West flat out ignored what was going on rather than commit to stopping it.
  • Most Americans, most in the West generally cannot name the killers, do not remember the victims. Most do not acknowledge victims they do not hear from or care about. Rom (gypsies,) gays, intellectuals and clergy are victims over and over again and are not heard about from most history books and most prayers. Absent a particular holiday or movie we find it much to easy to forget the victims.

Today, now as I write, Sudan is engaged in attempted genocide in Dafur and threatening Renk and Lui. The government of that country is a regime of greed, killing and repression. Yet nothing happens. Where is the Islamic demand for justice? The government is allegedly Moslem and the people of Dafur are Moslems. They are black and the government is Arab, and so the killing goes on and no one acts.

Today, now as I write, Cuba continues to operate a prison system for political prisoners only Stalin could match. We Americans continue our silly boycott and do nothing. Socialist countries who do have some sense of decency say nothing.

Today, now as I write this Tibet is repressed. A few brave people speak out in Holywood, but nothing is actually done.

So I will concede my friend's point. Not enough is said, and very little is done. We cannot recall the dead nor stop the evil already done. But we can work to stop more evil and we can pray for those who have died -- we can make their deaths count for something better. We can follow Nathan and speak justice to power. We do not.

Racism, religious intolerance homophobia and misogyny are all faces of the same murderous actions. Look only to Afghanistan to find killers of women "in the name of Allah!" But before we condemn Islam remember the inquisition. Consider the Shoah, but never forget the triangle trade in contemplating racism. Bring the inquisition and Sharia "Law" together to think of homophobia and intolerance, consider the '30 years war' next to the crusades before you speak of jihad.

For indifference, our most common sin, ask school children who Pol Pot or Heinrich Himmler were. Ask voters where Sudan is, or Ethiopia.

How can anyone deny the existence of evil?

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