On Citizenship And Responsibility

170592-Judgment-at-Nuremberg-PostersLast night I watched JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG. I recognize that it is considered politically incorrect to say such things these days (Damn Godwin’s Law!), but throughout the entire film I couldn’t help thinking of the apologia offered up by the German people after the War. “We stayed silent because we were afraid and because we didn’t really know.”

It sounds so familiar. Too familiar. Day after day we are witnesses to the indecencies wrought by extremists, the controversies manufactured by extremists to instill fear in the general population, the scapegoating demanded by extremists to further their consolidation of power. We are told that Muslims seek to impose sharia law on Tennessee towns; that Illegal Aliens are taking our jobs, our social security, our votes; that Gays want to convert our children to their lifestyle; that Blacks are robbing our federal coffers through a “cult of victimization; that Women want to abandon their homes and children in pursuit of worldly success. And daily, sometimes hourly, we ignore such demagoguery as simply the politics of our age.

If George Will had been wearing a SS Totenkopf lapel pin yesterday, instead of the obligatory flag pin, we might have been shaken enough to actually hear his outrageous comments justifying male sexual dominance as the natural order of things. But he was not wearing a SS Totenkopf lapel pin, so he is just another talking head in the vast wasteland.

Likewise, when two semi-literate thugs, fed on hate radio and itching for a revolution, kill two policemen in Las Vegas, we ignore it as simply more white noise in the drama of politics. Or when some disturbed young man shoots up a college campus in Seattle, what are we supposed to do about it? We cannot fight the plutocrats, or the powerful lobby groups, or the bullies who confuse state militias with the God-given right to keep private arsenals of combat weapons.

But wasn’t that the lesson of Nuremberg? Is there not a point where denial becomes complicity, where toleration of indecency becomes abetting?

For every Nazi ideologue, there were ten thousand good Germans who just wanted to muddle through, even if muddling through eventually turned into going along.

Where is the line? The judges at Nuremberg were able to define it, but only too late to save the lives of thirteen million non-combatant victims of the Nazi regime.

Every time we refuse to tell Brian Killmeade that his snarky insinuations about Bob Bergdahl’s patriotism are obscene, we ourselves are guilty of a crime against humanity. If this seems harsh or bombastic, I refer you to the Nuremberg trials.

Consider the haunting final lines of JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG:

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You *must* believe it, *You must* believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the *first time* you sentenced a man to death you *knew* to be innocent.

When history calls each one of us to account for the way we acquitted ourselves during these tumultuous final days of American democracy, what will be its judgement? Were we guilty from the first time we heard an innocent and decent man slandered and did nothing? Did we muddle through by going along.

I can’t speak for any of you. I say only that the answer is I cannot live with such a verdict.

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Advice You Didn't Seek: and commented:
    From my friend Terry Bonner’s blog…well stated.

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