Why I squirm
The author tries to explain how ordinary citizens (like you and me), many of whom were good Lutherans and Roman Cathlolics could so efficiently and routinely work in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.- These were indeed ordinary people who would get up in the morning, read their newspaper, drink their coffee, kiss their children and spouse goodbye, and then spend the day sorting, guarding, humiliating, gassing and cremating hundreds of Jews.- They would then come home in the evening, enjoy a fine dinner with their families and go to-bed with a clear conscience.- How could they live with themselves?-
The author shares a truth that has made war and all sorts of unspeakable cruelty possible.–We-dehumanize our enemies.- If we can be convinced that our enemies are less than human, then it is possible to regard and treat them with less compassion than we might even extend to animals. History indicates we have had this capacity since the earliest times and it seems to be one of the prerequisites for war.-
I was born at the end of World War II when derogatory slurs about “Japs” and “Gerries” were not uncommon.- It took many years before we began to see our former foes as fellow human beings again.- We have come a long way in sixty years and I am glad for it.- There are many indications, however, that the selection and degradation of certain peoples continues.- Israelis and Palestinians may be falling into the trap.- Some irresponsible statements about the inferiority of-all Muslims have been made.- To this point we have not demonized the Iraqi-or North Korean peoples in general.- We know they suffer from especially cruel and self serving leaders.- In the midst of hot war, this could quickly change.
It was widely reported after Desert Storm that there were very few casualties.- Among the allies this was indeed true and we can be very grateful so many of our soldiers came home safe.- But it is not true that there were few casualties.- Thousands of Iraqi soldiers died and it is estimated 3500 Iraqi civilians were also victims of the war.- Their sons and daughters and husbands and wives and children are just as human as ours.- God help us not fall into the blindness of Hitler’s willing executioners.- Those were truly human casualties.
The tendency to dehumanize those we don’t like or who frustrate our purposes is not only a national problem.- We can do it in our-individual-lives as well.- It is somewhat more difficult to do with someone we know personally, but we manage.- Unscrupulous competitors, obnoxious neighbors, difficult customers and even an estranged spouse can be written off as deserving less than decent treatment.- In subtle ways we may not even be able to detect, we regard them as less human than we are.
As a Lutheran pastor I squirm in my chair as I remember that sixty-five years ago a lot of German Christians (some Lutheran) became capable of incredible atrocities and accepted it as everyday life.- Perhaps their legacy can be to teach us that all people really are human.- To think of-anyone as less calls our humanness into question.
Pastor Walker serves Mt. of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church which worships on Sunday mornings at the Vail Chapel at 9:15 and the Chapel at Beaver Creek at 11:15.
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