Evil cannot be prevented by those who claim evil does not exist.
Are Americans a moral people, today?
Many years ago, my wife and I visited the Dachau camp, the first of the more than forty thousand (!) concentration camps and other incarceration sites run by Hitler’s Nazis.
For my wife and me, it was an amazing experience.
Every nation has dark chapters in its history, some darker than others.
Russia’s Stalin, China’s Mao, Germany’s Hitler, Italy’s Mussolini, all killed millions of innocents.
They are examples, but not exceptions. We, humans, have a unique proclivity for killing our own.
Did you ever hear of China’s Qin Shi Huang? Anyone who disagreed with him was sentenced to death.
Books that criticized him were burned. (Sound familiar?). He castrated prisoners of war and enslaved those who survived.
Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, the genocides of Rwanda — the list truly is endless.
While we were in Dachau, we saw a movie about the horrors that took place there — the murders, tortures, medical experiments. The movie, which was created by the Allies, made no excuses for the Germans.
It said that the German people cannot claim ignorance; they knew exactly what was being done, but did nothing to interfere.
The amazing part of our experience was the busloads of German schoolchildren being brought there, day after day, to see what their ancestors had inflicted on innocents.
Today’s Germany is determined to prevent a repeat. Germans know prevention only can be accomplished by revealing, not by hiding, the truth.
It especially is important that the children could see and understand the horrors of Germany’s dark chapters, the horrors that bigotry creates, lest new generations of bigots fill the information vacuum.
Thus, there are no statues of Hitler in Germany.
America too has had our dark chapters. Slavery was among the darkest.
Like the Holocaust, slavery is an extermination, but slavery is an extermination of the mind, spirit and soul, leaving only the body to labor.
For years, many (especially in the South) refused to recognize that slavery even was a dark chapter.
It was termed a “proud Southern heritage,” and statues were erected to the “heroes” who fought to continue it.
Most of the statues have come down now, but the bigotry remains.
The confederate flags still fly from right-wing hands, to remind slavery’s children of yesterday’s bondage.
The Republican party, which has been captured by the white supremacist, religious right, is enacting laws to deny history.
Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis proudly claims his state is where “woke” comes to die.
But what is “woke” that so frightens and antagonizes DeSantis and the religious right?
To be “woke” means to be informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality.
Those German children, who saw the movie describing the terrors of Dachau, were being “informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality.”
They were “woke” and thus, far less likely to repeat Hitler’s abomination.
DeSantis and the GOP do not want America’s children to have such knowledge. They want to deny America’s slavery past, and in denial, assure perpetuation of the underlying bigotry.
Woke is defined by the DeSantis administration as “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them,” according to DeSantis’ own general counsel.
“We reject woke ideology,” DeSantis said in his election night speech. “We will never ever surrender to the woke agenda. People have come here because of our policies.”
The pressure against “woke”-ness in Florida has already led to the apparent erasure of race-related content in education, including the rejection of an AP African American history course in state high schools and vows from college presidents against including some race-related content.
Do the great masses of Republicans truly believe there are not “systematic injustices in American society and the need to address them”?
Do they truly believe that blacks are not disproportionately mistreated by police? Or, that women are not paid less than men for doing the same jobs?
Or that indigenous Americans are cheated out of their land, again and again by lying American politicians and broken treaties?
Or that Americans of Japanese heritage were cheated out of their freedoms during the internments of World War II?
Or that Jews, blacks, gays, Muslims, and Orientals are not discriminated against by juries, judges, police, insurance companies, banks, law firms, realtors?
Do they truly believe the way to combat prejudice is to hide its existence from our children and to punish anyone who reveals it? Or is combating prejudice not the goal?
Republican racial denial seems part of a greater pattern, in which everything that does not comport with the official line is denied.
The Republicans are the party of denial. They deny global warming. They deny the benefits of wind and solar energy. They denied the seriousness of COVID. They deny the benefits of vaccination.
They deny the January 6th coup even took place, and instead claim it was a normal tourist day.
They deny the benefits of Obamacare. They deny they gave a tax break that primarily aided the rich. They currently deny they wish to cut the benefits from Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare and other social programs.
They deny every Trump negative, from his cheating on three wives to his Trump University cheating, to his Trump Foundation lies.
They deny the importance of Trump’s multi-thousand lies, his many bankruptcies, his incompetence, his physical attacks on women and bragging about it, his many attempts to overturn the election, his stealing and hiding of classified documents,
They deny he was a draft dodger who insulted those who gave their lives for America.
They deny he lost the election.
And now, they deny that America has had, and still experiences, “systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.”
The title question was, “Are Americans a moral people, today?”
One measure of morality is a willingness to admit ones misdeeds as a first step toward preventing future misdeeds.
All religions involve confessing one’s sins. The Catholics have a formalized process involving a priest. Other religions do it directly to their Gods. Some merely recommend or reference some form of confession as an integral process toward morality.
But all intelligent, reasonable people understand that the cure for bad behavior requires first a recognition and an admission that bad behavior has taken place. Evil cannot be prevented by those who claim evil does not exist.
Denial leads to the acceptance of evil. The first step to morality is enlightenment, and that is a step the Republican party does not wish to take.
DeSantis gives revelations of our past villainy the pejorative, “indoctrination.” He does not want our children to be “indoctrinated” with the facts.
He denies history, to make us forget the bad our ancestors may have done. Right wingers are all too willing to have the evil continue simply by denying it exists.
Ignore, deny, forget. Ignore, deny, forget. It is the proven pattern of the bigot. It is how bigotry lasts through centuries. There is neither logic, nor reason, nor thought.
It is how those who never have known or interacted with a Jew can, through the centuries, despise all Jews, yet claim to love Jesus, who was not only a Jew but a rabbi.
None are responsible for what their forebears have done. Neither blame nor credit should be passed through generations. But that does not include ignorance. We all are responsible for our ignorance.
That a proportionately large number of Jews has won Nobel prices is a source of pride to all Jews. But it does not mean every Jew can take credit.
Similarly, every Italian cannot be blamed for the Mafia. All Japanese cannot be held responsible for Pearl Harbor. But should the Mafia and Pearl Harbor not be mentioned to schoolchildren lest some be embarrassed by the facts?
The learning of factual history does not require any one’s personal shame. It is a necessary rite of passage into teens and adulthood. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and Winston Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
First you must know the past. Then you must learn from it, and finally you must remember it as a foundation for your future actions.
The past is happening right now.
Denial of the past is a danger to America and to our democracy. Our children must know the past and the denials; they must learn from them, and remember them when the past again returns in its ugliness.
Else we are condemned.
Are Americans a moral people, today? Like all people, we are good and we are bad, and in some years we are better than in others. The next few months and years may help answer the question.
They will demonstrate whether childhood ignorance condemns us to repeat our evils
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
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