For those of us who have experienced real evil in this life, the subject of today’s musings makes perfect sense. For others, perhaps it’s confusing–and so I shall explain. Many years ago I was watching a programme on television with a Quaker friend (no pun intended). The programme concerned the Holocaust. I remember turning to Doug and saying, “How did the country of Bach, Goethe, Beethoven and others, not only follow Hitler and Nazism, but then carry out some of the most collective demonic actions of any society in history? It was all so patently evil!”
Doug’s reply, from 40 years ago, has stayed with me: “In order to get good people to do evil, you simply tell them that what they are doing is good.” (Yeah, I know, it sounds too simple. Read on.) “You dress it up, turn it into a noble cause (MAGA) and tell them what they are doing (mass shootings, gassings, etc.) is for the ultimate good of society and its future greatness.” Although apparently simple, Doug’s words have proven true. Here are some comparisons: Jews in Hitler’s Germany were compared to sewer rats who carried disease. (Have you noticed how, when one race or ethnic group denigrates another, the very first description they use is ‘dirty’? Dirty Jew, dirty n****r, dirty gypsies, gooks, wops and on it goes.) In America, immigrants are described as disease-carrying, criminals, etc. The answer: build a “Big, beautiful wall!” Keep the filthy, disease-ridden vermin out of pure, white America! And the original native population live in disenfranchised poverty on ‘reservations’ carved out by their conquerors. And African-Americans, whose forebears did not step off their boats onto Plymouth Rock, are blamed for their poverty, lack of higher education and blah-blah-blah. Blaming the victims is all part of the nature of evil.
And look at the Trump Tribe: beautiful people (by American standards): rich, well-dressed, tanned (well, orange in one case). How easily they and their close associates call for marshal law, beheadings for Fauci and those who have true concerns for the health of the American people, imprisonment for their political opponents (who are now depicted as enemies of the state). How they extol the armed white militias in their ridiculous uniforms. The Nazis had their well-tailored uniforms, torch-light parades and Speer’s “palace of light” at the Nuremburg rally grounds. Aryans were depicted in art and film as the epitome of humanity. Hitlerism provided great spectacles and good entertainment value. It all appeared wonderful.
If we could play the film of human history and our individual lives backwards, I would like to think that it would change most of us in fundamental ways. But, as Kierkegaard once wrote, “We remember life backwards, but we must live it forwards.” We cannot see the true ugliness of evil’s intent and actions until it is too late. We can only see its apparent beauty–unless we look behind the curtain; read, learn, study and question both our motives and the motives of others. Trump and his fellow criminals have histories–we must examine and learn–or simply be sucked down the toilet of collective misery. Upwards of 45 million human beings died in the Second World War due to the rise of facism in the 1920s and 30s. What have we, as collective humanity learned? Yet here it is again being glamourized, beautified and depicted as true patriotism, while any and all who have different opinions are being demonized. It’s enough to make a thinking person cry. The outcome rests on our individual ‘yes’ or ‘no’. To quote John Henry Newman: “We can believe what we choose; we are answerable for what we choose to believe.”