Thursday, March 11, 2010
The Whopper of all Whoppers......
I was born in 1945 and grew up with WWII always in the background. The school library was stocked with well-worn issues of National Geographic and, curiously, the ones from the war years were the ones with missing covers and dog-earred pages. Apparently, my classmates also wanted to know more about what had happened just before we arrived. I read every book in the library that was about the war. Some especially memorable editions from the Landmark Series dealt with the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, in 1942, The Battle of Britian, and the Russian tank battles on the Eastern Front. There were also several books that bluntly and graphically documented the Holocaust. I spent hours staring at the images of corpses piled like cordwood. I simply could not imagine what it would have been like to find yourself in Auschwitz or Treblinka. My young mind could also not encompass that human beings could be so heartless and cruel. Part of me didn't want to accept that I was a member of a species that could act in this way. I also knew that my heritage was, at least partially, German.
But, it was not until I was a rambling, hitch-hiking hippy in Germany--the summer of '71--that I heard my first 'revisionism'. Sitting around a campfire in the Allgaeuer forest of southern Bavaria, with a group of young Germans, I was incredulous to hear a 21 year-old, Dieter, proclaim that the Holocaust never happened. He went on to explain that it had been a complete fabrication on the part of the Allies, in order to give them sufficient reason to persecute Germany after the war. I didn't really think he was serious at first. But, as the conversation continued, I suddenly realized that not only was he dead-serious, but he really believed what he was saying. I just got up and left. I could not find any words, in either language, that would suffice to express what I was feeling and thinking.
Over the intervening years it seems that Revisionism has taken on a life of its own. Whether it is a bunch of angry skinheads, or Iran's leader--fondly referred to in our house as: "I'm a nut-job"--or some Birther/Truther/Nine-elevener zealot who is putting it forward...the myth persists. I find this, on one level, utterly repugnant and even incomprehensible...and, yet, on another level I clearly 'get' why such people need to believe this greatest of all lies. In order to put forward their agenda, they need to pretend that White Power--or radical Islam--versus Israel--and all Jews by extension--is an epic opposition of good and evil. This is why Nazi propaganda consistently equated Jews with the Devil, and my low-brow neighbor thinks that President Obama may be the anti-christ.
Therefore, it simply does not matter that hundreds of thousands of people still alive today actually witnessed the Holocaust, that it was meticulously recorded by the perpetrators themselves, that no other event in human history is more clearly and firmly documented and simply TRUE. It was a pursuit on such an abyssal level of darkness that it completely re-defined what we mean when we use the word, "evil". It is of such a monstrous and repulsive nature that it may well be impossible to ever transcend it....although, we apparently are willing to keep trying. NONE OF THAT MATTERS to people who desperately need to believe that their cause is essentially that of good.
Hence it was that the Nazis felt most of their soldiers should be wearing the above belt-buckle, boldly proclaiming that the very troops who were savaging as much of the world as they could manage...had God on their side. Say what....? Oh, yes indeed.
It is worth noting that there is some significant overlap in the kinds of people who are willing to make this gigantic leap of imagination. They tend towards portraying themselves as being threatened victims, rather than being dangerous to others. Radical Muslims are waging a Jihad against all non-Muslims--and apparently many Muslims as well--because their very existence is in jeopardy, as they see it. White Power cretins are preparing for the coming Great Race War, because they feel they're on the brink of being overrun and wiped-out. Never mind that the Caucasian race has been inflicting some stellar mayhem of its own for a thousand years or so. "Don't Tread On Me" flags, (with the rattlesnake on a field of red &white stripes) have become popular at Tea Party rallys. Conservative America is arming itself at a level never seen before in the history of our country...all because they are sure they are about to be dragged off in the middle of the night.
This idea of discarding the Truth and substituting your own, more palatable, version of reality, is not new, and it is rapidly gaining popularity right now. One hopes that sanity and reason will prevail, but if the current trend persists, with a major media network playing the role of Goebbels propaganda ministry, while pretending to be 'fair and unbiased', even as its commentators lie at the drop of a hat...all bets are off. We desperately need to have a national dialog, about all the issues, not just health-care reform...and that will remain impossible as long as the crazies keep lying.
Or we could just let the crazies have their way and keep fiddling while Rome blazes.