March 08, 2006

A History Of Conscience.

As I was reading this article about a comedy they are filming in Germany about Hitler, it got me to thinking about how the youth today view the horrors of yesterday.

When I was around 12 yrs old I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" and Corrie Ten Boom's "The Hiding Place" which was about a Dutch Christian family that hid Jews during the Holocaust and was later taken to the concentration camps.

I was beside myself with horror after reading them. I bugged my mom and dad with questions for weeks. They tried to explain, but I just could not fathom the evil that had happened not so long ago. How could this have happened? How could good people have allowed this?? No answer satisfied me. It was my first look into the darkness of man's heart.

I also happened to be living through the civil rights movement in Mississippi at the time, so human rights were literally a part of my every day life, as I was one of the first white children to attend a formerly all black public school. To me every day was a lesson about the direction we were headed on how we treat our fellow man.

As I grew up, I consoled myself with what I had seen with discrimination of blacks, by the progress we had made. With laws in place protecting equal rights and the strides so many blacks were making in law, politics, medicine, and business, it seemed we had turned a very important corner and I was proud of that.

The Holocaust still haunted me though. The scope of the horror. The reasons. I could just never understand how good people could stand by and let so many suffer and die. Saint Maximillian Kolbe became my favorite saint. He was a Priest who was sent to Auschwitz for helping the refugees and Jews and it was there that he gave his life for another. (I encourage you to read the link provided and remember Father Kolbe if you ever feel a need to criticize Christians)

Then "Schindler's List" came out and I felt that would surely give the younger generations a clear picture of history, not only of the horror of it, but of the compassion as well.

I was wrong.

In the past 10 years I have served as an asst. youth minister, a CCD teacher for high school, a substitute teacher in public high school, and I have 3 teenagers. I've been around the youth quite a bit. I started noticing how kids would make jokes about things one should never joke about, like the holocaust or rape, or abortion. I would say something to them and I was told to "lighten up." This younger generation has been saturated with comedy where nothing is sacred. "Southpark" and "The American Pie" movies and all types of music thought pushing the envelope was great fun. But I am afraid that that part of our culture proved to have more of an impact on our youth than "Schindler's list" ever did.

I used to read the High School message board where my son sometimes posted. I can promise you that you would be shocked at what young people write when they think no adult will be reading it. Jokes about Jews and the Holocaust are common. The sexual jokes are over the top with knowledge about perversions that I had never even heard of. Insults are as mean and ugly as they get. Women are degraded and porn commonly referred to. There is no shock and sorrow about what happened to the Jews or to blacks in this country. If history is referred to at all, it is referred to in a mocking way. There are no good guys, no bad guys. There are only jokes. If you think your kids aren't exposed to this kind of thing every day, then you are only fooling yourself.

Dave Chapelle thought exaggerating the stereotypes of blacks as lazy crackheads would be funny. It looks like kids thought that it was funny, but at what price? Now kids think nothing of making those same jokes using the "n' word frequently. Are they serious or joking? Who can tell? And should that make a difference?

One of the reasons I posted a while back on how disgusted I was when anyone used Hitler or Nazi's to measure some wrong they see today is because I understood how that looks to the youth. Many lefties in the blogopshere call Bush "Bushilter" and people like Cindy Sheehan and Harry Belafonte call him the real "terrorist." So what message does that send to kids? We all know that calling Bush any sort of Hitler is ridiculous, no matter how much one disagrees with him. And reasonable people know what a real terrorist is, but to our kids it just sounds like we are equating whatever we disagree with with real evil. So it ends up diluting the power of the lessons we should have learned from our history.

Our children are losing the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Why? Because we, on both sides, have been so determined to paint our side as right, we use whatever comparison we can to equate the other side as evil. Combine that with Hollywood's ongoing trend to push the envelope with comedy about things that are no joking matter, and you end up with generations who can't figure out who is really right and who is really wrong, so why bother fighting for anything?

The same Hollywood that rants about the evil of this war and wonders why more young people aren't appalled by the death of those on the battlefield, is the same Hollywood that has been cranking out films of horror and death so graphic and gory that the real thing hardly bothers anyone anymore.

And on top of all that, we have a media so intent on getting the story first, or making it as sensational as possible, that we are not sure of what the truth is anymore.

Why should someone fight for democracy in the Middle East when others say that fighting it is wrong? Why should someone fight against abortion when others say it is constitutional right? Why should someone fight against euthanasia when others say it is more humane for the elderly to be put to sleep? Why should someone fight against pornography when others say it is their right to see it?

So we are left with a society that places personal desire above all else. And I think that I finally have a answer to the question that has haunted me since I was 12 yrs old. How did good people let the Holocaust happen?

They pushed aside their conscience. They let it happen because they didn't know which side was right.

Posted by Right Wing Sparkle at March 8, 2006 05:17 PM

Its hard to understand such things without such experience - I was born in '85, and for me the second world war is a boring chapter in a history lesson and the holocaust an example of politics going wrong - what happens when leaders use a minority as scapegoats. Hitler took power because he had the ability to tell the people what they wanted to hear - the people wanted their national pride restored after an embrassing defeat, and they espicially wanted someone to blame. I could study it until I could give the names, locations, and body-counts for each camp. But it would still be abstract, tables of figures with no real meaning.

In debate, Argumentium ad Hitlerium is a common tactic now - in every subject, from every side. Its usually a losing tactic, used to destroy a debate when its going too badly. Its uses casually. I used to think that the war served one purpose - it embedded the association between nazi ideology and evil so firmly in the public mind that such policies could never again be repeated. Now I see that they are embedded in the narrowist of ways, and rapidly being forgotten. Substitute any other minority for jews, and it would still be trivial for any politician to pull the same trick of blaming them for all the country's problems and then 'solve' the problems with persicution. Not death camps, perhaps, but life in jail should be achieveable.

Posted by: Suricou at March 13, 2006 07:19 AM