Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Seventy years ago today, Germany’s blitzkrieg attack on Poland sounded the opening bell for World War II.

[Ahh, those were the Good Old Days... when World Wars, not movie sequels, used Roman numerals for identification.]

World War II wreaked profound changes in the political landscape of our world. It confirmed America’s status as a superpower and marked the sunset of the British Empire. It set up the conditions for the next war, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States that would persist until the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990’s.

The war had unprecedented impacts upon civilian populations, who were, to an extent never before seen in warfare, made targets. Nuclear weapons lit up two Japanese cities with the fires that shine at the heart of the Sun. Fifty million people were slaughtered...

...among them, over six million Jews who were the object of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution,” a genocide that far outstripped anything of its kind, before or since, in both reach and ferocity. The hatred and cruelty of the Nazis toward Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and any other group they happened to dislike was amazing enough; toward the Jews, it was ratcheted up to a level almost unimaginable today. Their behavior during those years stands as a stark reminder that we humans are capable of the darkest evil.

People bandy the term “Nazi” about when they wish to demonize their enemies. Arabs love to use the term, perversely enough, when talking about the hated “Zionists” - by which they mean, of course, the Jews. But that simply shows ignorance and disrespect: ignorance of what it was, exactly, that made the Nazis so evil; and disrespect towards their victims.

We were heroes, then, we Americans. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the British (and, yes, the duplicitous Russians), we defeated the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire, the ur-Bad Guys in a time when it was easy to tell the Bad Guys from the Good Guys.

It’s still easy, actually. If you live in a nihilistic society that sends children on suicide missions to kill unarmed civilians, if you locate your bomb factories and rocket launchers amongst your own civilian population, if you demonize another people and teach your youngest children to hate, you’re amongst the Bad Guys. Sad that the only thing that has changed is the players. The game remains the same.

No comments: