I’m currently reading Bloodlands a book that documents the atrocities committed by Hitler and Stalin in the countries between Germany and the former USSR. As a student of history, I knew these two committed numerous unspeakable acts but the heinous details and incomprehensible numbers of casualties still tear at my heart.
I try to tell myself that this couldn’t happen again. We’ve come too far; news travels too quickly – this would be reported and simply wouldn’t be tolerated. Something inside of me isn’t so sure. While technology has improved, I’m not sure that we’ve improved as human beings.
These men and their followers dehumanized those that they hated. Mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, uncles, cousins morphed into nameless, faceless groups of subhuman creatures that shared the same abhorrent religion, socioeconomic standing, race, or nationality. The Soviets referred to a group of Polish women and children as “former humans” and as such, it must have been easier to destroy them. We know, far too well, the kind of despicable propaganda that Hitler used to dehumanize the Jews, Gypsies, handicapped, and others he deemed unworthy.
Simply put, we have to stop hating whole classes of people if we want to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. As long as they are just _______ (FILL IN THE BLANK –Jews, Muslims, gays, Evangelicals, republicans, blacks, Asians, racists, the one percent…) it is easy to hate. Get enough people to hate a certain group and you’ve got a dark energy that grows stronger with each malicious act. Reason fades away; actions become more sinister.
It’s time we stopped hating people we don’t even know because of their religion, race, sexual preference, appearance, bank account or whatever else makes them different. It’s time that we learn to disagree with others in a rational and respectful way. It’s time we started to love our neighbor – even when it’s hard.