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It is very easy to sit in judgment of the people who lived in other times and places. In the final analysis, every man and woman, when weighed on the scales will be found wanting. That is true of me, and it is true of my ancestors, too. Alex Haley claimed in his book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, that John Waller of Virginia, one of my mother's set of ancestors, owned his ancestor, Kunta Kinte. Some things are lacking in Haley's research, but according to mine, everyone of my ancestors on both my father's and mother's sides, who were alive during the War Between the States, owned slaves . . . everyone of them!
American slavery was not modeled after that of the Old Testament, and it was brutally unbiblical in regard to marriage in particular. However, to say that slavery was the sole issue in that war is to betray ignorance of the facts of history. Slavery ended in America as a result of that war, and that is very good. But how it ended was not good, and so many of America's current problems can be traced back to that, including the erosion of our U.S. Constitution. As I assess Abraham Lincoln, I find striking parallels between him and some more modern Presidents -- his acts freeing certain slaves during that war were the calculated moves of a politician and especially designed to keep Great Britain from helping the Southern cause. Lincoln also favored state sponsored terrorism and the use of total war, as practiced by some of his general staff. The state terrorism of Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, did not end at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, but was continued in the U.S. genocide of the Native Americans of the Western Plains.
In the final analysis, there is only one hero in history, the Lord Jesus Christ; all the rest are deeply flawed. Below is a speech that I gave at our community's annual Holocaust Memorial Service under the sponsorship of Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim and the Central Louisiana Ministerial Association. It was held in our sanctuary. Curiously, the next day our local newspaper ran a story about the Ku Klux Klan leader from South Louisiana; the paper reported that he called me "the son of the anti-Christ." _________________________________
People Like Me
The thing that frightens me the most about the Nazi Era is that it involved people like me. It isn't the concentration camp victims that I'm talking about; it's the Nazis themselves.
We don't like to think of ourselves that way; we like to imagine that the insanity of the Third Reich was an aberration, an odd exception in human history. Because the Nazis did monstrous things, we tend to think of them all as monsters and distance them from the rest of humankind. But they were people like me.
By and large, they loved their children; they worked hard, were brave and patriotic. Many went to church. The society that gave birth to Nazism was not a medieval throwback. No country was more scientifically advanced; no people better educated. They were patrons of the arts. The German Protestant Church was the most liberal church in Europe. That's what frightens me: the people that did these barbaric things were not barbarians. They were cultured and enlightened. They were people like me.
What's so frightening about that is that it can happen again, that in spite of multiplied Holocaust Memorials, in spite of people crying, "Never Again," it can happen again. Indeed, it probably will happen again. That's the lesson of history. Our species is notorious for singling out scapegoats to purge from our ranks, whether it's the Jews of Warsaw, the Palestinians of Hebron, or the Muslims of Sarajevo. It can always be justified by the mesmerizing demagogue.
I am a descendant of slaveholders. As far as I can tell from my family history, they were decent, loving people. How did such people justify so brutal an institution as slavery? I do not know. I only know that I, too, am capable of blindly rationalizing great evil. What amazes me about history is not all the bad things that bad people did; it's the bad things that "good" people did, people like me.
That's why I fear Nazism -- because it's not so far away. It's always lurking, not just out there, but inside me, too. To believe that those who are different from me are less than human is not a thought that is foreign to our species. It is a thought that embraced in desperate times leads to death camps and ovens. It is a thought that can be embraced by people like me
what incredible insight into the heart of even men who walked alongside the teachings of the bible. So evident is the horrible and ever lurking conclusions of a man in the guise of an angel of light with the tyranny of a demon from hell.