Matthew and I were recently criticized (an increasingly regular occurrence these days) for what one commenter saw as unfair hyperbole in the criticism of Barack Obama.
One recent post that was cited as an example of such unhelpful hyperbole was when Matthew used the famous poem First They Came to critique Obama, his policies, and the blind eye we turn to the culture of death in his post When Obama Came For Them.
A little context may be in order. First They Came was written by Pastor Martin Niemöller, an early supporter of Hitler who eventually realized his serious error. Niemöller wrote this “about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.”
“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
Using this as the context Matthew wrote:
When Obama came for the the executives making $250,000,I remained silent;I did not earn $250,000.
When Obama came for the babies, I remained silent; I was not a baby…anymore.
When Obama came for conservative talk show hosts,I did not speak out;I didn’t have a talk show.
When Obama came for the plumber,I remained silent;I was not a public figure.
When Obama came for me,there was no one left to speak out.
This is hyperbole to some degree, but not entirely. Clearly, tax policy and media bias do not really rise to the level of Nazi comparison. However, Government threats to use force to silence the voices of critics, in this case conservative talk radio, begins the journey toward fascism and many other bad -isms. Take your pick.
With that said, the horror of abortion rises to Nazi levels and perhaps even beyond. Here, the comparison falls short. The level of complicity of your average citizen today in this holocaust likely rises beyond that of the average citizen of Hitler’s Germany.
This is all by long way of introduction to a very thought provoking post that you simply must read. Jennifer F posts this picture on her blog.
This picture is of happy folk in a seemingly happier time. The joy can be seen on their faces as they enjoy a little recreation and music.
These joyous faces do not seem unlike those beaming and joyous faces that I saw last night on television as Barack Obama basked in the glow of his victory, do they?
These faces, however are of the faces of the staff at Auschwitz on a day off.
How does that change your perception of these people?
So I wonder:
If were a 31-year-old woman with three little kids in a busy house in Germany 1941, would I have fully understood the evil that surrounded me? As a woman living in 2008 I can see the horror that was going on there, but at the time there were some awfully sleek lies being told about the situation; it would have been really, really convenient to let myself be persuaded by the lies and just make the nasty little problem go away by telling myself that it wasn’t really a problem at all.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Jennifer goes on to ask and answer a really important question. How would I know?
But the question is: How would you know?
What litmus test could you offer that would apply to all places and all times as a way for a person to look around themselves with completely clear eyes, piercing through even the thickest fog of self-delusion and widespread cultural acceptance, and see that they are surrounded by grave evil? Is there any simple way for a person to immediately undergo an earth-rocking paradigm shift in which they look up and realize that the world around them is not what they thought it was?
One thing that stands out in all these examples is that the victims of the widespread evil were categorized as something less than human.
I don’t think there is hyperbole sufficient to describe the evil times through which we live or even to expose the depravity of those who twist words and logic to make the ultimate vice seem like virtue. I can’t help but wonder if someday our great great grandkids will look at pictures of the Obama rally in Grant Park in 2008 and wonder, “What were they smiling about? Didn’t they know?”