Last week we observed the memorial of the Holocaust and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Even without the incomprehension of Trayon White, the D.C. councilmember who seems determined to misinterpret the real history of the Jewish people and substitute for it, instead, vicious lore, there is a lot to think about in the conjunction of the two remembrances.
What is most obvious to me is that we took the wrong lesson from both of the World Wars. Partly, I think, this was influenced by our intelligentsia, in the form of our artists and the press, who, perhaps unintentionally, preferred to re-orient the blame for those two disasters to something less harmful to themselves.
So, from World War I, we took the lesson that patriotism is bad, military might is wrong, and that the nation-state needs to be destroyed, instead of the lesson that blind following of any self-proclaimed elite, particularly one that hasn’t adapted to modern times, is wrong.
This is a problem because it left the field wide open for a philosophy that claimed to be supra national – it wasn’t; it was just Russian nationalism disguised as international socialism – to destroy the cultures and nations of the West from within.
You see, there is in humans, at the most basic level, a space for “tribe.” That’s because, whatever else we are, we are at heart great apes. (We’re at least mildly decent apes, or perhaps good enough apes, okay?) That means we are social animals, creatures of the band, creatures who need to identify with a tribe.
Possibly the greatest achievement of Western civilization was the conquering of the tribe, the destruction of the inherent tribalism of man, the substitution, instead, of a nation-state. This super-tribe is not always ethical or rational in protecting its interests or defending from or attacking other tribes, sure, but it is larger than a tribe and better at organizing for the economic success and safety of its members.
The problem is that you can’t take away the nation-state without filling its space with something else. The something else we filled the space with was another form of tribal identification. It was the tribe of race and gender and class and other Marxist identifications.
Which brings us to the wrong lesson of World War II.
I’m not going to say we shouldn’t learn about anti-semitism. For reasons of psychology and the position Jews have occupied in history throughout time, they are a consistent and vulnerable scapegoat whenever someone needs to have someone else to blame for current problems.
Yes, we should learn about anti-semitism, and the Jews being made the scapegoat of a Europe that was tearing itself apart.
But we need to learn beyond that – and that’s a lot to say since it was recently found that most high school graduates don’t know anything about the Holocaust – and we need to learn the right lessons.
The extended lesson taken from the Holocaust is definitely the wrong one: it’s the idea that racism is the worst of all sins, ever, the be all and end all of hatred and evil, and that any regime that doesn’t – or purports not to – engage in racial supremacist talk is therefore on the side of angels.
This is bull excreta. Racism is bad, yes, because it’s a form of tribalism. Also because nations like America can’t avoid being plural societies, and because the easier transportation gets, the more racially mixed all of us are.
But racism isn’t the worst sin a nation can commit. Nor is it imperative that to be totalitarian a nation must be racist. Nor was the racially motivated Holocaust the worst massacre of the twentieth century. Russians, Chinese, Vietnamese and others managed to top the death toll of the Nazis ten or twenty times, without making it be about racial minorities or even cultural minorities.
Why is it bad that we identify the problem as racism?
Because “racism” or the accusation of racism has, at the same time, been weaponized to signify any sort of discrimination – even rational – against any group, even when the group isn’t based on race.
Therefore when President Trump wishes to curb illegal immigration, he’s called racist, even though I’ve never heard Trump say anything about legal Latin immigrants. More ludicrously, legal Latin immigrants are called racist when they oppose illegal immigration. This would make “crossing the border illegally” a racial identifier.
In the same way, those who object to fundamentalist Islam on the grounds that it’s incompatible with modern western society get told that they are racist, not that it’s perfectly logical to dislike the idea of an unassimilated minority in the heart of the west.
Speaking of assimilation, this is the other problem of equating every instance of disapproving of a cultural group with racism: the left has gone so far in its attempt to justify the idea that requiring integration or assimilation is racism, that they have convinced themselves that cultural characteristics are inherited and inherent. Hence, the objection I kept meeting with for not teaching my children Portuguese: “don’t you want them to know their culture?” This is a stupid objection. Their culture is American. You could say “don’t you want them to know about their grandparents’ culture and language” with impunity, but that is not what the people telling me this meant. They honestly thought my kids had inherited – genetically – my culture, and therefore needed to learn Portuguese to be complete. In school, they were given assignments about their “culture” which were actually supposed to be about their genetic heritage, not about growing up immersed in middle-class American geek culture.
This view of culture and language as inherent in your genes is what leads them to stigmatize anyone who requires immigrants to assimilate as “racist.” It is also a complete return to tribalism and the idea that you owe the highest loyalty to characteristics you were born with and didn’t choose. Thus their accusations to people like me of being “race traitor” or “gender traitor” because we don’t think in lockstep with what the theories of the left dictate we should think like.
In this sense, Hitler would have loved them. If culture is innate, and can’t be changed, the way to deal with a culture that is dysfunctional is extermination.
In this way, the thought of the left has brought them around to behaving exactly like what we’ve been trying to avoid all along, and repeating the causes of World War II while thinking they’re preventing those causes.
Because the problem with World War II wasn’t hatred of a particular racial group, but hatred of various groups to the point of dehumanization.
I was reading a book that talked about World War II but wasn’t about World War II itself, and in it, I found something that horrified me more than the gas chambers or even most medical experiments. I found that Nazis had fed concentration camp prisoners a paste made of old paper and clothes, to see if they could live from it.
The casual disdain and inhumanity of feeding a group of humans garbage to see if it worked is the ultimate in dehumanization.
And I see the left following exactly this path. They insulate themselves from repeating the evils of the past by proclaiming their tolerance and claiming they want
exclusivity inclusivity: all races, all genders, all cultures, all sexual orientations are supposed to be given not just equality before the law but equality of results.
Having proclaimed this, they think themselves insulated from evil, and incapable of replicating the horrors of the past.
But at the same time, they have latched on to an entire ideological spectrum, that is, anyone not part of their small group, as being evil incarnate.
They project their sins onto us. Because we don’t believe in Marxist categories or in communism as a political system (with good reason, considering the 100 million dead), they call us racist, sexist and homophobic.
And because they hate us, they accuse us of hating them. Because they want us dead, they accuse us of wanting them dead.
Just recently on Twitter, I found myself accused of wanting “people like me” dead. Since I don’t even have any clue of the “special characteristics” of the person writing that – never have heard of him, her or snowflake – I have no clue what I’m supposed to hate so much I want them dead.
I don’t even want leftists dead. I want them to learn to think and to leave the rest of us alone.
But – as we can see every time someone on the right gets hurt or dies – they do wish us dead, but they must pretend we wanted it first. That justifies anything they want to do to us, of course. Just like believing the Jews were conspiring against Germany justified everything the Nazis wanted to do to them in the minds of the Nazi followers.
By claiming to be accepting and non-racist – except of course of white males – and tolerant – except, of course, of anyone who disagrees with them – the left has allowed itself to become consumed with tribal and partisan hate, and to find excuses to be physically violent with the “enemy” as well as to destroy people’s careers, threaten their families, and treat these people as non persons.
Which is why they are so dangerous. They are the unthinking evil they think they can’t be. And given a chance, they would repeat the horrors of the past.