Normalizing Repulsive Acts

Trash mouth racist Sarah Jeong

I wrote about leftist violence in two recent posts, The Transference of Evil and The Democrat Party and its History of Violence. An older post seems relevant again. The I was writing about the repulsive acts of TSA sexually groping passengers at airports. Things have continued to rot since, making the TSA matter seem trivial. The violence coming from the Left since the election of Donald Trump is proceeding with lightening speed. The theme of my post from 2010 was how ordinary people who are probably not criminals can commit vicious acts of violence when they come to believe it is sanctioned by government officials or when they see corruption in their government. Official misconduct sends a message to ordinary people that the repulsive acts are being normalized.

The following is what I wrote back on November 24, 2010:

Hannah Arendt coined the term The Banality of Evil by making it the subtitle of her 1963 book on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt contended, rightly I think, that the unspeakable acts of history are carried out by ordinary people who have accepted the premise of their government so they come to believe the repulsive things they do are normal. The murderous actions of those who carried out the holocaust in 1930’s Germany were not madmen. They were ordinary. In the rest of their lives they were not sensational criminals or sociopaths; they were merely vapid, dull, uninteresting. They were banal. Their actions were evil but also sanctioned by the state, so they came to believe it was all just the way things are done.

One of the most striking examples of ordinary people carrying out unspeakable crimes without conscious happened on a summer day in 1941 at Jedwabne, Poland when half the town murdered the other half. By the end of one day 1,600 men, women and children lay dead at the hands of people they knew and had lived peaceably among for all of their lives. The murderers were not crazy or temporarily insane. They did what they did for one reason only; the Nazi government at the time told them to do it, but did not force them with threats of violence. Their government merely made it clear that it wanted them to do it, and that they would not be held accountable. Such is the power of a government to get people to do unspeakable acts merely by offering sanction and approval. [Further reading on Jedwabne: The Roman Catholic Church and Jedwabne; Neighbors: The Destruction of The Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross; July 10, 1941 in Jedwabne by George Will, July 9, 2001 in Newsweek. But cf. Jedwabne — The Complete Story]

We see something generically similar in people today who dismiss the sexual groping of American citizens at airports by TSA agents with such nonsense as, “Well if that’s what it takes to keep us safe, I guess it has to be done.” This is the normalization of repulsive acts by government agents that rob their fellow citizens of their dignity, and are in fact criminally illegal when done by anyone else.

It’s not on the order of the holocaust. People are not being stuffed into box cars and shipped off to death camps. But that’s not how the holocaust started. It started with small acts of humiliation. Then with the breaking of glass. Then with draconian rules about where certain people could live and work and what sort of property they could possess. In less than 5 years after those things began the first group of Jews were herded into a building that was then set on fire. Soon another group was locked in the confines of a moving van and gassed to death with a gas called zyklon b that had been developed for that purpose. Within a short time Auschwitz, Birkenau, Sobibor, and Treblinka were operational.

Is it ridiculous to make reference to these atrocities when discussing invasive pat downs by TSA agents? They are humiliating their fellow citizens in a gross and despicable manner, but they aren’t murdering them. So maybe it is an inflammatory comparison. But it may also be relevant in light of what has happened in less than 2 years. Our health insurance is being taken away, massive new financial legislation will soon be regulating every transaction among free citizens, small banks are being closed down by the government, bond holders had their property confiscated in the Chrysler bailout, Medicare which is for people who worked and paid into the system for most of their lives has been massively cut to finance Medicaid for slothful non-productive people who have contributed nothing to it, and now the Federal Reserve is embarking on QE2 that will result in a massive transfer of wealth from prudent and productive citizens to profligate and indolent ones.

The history of evil actions by government is that once started it does not stop until it has made everyone so desperate there is nothing left to lose. Then it usually takes some sort of war to end it. Ironically, such wars are often started not by the victims of the outrage, but by the perpetrators.

Perhaps there is a more hopeful outcome on the horizon. Perhaps the newly elected Republicans will be steadfast in opposing the Democrats’ agenda of defeat for America and will not repeat the 1994 episode when Republicans tossed all of their principles out the window as soon as the election was over. The failure of that crop of Republicans is partly to blame for the current situation because their weakness and political incompetence allowed the Banality of Evil to metastasize.

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