Have We Really Forgotten?
Have We Really Forgotten?
Not long ago, I came across an op-ed piece by Michael Gerson. The name sounded familiar, and not necessarily in a good way, but I couldn’t place it. But the title of the piece caught my eye: Has the West already forgotten the lessons of World War II? After all, I’d been asking variations of that question for some time. Except my question wasn’t always limited to the lessons of World War II. So, hoping for a well-researched and even-handed article, I started reading. How quickly expectations turned to disappointment and frustration. Gerson, like so many others, wants to do all he can to make President Trump the Hitler of our day.
Many Americans seem to have forgotten that a foreign policy of America First allowed international malignancies to grow that made war inevitable and resulted in the deaths of tens of millions.”
There are several things Gerson fails to note with regard to America First. The phrase was first used by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 when he was running for re-election. Wilson, a DEMOCRAT, pledged to keep the United States neutral during World War I. Hmmm, funny that Gerson didn’t mention that little detail.
The next thing to note is the sheer idiocy of expecting the United States to have policed the rest of the world to prevent these “international malignancies”. Remember, Gerson is telling us the government should have taken actions that today would have the liberals frothing at the mouth. Why? Because it would mean strengthening our military and taking military action without there necessarily being a threat to the nation.Sounds sort of like what they did with Vietnam and we all know how successful that was–not.
But let’s continue. Maybe he does have a point to make.
Anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and the United States are both atrocities and reminders. They ring with distant but unmistakable echoes of the nightmarish events of the 1930s and 1940s: the racial-purity laws, the economic indignities, the despairing suicides, the liquidation of the disabled, the digging up of Jewish graves in cemeteries, the deportations, the ghettos, the shootings in batch after batch, the pits of corpses, the emptied orphanages, the terrified walk to the gas chamber. . . This indicted a highly sophisticated and educated European society — along with the very idea of sophistication and education as brakes on evil. It indicted other nations that did little, even after the crimes became obvious. It indicted many German Christians who were indifferent or complicit.”
Oh. . . my.
Anti-Semitic attacks are horrible and should not only be condemned but prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We should never forget what happened to the Jews, or any of the other victims of the Axis, in World War II.
But there is more to the two paragraphs quoted from above. Note who Gerson seems to condemn: the “highly sophisticated and educated European society” and “German Christians”. Is this an indication he is about to make some sort of comparison with the Religious Right?
According to Gerson, the “moral response” to World War II is embodied in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document has, among its influencers, the Declaration of Independence and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms”. You see, the Nazis not only lost but they were “wrong”, Gerson asserts.
Okay, no argument there. Maybe I’m confused. But I have yet to see where we have forgotten the lessons of World War II. Unless. . .
Roosevelt, that hero of the liberal sect, spoke about the Four Freedoms on January 6, 1941. These freedoms were, “the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.”
Let’s see. “Freedom of speech and expression.” I wish I could say we haven’t watched this freedom be eroded. Except, despite what Gerson and others would have us believe, it hasn’t been at the hands of President Trump and conservatives. It has been at the hands of the AntiFa thugs and those who bend their knee in surrender to them. How many lectures or other appearances have been canceled by colleges, conventions, etc., because they have been afraid of what the forever victims and the bullies might say? How many voices have been silenced?
“The freedom to worship God in his own way.” I certainly haven’t seen the Trump Administration doing anything to close churches or shut down religions. What I have seen are our courts telling us we can’t have prayer in schools and companies telling Christians they can’t pray, all the while being told they must make concessions to other religions.
“Freedom from want and freedom from fear.” Let’s look at freedom from want first. After all, this is the basis of so many of the arguments condemning the Trump Administration and its immigration policies. Freedom from want means, “economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.”
Not once does that say it is the responsibility of the United States to provide this “freedom from want” to every person. Nor does it say we have the responsibility to allow every person appearing at our border entry. What it does say is “economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants. . . .” Every nation. Not just us.
“Freedom from fear” means “a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point. . . that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.” That doesn’t mean we disarm unilaterally. Nor does it mean we go in and force disarmament. It is an ideal, one we might one day be ready and mature enough to fulfill.
But the most urgent, comprehensive attack on the universality of human rights now comes from the nativist right. In places such as Hungary, Romania, Germany, Poland and the United States, politicians are attempting to define nationality based on the dehumanization of cultural outsiders — Muslims, migrants and refugees.”
Really? What proof does Gerson offer to support this stance?
He doesn’t. Instead, he goes on to write the following, “In the United States, it also requires the renunciation of responsibilities rooted in the postwar acceptance of human dignity as the basis of global order and peace.”
Responsibilities to play Big Brother to the rest of the world? Where is the condemnation of Russia, with its attempts to “return” the Ukraine to the fold? Where is the condemnation of all the fighting in the Serbo-Croatian region? What about the issues that drive the thousands in the migrant caravan to leave their homes and make the dangerous trek to the US? These so-called freedoms he refers to does not put the whole responsibility on the US.
Gerson also turns a blind eye to the problems Europe is facing after its catastrophic experiment with open borders. But that shouldn’t surprise any of us. He fails to discuss all the other times, times under Democratic administrations, when his version of these freedoms weren’t upheld. Where is the mention of border agents pepper-spraying those trying to enter the country illegally under the Obama Administration? Where is the outrage over Bill Clinton banning those suspected of taking part in the “repression of civilians” in Kosovo or his bans of families of those who “impeded” the road to freedom in Liberia and Sierra Leone? Then there was Jimmy Carter who, after the Iranians took over our embassy in Tehran in 1980, banned ALL Iranians from entering the country. Where were the protections for those who wanted to flee the Islamic extremists taking over the country?
Are we to assume Gerson thinks we, as a nation, have forgotten the lessons of World War II only in the last two years?
This is the cost of historical amnesia — the cost of electing an American president who is both ignorant of and indifferent toward the lessons of the last century, or any century. A president who always turns, by feral instinct, to an organizing message of bigotry and exclusion. A president who is throwing away an inheritance he does not value and unleashing forces that can easily move beyond control.”
And this sort of vitriol, unsupported by facts in the article (not to mention the way he ignores the actions and inactions of previous administrations), is why so many Americans no longer trust the media. We are told to forget parts of history and yet remember others, but only if we do it in a way we are told too. Gerson’s dislike for President Trump clearly colors his writing and his attempt to use our emotions to override reason is a common practice of liberals and the Never-Trumpers. I might not always agree with what Trump does, but at least I have no doubt he would act instead of leaving our representatives to die at the hands of our enemies (Can anyone say “Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith”?)
In order to make sure the rest of the world enjoys the Four Freedoms and other so-called declarations of human rights, the United States must first make sure we have those same freedoms FOR EVERYONE within our own borders. That means not allowing bullies like AntiFa shut down public discourse, even if the ideas are uncomfortable or even repugnant. It means securing our borders and coming up with a working and workable and intelligent immigration policy. It means all that and so much more.
Have we forgotten the lessons of World War II? Some have, but I propose it isn’t those Gerson would have us believe.
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Featured Image: The day after Krystallnacht. (10 Nov 1938)
Description: German citizens look the other way on nov. 10 1938, the day after Kristallnacht. What they see or don’t want to see are destroyed Jewish shops and houses.
Via PD at National Archives and Records Administration