The new pacifism

Dear Hannah,

I can find something to admire in almost anybody "great."  Almost anybody.  Josef Stalin, Charles Manson, Osama Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler all had something admirable in each of them; even if Josef Stalin was only beautiful when he was young, and Charles Manson was so magnetic he could get you to kill strangers.  In order to get a lot of people to do something obviously and objectively terrible you have to have talent and some sort of charisma; and if you can get an entire nation to try anything as stupid as communism then God bless you -- you're special.  I'll want to take that aspect of you and pin it on myself; to be as eloquent, charming, brilliant, organized, relentless, visionary -- in a word, superior, in all these aspects, as you are*.

But I've never heard of an admirable pacifist, and I posit that a man who refuses to fight for anything can't have anything worth fighting for in him.  He's destitute of all the beauty of manhood**.  He can't look in a crib at his child or across the table at a lover and decide that these people are worth killing for; and if he can't find that instinct and work with it within the bounds of reason, like he's supposed to work with sex and food and anything else we desperately need to live well, I say to hell with him.  I mentioned one time I'd be willing to kill for my children, and the man next to me said he'd be willing to kill for his dog -- a generous sentiment if there ever was one***.  Love, of oneself and one's neighbors, is the true origin of hatred. 

On the contrary, the chief virtue of the pacifist is a vice in every healthy man, and it's his commitment to throwing the people he knows best under the bus.  In the old days we called it cowardice or treachery.  Even before seeing what kind of enemies you're facing, he throws all of them into the same bag, considers none of them more dangerous than another, and thereby declares that whether Hitler wants to come and throw all your free men into prisons or a Sultan wants to throw all your women into a harem, none of it matters so much as whether or not he fights back.  You mean nothing to him.  His philosophy, the direction of his entire being, lies primarily in the enemy.  What is his philosophy?   Get everyone to promptly bend over for the enemy.  Who does he have to undermine to do it?  You and anyone who's willing to protect you.  

We have oftentimes heard, and probably with less merit than they deserve, that the generation that beat the Nazis was The Greatest Generation.  Some of them, I concede, were worthy of the label; but what we don't hear about this so-called "Greatest Generation" is that fifteen years after World War I so many of the most promising English, French and Germans had been killed, and so many of them demoralized on the Allied side, that the threat of a communist Britain was real, and the supposed flower of the British youth, laid up in the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, had all signed pacts swearing off war for eternity (see William Manchester's The Last Lion: Volume 2).

Winston Churchill, in fact, while attempting to tell the British that Hitler was rearming and dangerous, was himself labeled an alarmist and a fascist, jeered off of stages by students, and generally ignored until it was too late.  Before this it was believed, by most in prominent positions of government and academia and journalism, that Hitler could be appeased by letting him build an army, by simultaneously demilitarizing France and England, and by the advice of Margot Asquith, widow of the Prime Minister, that there is only one way of preserving peace in the world and getting rid of yr. enemy, and that is to come to some sort of agreement with him -- and the viler he is, the more you must fight him with the opposite weapons than his.  Her brilliant conclusion: the greatest enemy of mankind today is hate.  For Hitler****.

Of course now all this seems absurd; but the fact is that we pass the same ideas around today with equal reverence to when we said them yesterday.  Martin Luther King Jr's idiotic quote that Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that means virtually the same thing as Margot Asquith; and many Americans, after hearing about the atrocities committed by Muslims all over the globe and the hatred they have for us, sincerely believe the answer is to open our gates to the Syrians, put them all on generous welfare, and to punish the critics of Islam.   Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.  And so Justin Trudeau welcomes back the fighters of ISIS; and our feminists love the burkha as a symbol of freedom; and Republicans are unAmerican but Somalians reflect American diversity.  It's almost enough to make you miss the fascists. The fascist would at least fight for you because he thought you were the same.  The new man will sell you out because an invader only happens to be different.

Your father,

*Although no great man is great without followers, the followers of the above monsters I could do without.  The follower of an evil genius is worse than just a toadie: in the act he loses his mind and his soul, and the sins of the leader fall upon him just as harshly without giving him any of the glory.  We have yet to calculate how many millions of minions were the eyes and ears and arms of Joseph Stalin; but they were there, faceless, devious, destructive and ugly; thoroughly disposable and utterly forgettable, and we're glad that in the case of Hitler and Stalin many of these starry-eyed lemmings ended up dying in the gulags.

**It's said that no greater love exists than for a man to lay down his life for his friend.  What wasn't mentioned is that the way we do this is most often by trying to kill somebody else's friend.  Shy of war there aren't too many chances to do it.  Jesus may have been speaking about Himself and the cross; but I find it hard to believe, in that day of Roman occupation, that his listeners weren't thinking about Jewish revolutionaries -- the men who would mingle in crowds and risk their lives stabbing Roman soldiers to death.

***It may not be entirely fair to say that pacifists are destitute of everything, but they are destitute of most of it; and in the rare circumstances where pacifism works it only works because the civil disobedients didn't have another option.  The two most obvious (and maybe the only) examples we have of this working are Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; two people for whom a physical fight would have not only been ridiculous but counterproductive, and so blessed by God that their enemies were the weary English and the rapidly disintegrating Americans.  Pacifism as a moral creed is abominable.  Pacifism as a tactic in certain circumstances is unavoidable.   

****The number of glowing reviews of Hitler and Nazism in the 30's are sickening, and many can be found in the second volume of William Manchester's The Last Lion.  Lloyd George, the ex-prime minister, told the press that Hitler was "the greatest living German."  A group of Anglican priests expressed "boundless admiration for the moral and ethical side of the National Social programme, its clear-cut stand for religion and Christianity, and its ethical principles, such as its fight against cruelty to animals, vivisection, sexual offenses, etc."  Diplomats who reported honestly about the violence and oppression in Germany were replaced, according to the wishes of the British government, by Nazi sympathizers.  Macdonald, then the Prime Minister, was said in captured Nazi documents to have reassured the German ambassador that he believed none of the atrocity stories told by British ambassadors.  Anthony Eden got a standing ovation in the House for saying it was the patriotic duty of Britons to appease Hitler and give him whatever he wanted.  Sir Thomas Moore, a well-respected Minister of Parliament, wrote in the Sunday Dispatch, eight months into Hitler's chancellorship, amidst widespread stories about violence and oppression, that "If I may judge of my personal knowledge of Herr Hitler, peace and justice are the key words of his policy." A year later he wrote the now-comical statement, Give Hitler a chance. 

This madness of course, like everything else we do in life, isn't without reasons.  Post-war Germany had been placed in a subjection that was disgraceful to the conquerors and the conquered.  The terms of surrender were offensive; the reparations demanded were impossible; the army was disbanded; and Germany, this nation of hardy and terrible Teutons, was left (foreseeably) impoverished and defenseless.  We forget that the toll taken on all countries was unprecedented, but that it was particularly devastating in Germany.  Over two million young women became widows, many of their daughters became homeless, and in a world where food was scarce and jobs were few, many unfathered families became prostitutes -- together.   Berlin was turned into a bordello, sado-masochism became visible, cross-dressers roamed the streets while rich bankers wooed drunken sailors, and nude actresses such as Anita Berber, mainlining morphine and cocaine, would have sex with male and female customers on spotlighted bar-tops while the rowdy clientele fondled each other.  The world to the Berliner had become filth and starvation, and the starvation gave way to an ever-increasing tide of filth.

Then imagine a man comes along, telling you that you could be great again; that the age of the Third Reich was only around the corner; that the glory of Germany laid not in the past, but in a near and almost touchable future -- a future of science, and purity, and order.  The Germans, in the worst throes of the Great Depression they never created, would no longer be dependent on the fraudulent American economy.  The Treaty of Versaille could be shredded.  The communists threatening the Fatherland and all Western Europe could be put down; the family and its values could be restored; German industry would flourish, and the world would see that blonde-haired blue-eyed men were actually superior.  The question isn't how Hitler rose to power.  The question, especially in light of fascism's relative success in Italy, is how he couldn't have. The British praised Satan because they felt sympathy for a hell-hole, and we celebrate the virtues of Mohammed because we feel sorry for the Syrians.

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