Monday, May 30, 2005

More on succumbing to barbarism

A reader wrote me about my post last month on Jim Trudeau shares his thoughts upon visiting Dachau:
Enjoy your blog but to compare Rwanda/Nazis etc. to a few USArmy clowns putting panties on some suspected terrorists head is the slipperiest of slopes. Such moral equivalency defeats much of what you say you care about.

Here's what I wrote in response:

I assume you're referring to my April 26 entry about Jim Trudeau's essay on visiting Dachau.

In particular, the paragraph:
"The people of Nazi Germany, the people of the Rwandan Genocide, the European invaders of the Americas, the lynch-mobs of the U.S., the soldiers in Abu-Ghraib, the slavers of Sudan - and the countless others who would take days to fully enumerate here - we have no fundamental difference from any of those people."

Note that I did not say those were the same or equivalent things, just that they were all (as I called it in the next paragraph) "unimaginable horrors".

Evil is evil - regardless of the scale or extent. Yes, some atrocities are more atrocious than others - but they are all still atrocious.

As to what happened at Abu Ghraib (and Guantanamo, and other places we presumably haven't heard about), to diminish it to "a few USArmy clowns putting panties on some suspected terrorists head" is to belittle the extent of crimes and horrors perpetrated there. Certainly it is not on the scale of genocide, but it's still deeply evil.

In any case, my point was to argue the case that however 'civilized' we may feel we are, we are not immune to succumbing to barbarism.

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