Because of the strange direction my political beliefs have taken me, I hear it all the time and can’t quite stop the reactionary eye roll.
It’s governments that take away our rights. It’s governments that do horrible things. It’s government that can’t be trusted.
Those statements are true in certain contexts, but when it comes down to the most horrifying of human atrocities, it’s not governments that bear the blame.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is today and to hear people talk, it was all Hitler and the Nazis and if we don’t let the government get too powerful we don’t have to worry about it happening again.
Hitler is a fascinating historical character. He took advantage of the social temperature and used a pouting population to consolidate power. But he didn’t do it alone. The dirtiest work was done by the civilian people. It was the people who expressed their opinions that the Jews were taking jobs from them. It was the people who turned a blind eye to their friends and neighbors. It was the pundits arguing that was no place for the Jews in German society.
It was the people of Jedwabne, Poland killing their Jewish neighbors and friends.
It still exists in the stubborn anti-Semitism that continues to pervade our society. It takes on new life with every racist taunt, every laugh at a racist joke.
The Holocaust shouldn’t just be a reminder of government power gone tragically wrong. It shouldn’t just be a nudge to not be anti-Semitic. It should be a reminder to all of us to think about what we’re saying and doing. It’s easy to think that our casual racism doesn’t go beyond enjoying a ratings-boosting rant about immigration on a television news show, or a few laughs with our friends.
There are real consequences to the things people think and say and do. The Holocaust should be a reminder of that.