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Odd Thoughts: History lesson hard to learn

Odd Thoughts: History lesson hard to learn
21 Jun
2:06

It takes a village to raise a child.

But it takes a country to tear one from a mother’s arms and joyously celebrate the cruelty of the act in the name of national security… and the Bible.

History is trying to teach us a lesson, folks. We’ve failed the course over and over again for centuries. We humans are slow to learn.

I have a dreadful feeling that, if we don’t get a passing grade really quickly, a lot of lives are going to be lost.

I wasn’t born in time to learn the lesson from Germany in the 1930s and 40s, although my Dutch parents who lived through it gave me a rough outline of the course.

Their Coles Notes version seems to indicate that History isn’t picky about who it chooses for instructors… or who gets taught. In the end, both are victims.

And that’s the lesson that we all have so much trouble grasping.

Try to imagine going to work every morning to a job that requires you to separate a screaming child from his or her mother, knowing that it is likely that those terrified children will never see their grief-stricken parents again.

Try harder.

If you still can’t imagine it, you’re not alone. Most of the American border agents doing that work wouldn’t have been able to imagine it, either, a few months ago.

And there’s our F grade.

We like to watch news stories about people who do incredibly heroic things. It’s uplifting. It renews our faith in humanity. Deep down inside, it fuels our fantasy that any one of us could rush into a burning building to save a baby… if a building with a baby left inside happens to catch fire while we’re in the neighbourhood.

But most babies in burning buildings would die, if the rescue were left to a random passerby.

Scientific evidence suggests we’re all more likely to be cruel than heroic. The infamous Stanford Prison Experiment shows that nearly all of us are capable of obscene cruelty against each other, with only two significant conditions: we don’t know our victim personally, and we face no personal risk in the perpetration.

Throw in an authority – like a twisted Bible passage – to justify the travesty, and add simple job security to the mix… and those horribly ordinary people could be you or me.

Sleep well tonight.

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