Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Way or The Highway

Elie Wiesel wrote after the Holocaust, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

We are in a pickle as a nation at the present moment.  Have we been too silent?  Have we been afraid to take sides?  Have we brought this calamity upon ourselves?  I think we have.  The penalty for this silence and neutrality will culminate in that old phrase, “My Way or the Highway.”  I still hear the echo of that slogan used in the Vietnam era, when we as America said to those who differed from the predominant view:  “Love it or leave it!”  Do you remember?  Any time any person or group decides that there is no longer any room for a difference of opinion, the phrase is re-coined in some way or another.  Love it or leave it.  My Way or The Highway!

Sunset on the Mississippi
History repeats itself.  Hitler had a charismatic style that mesmerized a disenchanted Germany just a few years ago.  He blamed outsiders for creating the problems the nation was encountering.      He humiliated them by falsehood and bullying.  He played upon the insecurity and fear of the people.  If all those who were pure Aryans (Germans) were to gain control of the government, Germany would return to greatness.  He incited the crowds who heard him to bash all those opposed to him and to do so with violence.  Anyone who opposed Hitler or disagreed with him “was an idiot, a moron or a loser.” 

Newspapers around the world reported the “new Nationalism” in Germany with a flair, overlooked Hitler’s rhetoric of “My Way or The Highway,” and by their acquiescence encouraged and fueled the “malignant narcissism” of Germany’s new leader.  Churches joined the crusade with enthusiasm.  (Only a few within the Church, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, could see what was happening and he was eventually imprisoned and hung for his dissent).  In the beginning, Hitler blamed the problems of Germany on the Jews.  But then, a bit later, he began to blame other groups of people who differed from his point of view.   Eventually all other political parties were outlawed.  No one was allowed to oppose his way.   My Way or The Highway!  By the way, Hitler’s Highway gave birth to the concentration camps.

You may be saying--if you read this--that Hal has lost his marbles!  He is taking our present dilemma far too seriously.  I do not think so and I pray that this nation "of the people, for the people, and by the people" (all of us) will be alert enough to see that My Way or the Highway just won't cut it for our beloved nation.  We either move forward or fall backward.  Do not be silent.  Do not claim neutrality.  There is far too much at stake for that! 

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