Wednesday, May 13, 2009

They're Not Really People At All

One of the most important exchanges of dialogue in our April Film of the Month, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, occurs when Bruno's father tries to help Bruno understand why he needs to stay away from the Jews in the concentration camp, which Bruno, in his childhood innocence, thinks is a farm. In an attempt to help the boy understand why these people are shackled and living in a cage, Bruno's father explains, "The thing is Bruno, those people - well you see . . . they're not really people at all."

So many of us have looked at photos of the Holocaust and asked, "How could one human being do something like this to another?" The answer lies in Bruno's father's reasoning - they're not really people at all. Present within this statement is the admission that human life is sacred. In other words, if we were talking about humans, such acts would be unmistakably heinous, horrible, and downright evil atrocities. But if we are not talking about humans, then what is happening to them is not immoral. And since they are not really people, we can justify killing six million of these vile creatures and not feel the slightest guilt about it. In fact, we can feel good about ourselves for what we've done, i.e. "The Jews would have destroyed our country." This is not the most glamorous undertaking, however it must be done for the greater good of all mankind. Murder is wrong. But we're not committing murder. You see, they're not really people at all.

If we were talking about humans, such acts would be unmistakably heinous, horrible, and downright evil atrocities. But if we are not talking about humans, then what is happening to them is not immoral.The Holocaust was not the only time such rationalization was used to excuse human cruelty and genocide. For hundreds of years, American families owned, bred, and sold African slaves. Once again, looking back on history, we can shudder at the thought of these poor souls being packed together in slave ships, tight as sardines, with no food, water, or variation in movement for months on end. We don't understand how people could justify allowing these people to lie in a puddles of their own urine and feces as they made the trip from Africa to become their slaves, but they did. The white slave traders were full of the same rationalizations as the Nazis.

Some would argue that they didn't want to keep slaves, but it was a necessary evil. Their personal financial situation would not allow them the luxury of setting them free. "Who will work the crops?" They'd say. "My family could not survive without slaves! You don't understand my situation." Others would argue that slavery was more humane than freedom: "These people don't know how to read. They are incapable of problem solving. They would never make it on their own. As slaves, they are given food, clothing, and a roof over their heads. Making them slaves is the best thing we can do for them." Of course, the reason we got ourselves into this situation is simple: slavery is not immoral to begin with. These Africans are savage beasts, akin to apes and monkeys. To put them to work, beat them into submission, and discipline them harshly is not immoral. You see, they're not really people at all.
We can look at all these injustices throughout history and see the wisdom of the Bible. There is nothing new under the sun:
That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,
"See, this is new?"
It has already been in ancient times before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

A generation comes, and a generation goes. Each believes it is smarter than the last, yet because people are all depraved, none of it is new. It's just the same sin, recycled, repackaged, and put out into the world. We look back on the injustices that were committed during the American slave trade and thank God we are so much wiser now. We reflect upon the Holocaust and promise ourselves that we will never allow something like this to happen ever again. Oh, but there is nothing new under the sun.

Today, a young woman waits nervously for her appointment. As she fills out the paperwork detailing her medical history, she tries to drown out the voices calling out to her from outside. They are saying, "Come away from this place! Don't commit this wicked act!" She would much rather not go through with the procedure. But she doesn't have a choice. "I could never survive if I didn't go through with this. They don't understand my situation." She glances briefly out the window, and tries to read the poster signs they are holding. They are telling her she is about to commit murder, but she comforts herself in the fact that what she is doing is a necessary evil. "The child could grow up in an abusive family. This is the most humane thing I can do," she rationalizes. She knows she must go through with this now, before it grows any more. The people calling to her outside are telling her it is a human life. Judging from the pictures, it certainly looks human. But she sticks to her guns, and turns her back on those pleading with her to come out of the building and let them help her.

Really, those fanatics are just overreacting. After all, it is just a blob of tissue, is it not? Oh reader, atrocious as our past history has been, this time, it really is different. It is not immoral to kill these blobs of tissue we have labeled a "fetus." You see, they're not really people at all.

Click here to see signs from the Genocide Awareness Project, courtesy of (Warning: graphic images.)


Arthur Sido said...

It is far easier to justify sin than we like to think. Turn a human into something else and it becomes far easier to exterminate them.

Steve Martin said...

A trick of the devil.

To devalue human life, created in God's image, and reduce it to meaninglessness.

The Nazis did it. Imperial Japan did it. The Communists did it and are still doing it. The Islamists are doing it. And the secular humanists are doing it.

CO2, a building block for life, has now been put on a list of dangerous chemicals by the EPA.

It is a trick of the devil.