by Robert Morrison
President Obama spoke to an interviewer about the Ft. Hood shootings. He had just come from the Memorial Service for the fourteen people whose lives were taken by the terrorist, Nidal Hasan:
OBAMA: In a country of 300 million people, there are going to be acts of violence that are inexplicable, even within the extraordinary military that we have. I think everybody understands how outstanding the young men and women in uniform are under the most severe stress. There are going to instances, in which an individual cracks.
Forget, for the moment, this confused part of the statement that seems to psychologize the killer’s actions. I want to focus on the “inexplicable” part.
This is a serious problem for liberals. They are forever finding such murderous acts inexplicable. They often employ words like “random” and “senseless acts of violence.” One of their favorite bumper stickers is “Practice random acts of kindness.” Random is okay if it’s kind. But if kindness and terror are truly random, what’s the moral difference?
Historian John Lukacs can help these confused people. Lukacs has developed deep insight into the mind and character of Adolf Hitler. In books like The Duel and The Hitler of History, Lukacs enables us to understand some of what is inexplicable to President Obama.
Hitler, Lukacs writes, was not a monster. He certainly did monstrous things. Think of all those children’s shoes in the Holocaust Museum. That’s enough to appreciate monstrous acts. But if we think of Hitler as a monster, then there really is no lesson to be drawn from his life. Monsters are like aliens. They’re inhuman. They are not like us.
Nor was Hitler insane. It may seem insane to us for anyone to plan to murder all the Jewish people, enslave all the Poles, and sterilize all the Ukrainians. Simply to dream that anyone could invade Russia and give orders to shoot millions on sight partakes of madness. But if Hitler was insane, Lukacs teaches us, then he is not morally responsible.
We do not hold even mass murderers responsible for the actions. He was not mad.
No, Hitler was evil. Not a monster, not a madman, but a very, very evil man. We need to understand man’s capacity for evil. Didn’t the Twentieth Century teach us anything? Let’s all take time off and read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
This week, we’ve seen another great public ceremony, the celebration of the anniversary of Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Retired NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw managed to hold forth for 1 ½ hours at the Newseum last week about the great events of that November evening. He never mentioned Reagan. Well, we understand why. Nor did he mention Communism. Or the KGB. Nor did he use the word “evil.”
Similarly, President Obama hailed the coming down of the Wall. But his remarks seemed more to be commemorating the removal of an architectural barrier than the end of something cruel and unjust. After all, the Soviet puppet regime in East Germany managed over twenty-eight years to shoot 136 people who tried to escape. Is it somehow more “explicable” to kill ten times as many innocent people as the Ft. Hood shooter if we stretch out the killings over three decades?
According to the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung (ZZF) (Center for Research on Contemporary History) in Potsdam, East German border guards were given these inhuman orders: “Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used.”
Germany has worked hard to reconcile its people, or peoples. But avoiding mention of the evil implicit in orders given to armed young men to shoot women and children will not help national reunification.
What happened at Ft. Hood was evil. What happened at the Wall was evil. We need to face reality. It is especially important that our President understand reality. Three hundred million lives depend upon it.