As I observe the events of the past months unfold, I'm drawn to the history of the 1930s. During the 30s, the Nazis—history’s marquee fascist ideology—were ascendant. All the signs were there—a charismatic, if irrational, leader; intolerance of any culture but their own; the cultivation of virulent hatred focused on defenseless minorities (Jews, gays, gypsies); an emphasis on revisionist history; a rush to develop powerful offensive weapons; visions of expansionism, and ultimately world domination—all actions that telegraphed violence and outright war.
And yet, many people refused to see the signs, hoping against hope that reason would prevail, that the signs were just bluster, that negotiation or appeasement could dissuade the fascists from the chosen path. As a teenager, I read the history of the 30s with dismay. I asked myself: “Why didn’t more powerful countries step in and stop the Nazis before they grew too powerful to stop? Why did we wait until a World War was the only remaining option, until 20,000,000 people died? I didn’t know the answer then, but I do now.
Most of us have an innate sense of evil. We feel it on the inside, even if we can’t prove it conclusively on the outside. But in civilized western cultures (particularly in Western Europe and the US where tolerance, multiculturalism, and related philosophies dominate), we tamp down our sense of evil, thinking that it can’t be as bad as it appears, hoping that if we just wait it out, evil will dissipate.
We shy away from any preemptive action again evil, demanding conclusive proof that what we sense is, in fact, what is real. So we wait, and wait, and wait. Until evil acts against us in ways that we can no longer ignore, until countless innocents have suffered. Then, we react. We did it in the 1930s, and I fear we’re doing it all over again today.
In an article published four months ago, Tony Blankley of The Washington Times wrote:
Radical Islam, sometimes accurately called Islamo-fascism, has all the "advantages" the Nazis had in Germany in the 1930s. The Islamo-fascists find a Muslim population adrift, confused and humiliated by the dominance of foreign nations and cultures. They find a large, youthful population increasingly disdainful of their parents' passive habits.
Just as the Nazis reached back to German mythology and the supposed Aryan origins of the German people, the radical Islamists reach back to the founding ideas and myths of their religious culture. And just like the Nazis, they claim to speak for authentic traditions while actually advancing expedient and radical innovations.
The Islamo-fascist mullahs encourage young Muslims not to turn to their parents for guidance on choosing a wife (or wives). Nor are young Muslims to be guided by parental or community disapproval of making an individual commitment to jihad. They are allowed to drink alcohol, shave their beards and commit what otherwise would be judged immorality in a Muslim -- in order to advance jihad.
I’m probably overly sensitive to this issue because I’m the son of a Holocaust survivor (you know, the Holocaust that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggests never happened), but I have a really bad feeling that Blankley’s analogy is not overwrought.
It’s really hard to look evil in the eye. Most of us prefer to look away, thinking of more pleasant things or imagining that evil’s demonic gaze is something else, something non-threatening. It’s even harder to throw the first punch -- to stop evil before it grows too strong to stop without great loss and heartache.
And so, we sit and wait.