The Nazi Within

>    This week the International Tracing Service, administered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, unsealed 50 million pages of documents collected by the Allies near the end of WWII chronicling the atrocities committed during the Nazi era. The documents are housed in the German city of Bad Arolsen where it’s index references 17.5 million people in 16 linear miles of file space.
    This is not a good day for Holocaust deniers (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be sure)…although that’s not the focus of this entry.
    The more difficult topic to address is the Nazi within each of us. Just writing that sentence causes me to wince.
    It’s not easy, or pleasant, to think that it might be true…that each of us is capable of doing what the Nazis and the German people did. And while I do believe that under the “right” circumstances each of us is capable of morally reprehensible acts, I do not mean to say that each of us is capable of committing the same acts committed by the Nazis. Rather, that we each have a propensity to rationalize and justify hurtful behavior…even morally reprehensible behavior…in the misguided belief that such behavior is key to our own survival and, therefore, somehow excusable and acceptable.
    It’s often said that Hitler’s psychological strategy played upon the disgrace and humiliation suffered by the German people following WWI. He gave them hope and, what’s key here for our purposes, he also gave them an excuse for their unhappiness. That excuse led to the oftentimes brutal deaths of 13 million people. No matter, it was justifiable (not to mention vengeful).
    We all do it, you know. I can tell you I do.
    I have a disagreement with my husband and while it remains  unresolved from my perspective, it’s seemingly resolved for him. Rather than accept the non-resolution, I harbor ill feelings around it and him. At some later time, that harbored ill feeling turns to anger. When an opportunity arises (related or un-reacted to the original disagreement) to express that built-up anger…I let it rip. Of course, my justification is that he hurt me by ignoring or refusing to see what was of significance to me
    And so the beast is fed.
    You may be thinking that my personal anger at my husband hardly rises to the level of Nazi genocide. But be careful, for what exists within the microcosm of our personal lives is but a fraction of what we project, and therefore create, within the macrocosm of our culture.
    I read an eye-opening quote yesterday in “Writing Spirit” by Lynn V. Andrews.
         “Your Einstein searched and searched for truth,
         and finally, it came to him. If he would have
         misused that wisdom he could not have conceived
         of it. All great scientists agree on that. What
         lesser people do with that knowledge is some-
         thing else. No one who has abilities and has
         grasped higher laws could ever hurt anyone.

    So, whether it’s genocide or a marital spat, the intentional infliction of pain (mental, emotional, physical or spiritual) upon another is the shortcoming of the one causing it. It is our own limited understanding of the highest laws of the Universe that not only causes us to behave in such ways but also to justify our behavior in the name of self-survival.
    The reality, and the irony, is that with each hurtful act perpetrated upon another person or thing, we eat away at our own flesh and assure that the path to enlightenment and God remains obstructed with the refuse of our own misguided actions.
    Next time you have the opportunity to be angry or disappointed with someone else, go deep within yourself instead…drop the story you are telling yourself about their behavior, and ask yourself what you can do to break the chain of pain.
    I can assure you from personal experience that you will garner much more progress with that approach than with any other.
    You can ask my husband and me.

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