. . . shoots two guards at the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., killing one.
The guy was an 88 year-old WWII veteran and ex-con, white supremacist, holocaust denier, and general nutball. Oh, and illegally in possession of a .22 caliber rifle.
I am reminded, however, of a quote from Neil Strauss’ recent bestseller Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life:
Few of the most brutal periods in medieval history – from the sack of Rome to the early Inquisition – were as coldly barbaric as what happened in our supposedly enlightened modern Western civilization.
And though I left the (Holocaust) museum with the reassuring message that the world stood up and said “never again” to genocide, it only took a minute of reflection to realize that it happened again – immediately. In the USSR, Stalin continued to deport, starve, and send to work camps millions of minorities. As the bloody years rolled on, genocides occurred in Bangladesh in 1971, Cambodia in 1975, Rwanda in 1994, and in Bosnia in the mid 1990s.
All these genocides occurred in ordinary worlds where ordinary people went about ordinary business. The Jews were integrated into every aspect of the German social and professional strata before the Holocaust. The entire educated class in Cambodia – teachers, doctors, lawyers, anyone who simply wore glasses – was sent to death camps. And as Philip Gourevitch wrote in his book on the Rwandan massacre, “Neighbors hacked neighbors to death in their workplaces. Doctors killed their patients, and schoolteachers killed their pupils.”
So what I ultimately learned at the Holocaust Museum was not “never again,” but “again and again and again.”
Chew on that.