I just finished watching the film As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me. It’s supposedly based on a true story of a German soldier who after being captured spent several years in Siberia. He escaped and travelled thousands of miles on foot in order to get back home. It was a good movie. Of course, it was predictable in that I knew he was going to escape, but I didn’t mind.
What interested me about it was the soldier’s perspective. The Nazis were known to have committed horrendous violence in the concentration camps, but this was a story about a Nazi soldier who wasn’t a part of any of that. That is the way of wars. The average soldier doesn’t really know what they’re fighting for. This particular soldier apparently was fighting Russian soldiers and the Russians were as brutal as the Germans. In school, we’re taught to hate all Nazis, but I didn’t find it hard to sympathize with this soldier’s misfortune. War sucks for everyone. There are rarely good and bad guys in any war… or rather the good guys are whichever side happens to win.
I was thinking about WWII from the viewpoint of the average Nazi and the average German in general. I’m sure everyone knew Jews were shipped off, but I doubt many Germans knew what became of the Jews. Originally, the Nazis simply tried to give the Jews to other countries, but most countries including the US refused to save the lives of Jews. As a US citizen, I accept the fact that my government was complicit in the killing of Jews. My government knew what the Nazis were doing, but the fact of the matter is no government cared about the Jews. The war was never about the Jews… similarly to how the Civil War ultimately wasn’t about slavery. Wars are always about political power.
Anyways, how was the average German any worse than the average American? In the US, our government put Japanese Americans into camps just like the Germans put Jews into camps. Did Americans protest this unconstitutional infringement of the civil rights of their fellow citizens? No. Did the average American know for sure what happened to the Japanese Americans after they were shipped away? No. Did they know that their government didn’t just kill the Japanese Americans? No. Would there have been a protest if the Japanese Americans had been killed? I truly doubt it.
I think of the US soldiers right now over in Afghanistan and Iraq fighting pointless wars that can’t be won. The attack on Iraq was as immoral as any other war. We aren’t liberators of the Iraqi people. If they had greeted us as liberators, the war would already be ended. If we had actually seen our role as liberators, we wouldn’t have killed so many innocent people. Between the US military and the CIA, just try to imagine the countless number of innocent people who have been killed by the orders of our government, just try to imagine all of the death squads and puppet dictators we’ve put in place (such as Saddam Hussein).
I also think of all the violence of all countries that has happened since WWII. Once the world learned of the genocide against the Jews, there was a collective response of: “Never again!”. Yet, genocide has happened again and again over the decades. The US government didn’t intervene when it learned of the genocide against the Jews and the US government hasn’t intervened when any of the other genocides have happened since. Basically, the US government and most major governments couldn’t care less. And the average American, like the average German, ignorantly believes what their governments tell them, what the media tells them. No one ever cares until it happens to them personally.
The US government sentenced Japanese soldiers to death for waterboarding US soldiers. And what have we done? The US military is now in the business of torturing. Even Democrats were reluctant to question the morality of torture prisons and the Republicans were patriotically proud of being immoral assholes. The biggest supporters of torture in the US were Christians. Seriously! What the fuck!?! We are the evil we think we’re fighting. We are the country that puts bases around the world and attack any country we don’t like whether or not we have a good justification. We’re the only country that dropped nuclear bombs on large cities of innocent civilians. We Americans have nothing to be proud of. Each of us has blood on our hands. It’s your money, its my money that has paid for the killing of hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of innocent people over the decades.
I’m not saying we are more evil than any other people in the world. We aren’t. We have simply let power go to our heads and we’ve stopped demanding our leaders live up to our own moral ideals. We are just people like all people. That is my point. Our country is no different than Germany. Once upon a time, Germany was much like the US in being wealthy and valuing human rights. It was a democracy and the German people were proud of being a great people. That is the point. Only a great country can commit great evil.
So, yes, America is a great country… and that is the danger. In any democracy, a fascist government is only ever one vote away from becoming reality.