It's not without reason I think that this week began with news (very late in the day Sunday) that the most hated man in the world had been found and killed by US Forces. Osama bin Laden didn't invent hatred or religious intolerance or xenophobia or antisemitism though historians may well argue he was a unique blend of each of those and other toxins and poisons, proving yet again that the whole is far too often greater than the sum of parts.
Winston Churchill once observed, "a fanatic is someone who cannot change his mind and who will not change the subject." He'd had first hand experience with just such a person, Adolf Hitler, whose death, as was bin Laden's, was announced on the first of May, sixty-six years earlier. Hitler and his National Socialists had harnessed centuries old ignorant hatred to the technological innovation of the Industrial Age to create Hell on Earth, the Holocaust.
Language is one, if not the greatest, of our species' triumphs and yet in no language can the totality of the hatred and destruction that was the Holocaust be adequately captured. The Jewish faith, who were targeted and ticketed for wholesale eradication, refer to the Shoah (שואה) in Hebrew. In German, with chilling precision, it's the Endlösung der Judenfrage, the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question."
The origins of racial/religious/ethnic/tribal/political intolerance and hatred of the other that lead to, and end in, mass murder didn't start in Central Europe in the 1930's. Genocide has a history that's no mystery, just its actual beginning is lost in the mists of time. It has been practiced, if that's the word you can become comfortable using, in every corner of the globe in every era and epoch of our stay on this planet. The ebb and flow of the tide of fanaticism has a rhythm and rhyme independent of reason and rational thought.
Events earlier this week serve, in their way, to underscore the importance of The Days of Remembrance which began last Sunday and continues through tomorrow. This link won't take you to the #1 box office smash in cinemas everywhere, but it is helpful, only if you wish.
I want to believe, because I almost have to, it wasn't an accident that a scourge of humanity was removed from us just as we examined the question, Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned? We availed ourselves of an opportunity to impose accountability, in a manner I feel Martin Niemöller might have accepted if not approved.
History's lessons don't learn themselves and sometimes we are too distracted to make them our own. And it's the persistence of our insistence in not gaining enough knowledge from our trials and travails that makes we worry and wonder how many more cycles we have yet to endure.