(Guest post by the spouse.)
In preparation for my upcoming trip to Spain, I am reading C.J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid, a spy novel set in Franco’s Spain during WWII. Coming upon many references to the Spanish Civil War, I have Hugh Thomas’s massive The Spanish Civil War history holding down the seat next to me to fill me in on the characters and organizations that produced the civil war.* The ever-present fear of characters in Winter in Madrid is that Franco will join Hitler in the war against England. The goal of the espionage community is to make certain that doesn’t happen and to be prepared if it does. And this has set my mind spinning.
My surprise is how similar Franco’s dictatorship is to Hitler’s. “Kill the Jewish Bolsheviks and the English fags who support them,” yell Franco’s Falangists as they try to drive Franco into a German/Italian alliance. I shouldn’t be surprised; but I am. And it makes me think about this week’s massacre of 49 Moslem worshipers in New Zealand, the slaughter of 11 Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh, and the murder of 9 black parishioners as they held a peaceful prayer meeting in Charleston.
While the prevalence of gun-related violence in the United States is a serious issue that should be addressed, my query today: “What is it about human beings that we require an enemy that is ‘other’?” And why is it that we don’t simply need to taunt or bait our enemy; we need to annihilate them. And why do we flock to leaders who allow – nay, nurture – these tendencies in the human psyche?
This is, of course, a worldwide – human – phenomenon. Why must Tutsis terrorize Hutus (and vice versa) in Rwanda? Why do Huers slaughter Dinkas (and vice versa) in Sudan? And what about the countless Afghans who have been blown to bits by the Taliban in the past few months? The Sunnis who slaughtered Shia (and vice versa) in the (most recent) Iraqi civil war? The Yemenis who are being starved to death by Saudi Arabia? Are these simply power struggles for control of “local government”? No; these are hate crimes. But why?
It’s a naïve question, I know, because we all know that the “the world is mean and man uncouth.”* But I wonder if leaders like Franco really believe in the rhetoric of anti-semitism and anti-communism or if they just use it to play to the basest instincts of their countrymen. Ridding the world of these base instincts is, unfortunately, more difficult even than stemming global warming. It’s too late; it’s baked into the human soul.
I admire those who — with hope in their hearts that good can overcome evil — condemn these acts horror. I condemn them, too, but I am losing that hope.
* With plaudits to Thomas’s masterful scholarship, the book gives one more information than one really needs to know!
** From The Threepenny Opera, Berthold Brecht.