Originally published on Wake Up America, Sunday, December 02, 2007
Reclaiming the Power of Hate by Roger Gardner
Asked if they'd really like to kill a German, the GI in WWII Europe answered Yes 7% of the time. When asked the same question about the Japs in the Pacific the answer was Yes 44% of the time.
What accounted for this tremendous difference in our attitudes towards the Germans and the Japanese? We were in the midst of the bloodiest war the world had ever known, and both the Germans and the Japanese were our bitter enemies. Yet while the American people had no difficulty conjuring up a healthy hatred for the Nazis, and the average GI in the European Theater soon learned to despise his Nazi adversaries, and, holding them in special contempt, eventually had no qualms about shooting the notorious SS troops on sight, none the less, throughout that monumental conflict, as the above statistics suggest, the American people, and the average GI, both held conflicted views about the German people themselves.
Throughout our relatively short national history, we had enjoyed long generational ties with Germany and with Germans. We had learned to admire that advanced Germanic culture and those admirable Teutonic traits of hard work and efficiency, diligence and discipline. We listened appreciatively to their magnificent classical music (which they had all but invented) and avidly studied their writers and philosophers. We shared a common bond, unique to those members of the Western World. And perhaps most importantly, we shared a common religion -- and although it had perhaps become somewhat theologically awkward -- at times we both prayed for victory to the same
For these reasons and many more we were, at least partially, able to buy into the argument that the German people were a basically decent people who had either been seduced or terrorized into accepting the lunatic racist visions of the Third Reich. (The degree to which this comforting paradigm still has validity is, of course, highly debatable). But those were our views at the time. And these unspoken cultural ambiguities were often reflected in the actions and attitudes of both adversaries on and off the battlefield.
As an example of this subliminal cultural affinity, consider the following statistic: During the entire course of WWII only 2% of Allied POWs died while in European captivity.
Now, what about the Japanese?
In the first place, after December 7, 1941, they were no longer referred to as the Japanese. They were simply, and disdainfully labeled Japs, and later, Nips. Although there was a small but thriving Japanese-American population on the West Coast and on the American island of Hawaii, few if any cultural bonds existed between the Japanese and American peoples. And, of course, after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-American community was looked upon, somewhat understandably, with growing suspicion. (Our moral justification for the subsequent internment of our Japanese-Americans is a complicated and contentious subject which deserves to be treated in a separate article). Suffice it to say, that the Japanese, unlike the Germans, were a completely different race from a strange and utterly alien culture. Their religion appeared to us to be a weird conflation of Shintoism and Emperor worship, their political ideology was grounded in the unyielding brutal code of the Samurai warrior.
Since the end of the First World War, the Japanese national character had become more and more militaristic, aggressive, imperialistic and -- in a reactionary nationalistic backlash against those cultural inroads made by the Caucasian West into their traditional inbred, closed society -- they had become defensively and virulently racist -- anti-white, anti-Western, anti-colonialist.
Beginning with their brutal and unwarranted invasion of Manchuria in 1931, through the subsequent horrors of their infamous Rape of Nanking, and the innumerable and unimaginable acts of inhumanity committed against captured enemy soldiers and innocent civilians alike, throughout their conquered territories in the Southeast Pacific, the fearsome Japanese soldier accumulated a long, despicable record of sadistic barbarism unmatched in modern times. (An appalling record of rape and government-sanctioned sadism for which they -- unlike the Germans -- have to this day never adequately apologized).
After the Battle of Midway, as the war in the Pacific gradually turned against those at first seemingly-invincible Japanese forces, and as the inevitable and dire fate of the Empire of the Rising Sun became increasingly apparent, the scale of Japanese atrocities grew exponentially.
In stark contrast to that 2% of POWs who perished in European POW camps, an incredible 37% of Allied POWs would die under horrendous conditions in the Japanese prison camps. To be captured by the Japanese during WWII was for many, quite literally, a fate worse than death.
Considering that the American public had first become aware of the Japanese war machine through that treacherous and unprovoked sneak attack on an American Naval Base, during a time of peace, while the Japanese ambassadors were at that very moment meeting their American counterparts at the State Department, the Japanese people quickly became something else; they became Japs. A brutal and inferior race of savages to be distrusted and despised. A race, in short, to be hated.
And hate them we did. We hated them openly, willingly and without reservation. And we didn't just hate their leaders or their armies and their navies, we hated THEM, the Japs themselves, the bloodthirsty, sadistic little squinty-eyed monkeys. We matched their racial hatred of us with our racial hatred of them. No caricature, no obscenity, no epithet could be too vile to describe a Jap. If you were a patriotic American, be you man, woman or child, you automatically hated the Japs. It quickly became a necessary adjunct to our national persona, second nature, like loving your mother and apple pie. It was not only that it was O.K. to hate the Japs, it was considered your sacred duty. And the more fervently you expressed this hate, the more patriotic you became, and the more patriotic you became, the stronger America became.
It was as clear as crystal.
And our hate was essential to the cause, we could not have won the war without it. This natural unquestioned hatred of the enemy -- especially of the Japs -- became our strength and our power, a weapon as necessary to possess in abundance in our arsenals as guns and bombs. It gave purpose to our lives, and was resanctioned daily by our unified patriotic media and our beloved patriotic movies. This sacred and unmitigated hate fueled our patriotic fervor, and enabled us to put up with those ever-increasing burdens of rationing and deprivations, and to endure those awful but inevitable losses of our loved ones.
In short, hate was good.
In itself, hate was neither moral nor immoral. It was, rather, a natural rational reaction. Hate became the very substance that sustained us, the societal glue that bound us all together. Our imaginations thrived on lurid visions of Jap bestialities -- most of which were unfortunately all too true.
It seemed, somehow we knew, that in a time of war hate was a quality as essential as bravery and courage and sacrifice. This was a truth so obvious to us all that no one ever thought to even question it. No one had ever won a war by learning to dislike their enemy. If they won the war, they won the war by learning how to hate their enemy at least as fervently as their enemy hated them. The whole purpose of all nationalistic propaganda, no matter whose side it was on, was to inspire that all-powerful passion of hate, that genuine, pervasive and relentless hatred of the enemy which is absolutely essential to success in warfare.
Then, finally, the war was over and we had won.
But,we had changed.
In 1946, William Wyler released his critically-acclaimed motion picture The Best Years of Our Lives, and immediately it touched the hearts of a war-weary American public. It also showed an unwelcome light on the first cracks in our otherwise confident new peacetime facade.
Basically, the film relates the stories of three GIs returning from the war, and the various problems they encounter as they attempt to readjust themselves to civilian life in a world they hardly recognize. The story opens with the return of a tough, battle-hardened, newly-discharged Army Sergeant, just back from fighting in the Pacific (masterfully played by Frederick March). After one of the most heart-warming homecoming scenes in all of moviedom, he begins that awkward but inevitable process of reacquainting himself with his barely-recognizable grownup children.
Following his college student son's rather underwhelmed reaction to his gifts of hard won Jap war trophies, he listens patiently as the young man proudly announces that he is currently attending lectures at school on World Peace, and learning that in this new Atomic Age we must all learn to get along together and that 'war is never the answer' (thus, inferentially condemning his warrior father who by fighting for his country may have inadvertently transgressed some higher moral code).
And thus it began.
All of those hard lessons we had learned during the war years must now be unlearned and forgotten. As peace settled in those traditional masculine virtues -- strength, courage, duty, loyalty, bravery, honor -- which served society so well in time of war, and had probably saved the very life of that society, were to be gradually shunted aside and devalued, eventually to be replaced by those gentler, more civil feminine virtues of patience, understanding, nurturing, tolerance and love. We were encouraged to become an increasingly passive, self-absorbed, self-indulgent feminine society, a nation obsessed with its health, wealth, weight and security. Soon, our most important national issues would become our civil rights and personal liberties, free speech and gay marriage.
For two successive generations since the end of that great war, we had been undergoing this continuing process of deprogramming and moral readjustment. A whole new vocabulary had emerged to define this new world. Certain words had taken on a subjective moral weight all their own. We still had enemies, but now our most important enemies had become our own words -- words like Prejudice and Racism and Intolerance were now the new enemy. This was the new war we were fighting, a war of words against words. And of all of the words that we were fighting against, none more perfectly embodied the evil nature of our mortal enemy than that most deadly and unconscionable of words -- Hate.
Hate is the very heart and soul of our new enemy; the word Hate itself must be eradicated and expunged forever from our new vocabulary and from our new lives. We must banish Hate from our cities and our towns as the Nazis banished the Jews. We must put up posters at all the entrances to our communities which proclaim: NO PLACE HERE FOR HATE. We must diligently search out Hate wherever it attempts to hide itself and expose it to the bright light of reason.
Our new weapons in this new war would be Openness, Tolerance, and above all, Acceptance of The Other. We had learned our lessons well. Never again would we mistrust The Other merely because they were different from us. Rather, we would enthusiastically embrace these differences. We would especially honor those unique cultural and religious differences, and the more they differed from ours, the more we would respect and honor them.
And if by chance these particular cultures happened to embrace slavery, child abuse, honor killings and the violent suppression and persecution of all other religions and of all of their hapless women, then we shall smile at them and say, This is your culture and your religion and we honor it and respect it and we welcome you into the fold. We open our borders and we open our hearts to you. Because, at all costs, we can no longer tolerate those deadly enemies of Peace -- Prejudice, Intolerance and Racism. Because, as our eager young college student so presciently observed back in 1946, 'in this new Atomic Age we must all learn to get along together, and War Is Never The Answer'.
War is, in fact, the physical manifestation of Hate; therefore, War itself must be our primary enemy. Anyone who proposes War must be the enemy. War will be successfully defeated by the utter eradication of the word Hate. Thus we will maintain our moral equilibrium, the status quo of Peace.
Now, however, we have been attacked once again. This time, a sneak attack even more deadly than the one on Pearl Harbor, with even more loss of life, 2,987 compared to 2,403. This time, it would not even be a military attack against a military target but, rather, a treacherous unprovoked attack against innocent civilians, people going to work in the morning.
We had been attacked by people who hate us so badly that they would gladly die to kill us. They hate us and our Western culture with such passion that they spill out onto their streets in droves daily to stomp on our flag and to burn our president in effigy. We are, they scream and shout at us, the Great Satan, and they have promised to wipe us off the face of the earth. Driven by an unyielding religious fervor, they will not be dissuaded nor deterred in their righteous jihad until they have fulfilled their sacred promise to destroy us.
What, then, is our national response to this violent onslaught?
We are unsure, we remain confused and conflicted, we can barely conjure up a reasonable facsimile of anger without it generating some immediate liberal moral backlash. We have gutted our military and outlawed our masculinity and rendered ourselves all but defenseless. Half of our nation believes we are at war and half of our nation doesn't. We live nervously in our Cowardly New World of clever obfuscations and elaborate denials, we cower behind a wall of euphemisms and confront our enemy's virulent hatred with the only weapons we have left, those pitiful weapons of Tolerance and Understanding. We attempt to defend ourselves against the Murderous Beast by pretending that he's really not there. We would rather be dead than be impolite. We refuse to identify our enemies for fear of offending them.
We have forgotten how to fight back, we only know how to talk. We have forgotten that omnipotent power of hate; foolishly, we have systematically eliminated the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. We have thoroughly expunged that dreaded word from our vocabulary, and we have declared that the word War is now our real enemy.
In summation, we're in serious trouble.
If we are to survive as a nation, as a free and honorable people, if we are to survive as a viable Democracy, we must once and for all abandon all the lies and obfuscations. We must make all euphemisms illegal. We must go all the way back to 1945 and relearn that cold hard masculine vocabulary of War.
To live, we must learn how to hate again. For without the strength of that unmitigated and unquestioned passion, weakened by our own civility, we will most assuredly perish, subsumed in the onrushing tsunami of our enemy's unanswered rage.
Posted by Roger W. Gardner at 6:14 PM