I remember as a child learning about the Holocaust, I was stupefied that such atrocities could have been committed in my parents’ lifetimes. I recall my childish relief at having been born in a “more enlightened” time–a time when such despicable acts would be unthinkable. People were better now, weren’t they?
Later, when my graduate training made it clear that the genetic composition of a population is unlikely to change significantly in a single generation, my childish perception developed cracks, but I was thankful that at least the culture had advanced–the brutal societal conditions that had produced such deep-seated angst were surely behind us, weren’t they?
Then, as I witnessed the rise of Fox News, and on its heels the soaring popularity of Donald Trump, I realized it’s not the actual conditions–it’s people’s perceptions that matter.
As a child, I used to sympathize with those who’d argued they were “only following orders.” Oppose such a brutal regime? At what personal cost?
That was before I appreciated that to empower such a regime, many must be complicit. In The Demon of Histlewick Downs, Flinch would have understood this principle all too well, though he might argue that without benefit of hindsight, most couldn’t have foreseen the horrors their hatred would spawn.
We cannot say the same. History has taught us the risks of power acquired by exploiting hate. Ignorance is no excuse.