How Did It Come To This?


I just finished watching a great movie that I’ve seen before. Okay. Actually I just watched the ending so I could get the quote that I am about to use as the topic of the day. The movie is “Judgment At Nuremburg” in which Spencer Tracy plays an American judge sent to Germany to try Nazi war criminals. Burt Lancaster plays a judge who is on trial for sentencing innocent people to death in compliance with Nazis and under very little if any duress. By the end of the movie Lancaster is serving his life sentence (the person who inspired the role of Lancaster’s Janning had been freed by the time the movie was released in 1961). At the end of the movie Lancaster's character requests to see the judge who sentenced him before the judge departs for the U.S. and Tracy obliges. In his cell Lancaster, in a plea for sympathy tells Tracy “Those millions of people, I never knew it would come to that. You must believe me. You must believe me” to which Spencer Tracy delivers these final words of the film: “Herr Janning, it came to that the moment you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.” Then he walked on down the hall.
In “Paragraph 175,” a documentary on the rounding up of gays in Nazi Germany, one survivor is asked how a country could look on and knowingly allow mass homicide to occur. He answered “people become apathetic very easily.” Boom!
It does not have to come to genocide for behavior to be considered antisocial. All ugliness starts small and through silence, and/or inaction gains steam. The ugliest people always think that they are in the right and in most cases only become repentant once they are looking at 5 to life or once the consensus has flipped against them.
Like Ernst Janning, the antisocial don’t assume that it will “come to that.” Well, it hasn’t come to genocide here to date, but what it does come to is a diminution of rights, personal harm, and sometimes death. A Muslim cabbie is stabbed by a fare in New York. Mosques around the U.S. are being vandalized. A minister threatens to publicly burn the Koran. Apologists may admit to all this activity being wrong, but then are happy to loosely opine “but this wouldn’t be happening if they weren’t building that Mosque at Ground Zero.” So any Muslim deserves what they get? Really?
Newt Gingrich is lobbying hard for the Ernst Janning award with his recent speeches which unapologetically frame all Muslims as the enemy. He talks about how horrific a people they are and how much better we are than they are. He gets the kind of people who listen to him to become angrily obsessed with fantasy scenarios such as Muslim law being imposed in America. And with all that has been transpiring in the past few months, what does Newt Gingrich think the people who listen to him will do? He’s smart enough to know someone might go stab a Muslim or vandalize a Mosque. It’s come to that, Mr. Gingrich and it’s all because of you and people like you.