Over 5 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. This number never ceases to be staggering. How could something like this happen in a fairly modern and so-called civilized world? How could any human being, with the ability to not only feel but understand love and compassion, ever consent and condone the murder and attempted genocide of men, women and children because of their religion? And yet, this type of bigoted attitude still thrives in our world today. There are many reasons why Hitler's Jewish hatred and distorted viewpoints spread like a highly contagious virus. Too many. Jealousy. Fear. Biases. The list could continue, but today I want to address the one reason that, I feel, encompasses them all: Ignorance. Ignorance is defined as "the lack of knowledge or information". Synonyms include: incomprehension of, unawareness of, unconsciousness of, unfamiliarity with, inexperience with...and so on and so on.
How could Hitler gain so many followers? He fed them his deluded ideas and their egos feasted. But it was ignorance about the Jewish people that led to nefarious and disastrous events. What would have happened if people, upon hearing Hitler’s views, cross-checked the “facts” being presented? What if they had taken the time to get to know a Jewish neighbor, asked a Jewish person about their faith, observed Jewish traditions? Now let me be clear. There were non-ignorant people who did exactly this. Some already had Jewish friends or had educated themselves and couldn’t be swayed by the popular and mainstream views. But what is so disturbing to me is the fact that over 5 million Jews were murdered. It wasn’t just a few followers. It was many. You can’t have these kind of detrimental and genocidal effects with a handful of people. If Hitler’s views had been discredited early on and no one acted on them out of ignorance- nothing would have happened. He would have disappeared into nothingness. No one would remember his name, or at least, no one would care.
Let me state here that what follows is not meant to insult anyone’s intelligence. Intelligent and well-educated people do and say ignorant things just as often as the un-intelligent and uneducated people. I can willingly admit to having had my share of ignorance and I hope I have learned and continue to learn from my mistakes. The point of this blog is meant to change the heart and help us all realize our mistakes and help us rectify them.
So why is this subject current? I witness the same ignorance daily. And sometimes, to the extreme of Hitler’s regime. Ignorance has fueled racism. Ignorance rules politics. Ignorance breeds hatred between varying religions.
One of the biggest instigator of all things ignorant is the news media. Let me explain how news works. People of varying biases segregate themselves into specific news providers and networks. Then they proceed to present recent history as irrefutable truth. Here is a fact: the moment history is put down from one viewpoint it becomes a work of fiction. I can hear each political side chiming in here. “The Democrats slant news to their biased and wrong opinions and I only trust Republican news”. “Oh, no! It’s the Republicans who broadcast falsified facts and the Democrats get it right!” But here is another fact: both sides are the authors and both sides slant it their way. It is part of human nature to see things from what our experience has taught us. This is why it is so important to cross-check “facts”.
So many times I see on Facebook a news article posted that declares So and So as a tyrant because they said this absolutely horrible thing during an interview or a public speech. And the responses go something like this…”How could they say that?” “How completely un-American.” Etc. Etc. Blah. Blah. Blah. Oftentimes, I witness name calling and derelict language. Apparently on the internet, you’re guilty until proven innocent. Ignorance. But what happens when you actually read the accused tyrant’s words in context and not through the already biased eyes of some reporter? All of a sudden, their words take on whole new meanings. And usually those meanings were not what was reported. Usually they are harmless and referring to something completely unrelated to what they were being accused of saying.
Now the first crime of ignorance was indeed brought forth by the news reporter. They ignorantly thought that their negative opinions of a fellow human were worth sharing as truth (In the world of political talk-show hosts, they’re actually paid to present antagonistic and inflammatory opinions). Then these biases are readily eaten up by the ignorant because people willingly believe everything at face value. Then it is posted for all your friends to add their own uniformed and fallacy ridden opinions. And within seconds, the victim of news has had their reputation bespattered all over social media.
What is the point of this diatribe? Please. Please! Do your research before posting anything. Cross-check your “facts” (this is my 3rd time mentioning this thought). Stop using only one source of information. Broaden your viewpoint by educating your mind with multiple viewpoints.
What?!! Listen to what the opposing side has to say? From their own lips? Actually listen to why they believe what they believe? Are you serious? That’s like blasphemy and punishable by death, isn’t it? How far-fetched an idea? Insane! Witchcraft! Burn her at the stake!
I admit this idea does seem novel and perhaps too hard for the hard-headed. But maybe if this happens we might actually get more unbiased information, instead of the inflated news that is currently predominant. What would result from not distorting the facts because all the viewers were informed and not easily finagled into believing anything they hear? I’ll tell you. World peace. You laugh and scoff, but what causes war is the inability for humans to put ignorance aside and try to understand each other’s viewpoints. I don’t mean that everyone should have the same viewpoints, or to accept other’s opinions as your own—just because. It is important and a part of what makes us individuals to have our own beliefs and opinions. But it is also more humane and compassionate to listen and accept that not everyone thinks the same as you. And to respect those opinions. Now if those opinions are not in keeping with basic human laws….like cheating, stealing, murder, etc…feel free to be 100% against those opinions and fight them both tooth and nail.
In a world of varying viewpoints, religion seems to be one of the most ignorantly approached subjects in existence. I was raised in a religion that was misrepresented and continues to be misrepresented by those who don’t believe as I do. Those ignorant views in earlier times led to fear and deep-rooted hatred which in turn led to persecution and murders…nothing like the holocaust, but just as wrong. Nowadays I don’t have to worry about my family’s safety, but I can still sometimes feel the effects of long-standing ignorance causing hostility. And because of this personal experience, nothing puts me into a passionate tirade faster than hearing other religions besmirched, including my own.
The largest world religions have the same basic messages. And the biggest one is loving one another. No one religion has the market on love and kindness. Now there are definitely groups of evil people who take their religion and drag it through the mud, while professing their actions to be sanctioned by their beliefs—when in truth, they are acting against the core values they are misrepresenting. These groups of people are extremists, or radicals. Sometimes they refer to themselves (and sometimes misguided others refer to them) as fundamentalist. But these groups have twisted the very values of their religion, such that they are as far from fundamental as you can get. However, they still manage to dupe the ignorant masses into believing everyone with the same religious name is one and the same. What annoys me is how the few are so easily grouped with the majority. I have witnessed in my own Faith people doing things that are not in keeping with our beliefs (a lot of times they are some off-shoot religion, but not always), and immediately the populace is pointing their grimy and accusatory fingers at everyone within my Faith. Stop judging by the minority. And remember, don’t trust the news to give you a crystal clear viewpoint either.
Here comes my next request. Do your research. Look at the numbers. How many people actually follow extremist views as opposed to the number of members who follow the actual religion? Learn about many diverse religions and their beliefs. Get to know people of other Faiths. Each religion has its own beauties and some pretty incredible people. Don’t repeat history. Instead let’s envision and create a world where religion is no longer a reason to fight or kill our neighbors.
There is a trend in social media of putting a prominent figure in society’s picture next to Hitler’s and saying that the two are one and the same. Usually the biggest crime the person committed is being a Republican or Democrat. Bush was compared to Hitler. Obama is compared to Hitler. Ignorance. The true Hitler’s and Hitler’s eager followers of the world today are not politicians. They are regular Joes who spread ignorance and accept slanderous views ignorantly. And if these trending habits don’t cease and desist, the damaging consequences will be unsurpassable. I pray the consequences will not be millions of extinguished innocent lives. One holocaust is enough to taint humanity through the eternities.