Every generation is tested by great evil
8/7/2002 12:00:00 AM - Dennis Prager
It would appear that every generation confronts a major moral test. A great evil presents itself as a good, and the world that is not victimized by that evil is tested: Can it recognize the evil and confront it?
The pattern is eerily and depressingly repetitive.
1. The evil takes hold.
2. The evil has myriad defenders even among otherwise decent people.
3. The evil is vanquished after destroying an uncountable number of lives.
4. After the evil is vanquished, there is virtually unanimous agreement that it was indeed evil.
We can identify four examples that have confronted Americans and other Westerners in the last two centuries.
One was slavery and racism. A great number of Americans and others saw little wrong with slavery. How did even some otherwise decent people defend such an obvious evil? They believed that skin color determined a person's worth and destiny. To almost all Americans today, including the children of those who believed in racism, this belief is as bizarre as it is evil.
A second example was Communism. Many people living in free societies actually believed that Communism was a moral good. No matter how many millions of innocent people Communist regimes murdered, no matter how much Communism deprived people of elementary human rights, many people living outside Communism could not call it evil. Recall the uproar President Ronald Reagan provoked when he labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Yet, within just a few years of Communism's fall, it was hard to find any Westerner -- outside of universities where Communism had always had its greatest support -- who did not routinely call Communism evil.
A third example was Nazism. As difficult as it is to imagine now, even Nazism had many admirers in free countries. These people saw the economic turnaround made by Germany under Hitler and either ignored, belittled or sympathized with its totalitarianism and antisemitism. Because Nazism only held power for 12 years, as opposed to Communism's much longer history, it had little time to engender the widespread support that Communism did. Nazism was finally vanquished, but only after murdering two out of every three Jews in Europe and many millions of other innocents. And since its fall, Nazism has almost universally become synonymous with evil.
The fourth example is taking place at this moment, and it precisely repeats the pattern of the other three. There is a great evil, and many in the West either defend it or excuse its totalitarianism and antisemitism. It is Islamic extremism. Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Palestinian society have created totalitarian regimes that, in each or all cases, have terribly oppressed women; enslaved and slaughtered a million blacks who refuse to be subjugated to Islamic totalitarianism; use religious police to whip men who drink alcohol; torture Christians who live or work there; have developed a unique theology of cruelty in which God is depicted as a provider of scores of young women to all Muslims who blow themselves up while murdering Jews and Americans; and, like Nazism, it has made Jew-hatred its centerpiece. And throughout much of the Muslim Middle East, girls are murdered by fathers and brothers in "honor killings" if they are so much as perceived as having spent time with a male unapproved by the family.
It should not be difficult to call all this evil, but just as with the previous evils, many Western voices not only defend these regimes and doctrines, they reserve their condemnations only for those who oppose the evil. Apologists like best-selling author Karen Armstrong, the professors of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), professors in other fields, the leftist European and American press -- all these deny Islamic evils. Just as their predecessors blamed America for the Cold War with Communism, and dismissed anti-Communists as "war mongers" and "fascists," today's deniers of evil blame America and Israel for Islamic terror and label terror's opponents "bigots," "Islamophobes" and, of course, "war mongers."
Hopefully, this particular evil will be eradicated before it slaughters even more innocents. But the history of evil offers little optimism. Instead we are once again subjected to the spectacle of people living in splendor apologizing for the greatest cruelty of their time. When you see this, you understand why God "regretted that he made man on earth."