Thursday, August 11, 2005

A J Muste and Dick Durbin

I'm not sure many of today's "Peace Activists" remember peace activists of long ago. A J Muste was one of them. It struck me how much he sounds like our Dick Durbin. Muste's is a shameful story and I think that will be how History treats Durbin too.
Some saw German aggression as a kind of divine judgment. "Our sins have found us, that's all," explained John Haynes Holmes, pastor of New York City's Community Church. "If Hitler triumphs, it will be as the punishment of our transgressions." A.J. Muste, a Congregationalist minister turned peace activist, compared pro-democracy hawks to "the men who tortured and killed the victims of the Inquisition." [Baar's emphsis] Albert Palmer, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, said Americans should be "solving the problems of social and economic justice" at home rather than condemning Germany "through a haze of Allied propaganda."

And some more on why the left (from the left) no longer remembers Muste,
A.J. Muste, unlike Gandhi and Martin Luther King, is virtually unknown to the general public. Like most people who are not inclined to take popular positions, who don’t fit neatly into the chapters of middle school history books, Muste’s extraordinary life has naturally been back-shelved by the writers and librarians of modern history. After all, what do you do with a radical Christian/Marxist pacifist who stood up at a Quaker Meeting in 1940 and said, "If I can’t love Hitler, I can’t love at all"?


Horatio said...

I fail to see where Dick Durbin has anything in common with Muste.

Bill Baar said...

Durbin said, "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Muste said, in 1942, in War is the Enemy that the US Forces planning war on Germany and Japan were comparable to the inquistion (p12).

Muste wrote "War is the Enemy", not Hitler or Tojo or totalitarianism. Muste thought FDR and our own US forces the problem on par with the greatest evil Muste knew of at that point: the Spanish Inquistion.

Durbin, similarly, thinks Bush the greatest threat, and similarly cast mud on US Forces comparing them to Stalin and Pol Pot.

The common thread here is Muste thought the US (and FDR) the greatest threat of the moment in 1942; and Durbin thinks Bush (and the US) the greatest threat of the moment. Durbin thinks were waging an Imperialist war for oil, premised on lies, to enrich Halliburton and other corporations. Muste though FDR waging an Imperialist war for profit. That's the common threat.

Few on the left talk of Muste anymore because he's embarressing in light of history. I think Durbin will follow him into obscurity.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Radical Christian. Well, Christ was pretty radical. I seem to remember something about "love your enemy" from Sunday School. Was he supposed to express hatred in church?

I doubt that his comment was about love for Hitler's policies. More likely it was a spiritual expression of the capacity of the human heart to understand that all humans are human, no matter how deluded or destructive.

Did you ever see the movie about Eichman's trial? A witness, a former concentration camp prisoner, broke down on the stand. He later explained that for all the years since the war he had envisioned Eichman as a monster. But when saw Eichman sitting in the courtroom, he realized that he was merely a man. And if another man was capable of such evil, he himself was capable of such evil. The realization temporarily overwhelmed him.

Bill Baar said...

Re: "And if another man was capable of such evil, he himself was capable of such evil. The realization temporarily overwhelmed him."

I just watched the BTK killer on TV. I'm not capable of that. I don't think most are.