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The Proper Gene for Our Times

By       Message Mark Sashine     Permalink
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From http://www.flickr.com/photos/9361468@N05/994941366/: shiny star leaf fringed weirdly in tarry moongate
shiny star leaf fringed weirdly in tarry moongate by quapan


"Let us also go, that we may die with Him"

St. Thomas, the Apostle , John 11:6

The Topic

June 22 is approaching, and it is time again for my traditional World War II-related June article in OpEdNews . My previous June articles were about the past, but I've come to see that people appreciate history more when they can associate themselves with it. It therefore occurred to me that, to put history to good use this time, I should write an article that is connected to the past but also associated with a modern person of interest. A perfect candidate for such an association is Edward Snowden, who disclosed to the public the Prism program of total electronic surveillance perpetrated by the National Security Agency (NSA). I will consider this, then, the summer of Edward Snowden, the man with "an overactive Mother Teresa gene." [See http://www.khon2.com/2013/06/09/whistleblower-who-leaked-sensitive-us-information-lived-in-hawaii/.]

The U.S. mainstream media tend to redirect public opinion from consideration of any reported wrongdoing back to the messenger himself. A smear campaign is unleashed with the goal of denigrating him as much as possible. One of the primary arguments against Edward Snowden was that the NSA activity he disclosed was in fact legal, and that therefore Snowden himself could not be considered a whistleblower. That opinion was expressed by many people, and even if we were to subtract those who expressed it for money and/or for malice, a substantial number holding the opinion would still remain. Lots of people, especially in the U.S., felt uneasy with the way Snowden handled things.

I would remind such people, however, that many totally wrong and repulsive activities in human history, from burning witches, to holding slaves, to perpetrating the Holocaust, were perfectly legal at the time they occurred, but by no means  right or justifiable. Moreover, when these activities were disclosed to the public, it opened the way to ending them and even to an eventual atonement. Human progress works that way. I would also like to quote some lines from a fictional sermon in the book The Comedians, by Graham Green: "The Church is in the world, it is part of the suffering of the world, and though Christ condemned the disciple who struck off the ear of the high priest's servant, our hearts go out in sympathy to all who are moved to violence by the suffering of others. The Church condemns violence, but it condemns indifference more harshly." In the days of fear, doubt, and confusion, the simplicity and loyalty of one apostle advocated a political solution. He was wrong, but I would rather be wrong with Saint Thomas than right with the cold and craven. Let us go up to Jerusalem and die with Him."

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Edward Snowden was not alone. Many great people shared his "overactive Mother Theresa gene."

The People

In 1898, the French author Emile Zola published an open letter to the then French President. It was titled J'accuse (I accuse). [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%27accuse .] In his letter Zola accused the French government and French military justice of malicious anti-Semitism in the famous Dreyfus case. He pointed to the drastic inconsistencies and abuse of due process in the Dreyfus trial, which clearly indicated that the French military was perpetrating a vast cover-up. Since the military was sacrosanct in French society at the time, Zola's letter created an uproar. But the letter worked. Dreyfus was at first convicted, but his conviction was then partially overturned. Eventually, the defendant was acquitted on all counts and his rank and honors fully restored. When Zola died, Alfred Dreyfus was given the honor of placing the author's ashes into the French Pantheon.

In 1912, Valdimir Korolenko, the Russian writer and humanist, raised hell about the trial of the Jewish custodian Beylis, who was accused of kidnapping a Christian child and using the child in a ritual blood sacrifice. Korolenko had earlier organized a successful public protest against a similar trial, in which people of the Siberian Udmurt tribe were accused of ritual human sacrifice. Despite the explosive anti-Semitic fervor of the time, and great personal danger to himself, Korolenko mounted an impressive campaign in behalf of Beylis, which involved many influential people. Since the trial was perfectly legitimate according to Russian laws of the time, the only way Korolenko and others could prevail in their defense of Beylis was to recruit the best available lawyers. Many of these, it turned out, were willing to take part in the case pro-bono. In the end Beylis was acquitted and a hunt was undertaken for the true perpetrators of the crime.

In 1936
, Stephan Lux, a Jewish photographer from Hungary, shot himself on the floor of the League of Nations while clinging to a briefcase full of incriminating papers relating to Nazi persecution of the Jews and other minorities. His body was carried away and nothing happened. If anyone had read those papers, perhaps 50 million people would have lived who instead died prematurely.

In 1937, Soviet diplomat and Revolutionary hero Feodor Raskolnikov disobeyed a direct order to return to Moscow, and instead published an Open Letter to Stalin in which he listed prominent people that had been murdered by the dictator. Three more diplomats and many Russian scientists stayed abroad after that, and Raskolnikov was responsible for saving their lives. His own death a year later was officially declared a suicid e.

In 1937, Dolores Ibarruri, also called   Passionaria, gave a speech in the League of Nations in which she asked for help for the anti-Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. She didn't have to give the speech; she was sick and frail, and knew her words would in any case be in vain. Nevertheless, she went to the League and spoke. If only the diplomats had listened to her instead of cringing with fear! If they had, we wouldn't have to teach our children about Auschwitz. That human obscenity would never have existed.

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In 1938, a young woman in Moscow, the wife of an already arrested man, ran to the railway station and begged the passengers there to take her toddler to the Far North, to his grandfather. It was well known that harboring the children of those named "enemies of the people" invited the threat of terrible repressions. Still, the child was taken on the train and traveled successfully for weeks until he reached his grandfather. In his new home, he grew up to become a colonel under another name. In the meantime, the entire family in Moscow perished.

In 1940, an awkward--looking deputy minister, Charles De Gaulle of France, refused to follow orders issued by the Vichy government and proclaimed a "Free France." A warrant for his arrest for treason was issued by the Vichy proconsuls, and the German military command decreed that any Frenchman who fought Germans from that point on would be considered "an enemy combatant"(!). The decree also stipulated that if such an enemy combatant were captured, he would not be a subject to the Geneva Convention. De Gaulle could hardly be called a romantic, or even a compassionate man. But he was a man of honor. He did what he had to do, and he saved France.

In 1941, two battalions of Russian artillery cadets from the Military School of Podolsk, near Moscow, were asked by then general Zhukov, responsible for the defense of Moscow, to delay an expected German assault for three days. The German tank column was led by general Goepner, whose tanks had before cut France and Poland into slices, like pieces of butter. Those kid defenders with old cannons didn't have a chance. But they stood firm, and for three days it was as if the German Army, proceeding in a strategic line of direction, had just ground to a halt. In time, nearly all the heroic young defenders lay dead, but when the German tanks rolled over them they saw Siberian divisions in front of them. The battle of Moscow had begun. And, make no mistake, that battle saved the world.

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The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.


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