The friend had gone ashore in the second wave on D-Day and had fought with his platoon all the way into Germany. He knew how much I enjoyed history, and having no son of his own he gave me his collection of Nazi memorabilia. Arm bands, insignia, a helmet and a Mauser rifle, but of all the stories that he told the one that captured my attention the most was about liberating a concentration camp. He told the story to my father and I merely listened in, hearing that, at first, he and the other men were stunned by what they saw all around them.
These were not just idle threats, as he explained to us, of having to threaten GI's with arrest if they did not refrain from advocating this blood vengeance. The men wanted to go into the neighboring town and execute anyone in authority that they found there, policemen, politicians, you name it. Kill them all and let God sort them out. Cooler heads prevailed and the massacre was averted. The lesson for us is clear, there is a point at which our sense of outrage so overrules the more logical portions of our minds that we will trade justice for vengeance.
The prisoners of the camp, emaciated shells of humanity living in filth and vermin, had been starved, tortured and stripped of their dignity. The soldiers stood, confused, unable to discern who was truly better off. The prisoners, or the dead? Most had nothing, stripped of their property, their families, even their livelihoods. They had survived, but liberation alone did not make them whole. They faced years of struggle to rebuild just a portion of their former lives. Their loss and struggle made me wonder about our own current holocaust.
Ours is a quiet holocaust, without panzers or Stuka dive-bombers, but it doesn't change the effect one iota. Tell the unemployed in the auto industry how fortunate they are not to have had to deal with the panzers. Tell the Ninth Ward in New Orleans that it could have been worse, it could have been Stukas. But destruction is destruction, whether it be by water, bomb or economic policy, the effects are just the same. The prisoners held in the camp lived out of a duty and a necessity to tell the world what had been done to them. They dreamed of redemption and salvation, the sound of artillery made their hearts sing for someone was fighting for them. They were not forgotten and they would be redeemed.
Strange, isn't it? The politicians all agree and the public is told it can't be helped. Our television sets are full of penny cinemas and docudramas about the police rooting out street crime. Ken Ley of Enron fame died suddenly before any judgment could be decided against him. The body was then quickly cremated, case closed! Oh, I believe, Tinkerbell! Justice was done! The elderly bilked, the pensioners robbed, but justice was done, oh, I believe, Tink! Recently, hedge fund founder Samuel Israel dodged a twenty-year prison sentence for defrauding investors out of 400 million dollars by faking his own suicide.
Oh, I believe, Tink, they'll hunt him down and justice will be done, I'm sure, but I wouldn't bet any money on it! Our cell phone bill kept showing up every month with charges of $2.99 for ring tone downloads. The phone company blamed it on my wife's teenage son yet there were no ring tones on his phone. When she called to complain she found out that the ring tone company was a sister company of the cell phone provider. Imagine charging one million people $2.99 each month, how many would fight? How many would even notice? A theft, no different than holding up the local Seven Eleven, but try to get anyone interested.
I was in an auto accident last December; I was rear ended by a women who was talking on her cell phone. My car was totaled, she was ticketed and her insurance company explained that the accident was under their investigation. They disputed everyone's claims. They would not pay for a rental car despite the law that said they were liable. They have all the time in the world; my car had a bluebook value of $6,000 and they offered me $4,000. If I didn't like that I could take them to court, and in around two years I would get a settlement. I complained to the insurance commissioner's office and they answered that they could not get in the middle of an open case. I would have to sue and then wait two years and then after the court case was settled, then perhaps the insurance commissioner would look into it.
The government agency that was supposed to protect the public was defending the agency they were supposed to police. Accomplices in a fraud, the insurance company explained that despite the new tires and new engine and new convertible top they were only required to pay replacement value. Interesting, if I burned Van Gogh's "Sunflowers"- would I only be liable to replace it with a quality print. Theft and fraud ingrained into the system, where is our justice? When will we hear the artillery in the distance?
So excuse me if I lose faith in the system. If corporations and insurance companies are allowed to pillage the public at will I'll shed no tears when the criminals use a forklift to rip the ATM off its foundations and put it in the dump truck. Are they criminals? Or are they just playing the game? The predatory lenders have no concern for the ramifications of their actions, so why should we? Let's not be discriminatory in our evaluation of crime; let's not look down our noses at the street gangs that develop multi-million-dollar operations. If they sold hamburgers instead of drugs their pictures would be on the cover of Fortune Magazine.
Without justice we have only vengeance, and the corporations have built the world they've always wanted. They use their size and money to exploit the American public. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the judgment against Exxon for the Exxon Valdez oil spill was excessive. Sure it was, of course it was and you only had to wait 20 years to find that out. In the meantime Exxon earned enough off the interest on their money in the bank to pay the judgment. Now they want Americans to expand coastal drilling, suckers!
All across America bank robberies are becoming the crime du jour. Here in Georgia thieves climbed the fence at a used car dealership and cut 67 catalytic converters off the cars. The converters' worth of a hundred dollars each makes the crime serious indeed, but they are sad pikers when compared to the real criminals loose in the world. Those that steal millions and laugh all the way to bank, Monday through Friday, then play golf and b*tch about their high taxes on Saturday. Then pray for the sinners and the lost on Sunday while they pray for the world they've always wanted.