SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
--Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"
Fire and Ice.
Two ways for humanity to come to a tragic end. Generally "Fire" has been interpreted as a massive Armageddon-style war of passion between hotheaded, nationalist countries and "Ice" is the opposite.
While there are many possible explanations of Robert Frost's poem - inevitably they reach the same conclusion - he is referring to two possible ways that life (or civilization) can be extinguished. Growing up in the 1980's our greatest fear was always that the Earth would be incinerated in a massive fiery nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, this fear has subsided somewhat to the point that we reinterpret history today to convince ourselves that it was all just a big misunderstanding between great superpowers with different styles of government...
But there is another way to tragedy, one that doesn't require massive nuclear devastation.
It is ice. The opposite of fire. The opposite of passion.
I am talking of course about the ultimate sin of indifference. The sad sad spectacle of good men and women tolerating the evil actions of others and failing to rise up against them before it is too late.
Recently we observed the two November memorials of Kristallnacht and Veteran's Day. Kristallnacht commemorates the first state-sponsored act of violence of the Holocaust, a national pogrom against the Jews of Germany and Austria. Veteran's Day commemorates the end of World War I...and inevitable march to World War II and the Holocaust. Interestingly, the icy reception of the Versailles treaty by the United States and the failure of the Allies in enforcing it are in large part responsible for the fires of WWII. Had the West not been indifferent towards Hitler's rearming of Germany, a true nightmare may have been averted.
Passion and Indifference. Fire and Ice. And in the end, total destruction.
Over the past few decades as Americans we have been taught in schools and on television that tolerance is the cornerstone of a free and liberal society. In movies and on TV, the young protagonist or team of protagonists (often made up of one representative of every race) are often antagonized by an intolerant, usually older Caucasian individual, that sees the world as black and white as opposed to the glorious rainbow we have been taught it actually is. In the end we learn that all we need to do is get to know each others' cultures and we will see that humans are humans and we have much more in common than we have differences. If we are simply more TOLERANT of each other, we can all finally get along.
A beautiful message to say the least - and that's fine and well and good for TV and movies and ideals, but reality is a little different.
Because there is another side to tolerance. A darker side.
The issue with tolerance is that it often causes us to be indifferent to genuinely evil acts. Can there be any doubt that there were many good Germans in the 1930's that saw the Nuremberg Laws and simply TOLERATED them because going about their lives was more important than some Jews they didn't really care much about anyway? Could the Holocaust not have been averted if the entire Western world didn't sit idly by and TOLERATE Hitler's rise to power?
When hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were being brutally murdered, raped and pillaged in Rwanda - could this have happened without the de facto TOLERANCE of the Western democracies?
When the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia sacrificed 1.5 million of their own people to an insane ideology - could this have happened without the TOLERANCE of the Americans, Europeans and every other civilized nation that had the ability to stop it? In the end, it took an invasion by Vietnam...COMMUNIST Vietnam mind you...to put an end to the Killing Fields.
When Somalia collapsed into chaos and anarchy. When the Ayatollah Khomeini seized control of Iran. When the Congo plunged into civil war. When pogroms and purges raged all over Russia. When the Congo plunged into a second civil war. When the Taliban imposed sharia on Afghanistan. EVERY SINGLE DAY that the Darfur genocide continues.
All of which is made possible by our indifference. By our tolerance of evil.
"It's just their way" - "It's just their culture" - "Who are we to tell them how to live their lives"
How many times have we heard these phrases? How many times have we been told that it is not our place to get involved. That it is not our place to JUDGE other cultures no matter how brutal or repressive or anti-woman or anti-Jewish or anti-democracy or anti-gay they may be? And ironically, how often do we hear these phrases from women or Jews or gays or Democrats?
But it is specifically the fact that we allow these evil people to spew their ignorance and take steps towards achieving the backwards, anti-liberal, anti-tolerant societies that allows them to succeed! By TOLERATING these actions and giving these EXTREMELY INTOLERANT people carte blanche to operate we are fostering the greatest intolerance there can be.
It is the indifference of the decent majority that allows the passion of the indecent minority to catch fire and create the very destruction the majority claims to oppose.
Indifference creates passion. Tolerance breeds intolerance. Ice causes fire. All seemingly opposite - yet...indisputably connected and intertwined. And, perhaps ironically, they are consumed by that which they created.
Hitler would have been much easier to stop in 1933 than he was in 1939. Pol Pot would never have been able to massacre his own people if the world (or even just a few democratic nations) had united against him. The Rwandan genocide could have been extinguished had it not been tolerated by the outside world. Al Qaeda would never have been able to fly planes into the World Trade Center and kill thousands of innocent Americans had we not TOLERATED the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan and destroying thousands of years of culture in a hail of artillery fire. All in the name of insanity.
And furthermore if the citizenry of these countries themselves had risen up against these insane ideologies in their infancy - they could have been easily squashed. Instead they were tolerated and were allowed to grow until the decent people were overwhelmed by the lunatics. Once that happens the burden then falls to the free people of the world to unite and liberate them.
But tell a supposed liberal that you advocate taking action against this evil and you are immediately labeled intolerant, backwards, ignorant, war-monger, perhaps even racist.
Likewise if you speak out against an ideology that spews intolerance towards women, Jews, gays, democracy, Christians and literally every liberal ideal/achievement of the past half-century...you too will be labeled as intolerant. Somehow...we are somehow supposed to understand why Islamist ideology shows rampant discrimination and intolerance against several groups (which we often belong to) and dare not criticize it.
We are expected to protect their right to practice this rigid ideology...to tolerate their right to be intolerant, as they use our own rules against us to fill the internet, our streets and our college campuses with decidedly UNLIBERAL views, poisoning the minds of impressionable youths and leading to a scenario where they can eventually impose their beliefs on us whether we want them or not. Like the Nazis or the Khmer Rouge, the indifference of the decent majority is what allows the indecent minority to succeed.
Explain to me please, someone - how it can be that we TOLERATE movements like this one to operate on our soil:
NOTE: This article originally referenced a video clip from this group defending the actions of Major Nidal Malik Hasan as legitimate acts of war. That video has been apparently taken down in the past 24 hours.
Did you get all of that? Right now, there is a group operating in New York City that is literally denouncing the United States and its liberal ideals and verbally abusing and harassing Christians and moderate Muslim teenagers on the street. In another video the speaker implores a group of Muslims to "reject" the American military, wishes success insh'Allah on the Taliban and preaches an end to democracy.
And what's more they post videos of themselves on the internet and gloat about doing it! This is borderline treason and we are expected to TOLERATE it or be considered ignorant, uncultured or racist.
But if these people win - would they protect our rights to denounce them?
Would they allow us to voice our opinions and criticize their actions?
Or would they use your naive tolerance to smack you in the face (as the speaker encouraged the young boy to do to the Christian missionary in the video) the first chance they had the ability to overpower you? If only the people at the parade banded together to evict these extremists from their midst and get them off the street. But they didn't.
They tolerated them and allowed themselves to be abused. And so are the rest of us, every day...tolerating this abuse. It is this tolerance...this indifference of the decent many, towards the actions of an indecent few, that will allow them to rise up and destroy us.
If we don't take action now
We settle for nothing later
Settle for nothing now
And we'll settle for nothing later
--Rage Against the Machine, "Settle for Nothing"
We need to say no to these people. We need to draw the line of tolerance in the sand. Anyone is allowed to believe whatever they want - so long as they do not infringe on MY right to believe what I want. Or YOUR right to believe what you want. As soon as they cross that line...they give up their right to be tolerated.
Action always defeats inaction. Passion always defeats apathy. Fire always defeats ice...
If we don't get our act together soon we don't stand a chance.
Indifference towards Nidal Malik Hasan was the real culprit in the Ft. Hood shootings. Part II details how.