Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bad Ideas Never Die

A while back I mentioned a news article about some neo-Nazis who'd emigrated to Israel. While their choice of a new country continues to flabbergast me, apparently their originating in the former Soviet Union shouldn't surprise anyone:

"Nearly half of the world's skinheads -- about 50,000 of them
-- live in Russia, according to a January report by the Moscow Bureau for Human
Rights. In St. Petersburg, where a brutal, 872-day blockade by Nazi troops
killed 1.7 million people during World War II, there may be as many as 5,000
skinheads, the report said; an estimated 10,000 skinheads live in Moscow, up
from a dozen a decade ago.
In 2004, neo-Nazis killed 44 people across Russia
-- more than double the previous year, Amnesty International


I saw some American fans of Hitler once on TV--you know, the kind who teach their toddlers to give the "Heil" sign to photos of their glorious Fuehrer and so on--and, as they seemed to be pleased with their status as Americans, I kept asking, "Don't they know we fought Hitler?" It's possible they didn't; they were very insistent that Jesus wasn't a Jew, so I'm not sure their historical knowledge was up to much. But you would think a sense of the Nazis having been enemies would be everywhere in Russia, which was hit much harder by WWII than the US--and hit at home, not just abroad.

But I guess knowing your grandparents and great-grandparents fought Nazis is not enough to dampen the appeal fascism has for many people. And with their society ravaged by decades of communism, the appeal may be even higher. The Soviet Union collapsed, people in the former Soviet-controlled countries are uppity, and the economy is bad; anything that boosts a person's national pride and makes him feel a sense of belonging must look pretty good. If that person has been deprived of religious civilizing influences and if the prevailing zeitgeist has made life cheap, he may be even more likely to fall prey to this despicable ideology, even more likely to find himself thinking it's okay to join up with some other people to beat up Jews, dark-skinned people, or non-Germans/Russians/whatever.

Catholics should pray for a resurgence of Christianity in Russia. Much as I believe or hope fundamental human decency can prevail over neo-Naziism, it would be better to have religion backing that decency up.

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