This morning I was working in the kitchen, not paying much attention to the CNN news, when a quick bit caught my ear. I turned to look at the person being interviewed, an attractive blonde woman who had taken a shot at a protester. She explained her behavior, saying, "I was afraid." Then she added that even though she knew Biden was a good man, she was going to vote for Trump because he could make her feel safe. This set off an alarm bell in my memory.
In 1977 several other college professors and I were in Bonn, the capital of West Germany, studying postwar German civilization on a Fulbright summer program. During our stay we enjoyed learning how Western Germany, with the help of America and other allies, had risen from the rubble of Nazi Germany to become a flourishing democracy. The German Fulbright commission had lodged us in a comfortable hotel that catered to visiting scholars and
politicians. We were having a splendid time and thought we were learning a lot.
Frau Edith presided over the breakfast room of our hotel. In fact, she did more than that.
Her advice on beauty salons, department store sales, and cheap, good restaurants in town was indispensable. We all liked Frau Edith until one day it got harder.
At breakfast that day, a colleague asked her, "What was it like for you in Hitler’s time?" She replied, "When Hitler was there, we had law and order. A person could go out at night without worrying about being robbed or worse. Hitler made me feel safe until war came."
Frau Edith knew nothing about the darkest sides of the Hitler dictatorship, brought about as the result of Hitler’s virulent racism combined with his attitude toward law and order: do all you can by legal means, then use force. Once he had in this way eliminated all meaningful resistance to his party, rather, movement, he declared himself dictator, and became the law.
Frau Edith had experienced the shortages, the rationing of food, clothing and other necessities, and the extreme discomfort ordinary citizens (people who didn’t qualify for concentration camps or execution by gunshot, gas or whatever) suffered. Nobody enjoyed the bombing, invasion and occupation by enemies from east and west, the total destruction of major cities, starvation, millions of people dead or missing to this day, the suffering in the ruins from freezing cold, the disgrace in which Germany and the Germans were held by the civilized world, and the 1949 partition into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany, under Allied control) and the German Democratic Republic (under Soviet control until 1989), which separated millions of families. Germany was not reunified until 1990.
But Frau Edith didn’t blame Hitler for any of this. She still thought the Allies had started the war, but she forgave us.
Back to the CNN woman. If her behavior was out of fear, it was understandable: the blonde woman felt personally threatened by a protester (wonder what color he or she was?) who may or may not have intended to harm her. However, she deliberately and unquestioningly resorted to violence. She fired the shot, maybe in self-defense, maybe not (Why was she carrying a gun in the first place? Why was she not arrested?)
No wonder she prefers a Fascist to a Democrat. So did Frau Edith, and look how it ended.
The moral: law needs to be used consistently for the good of all. No one should be either more or less equal under the law.