Reading about the genocides of Jews in the Buczacz region from 1620 to 1945,
The worst of all,
Makes me believe the devil is no myth
Harder still to acknowledge
That we humans could think up those brutalities
About two years ago, I decided I was over using God as my figurative protector. I could not reconcile the inconsistencies in what I had been taught about God as father, nurturer, loving and kind, alongside humanity at its worst – what I had witnessed with my own two eyes, and more so, what I had read about the past. Genocides are a real eye opener.
I took a genocide class as an undergrad and read all the assigned books. One described all of the genocides in the 20th century. It was the book I had to read for an hour every night to try to get through the assignments, the book I would throw at the wall down the hallway in disgust.
The truth is, you could fill a dozen or more volumes jammed with historical, genocidal acts; humans are always hacking their demonized other to pieces. Never mind that we are all interconnected. It is most definitely not with much mindfulness that such viciousness occurs.
I’m not going to rehash why or how genocides occur. There’s enough literature on the matter in print, if you have the stomach for it.
This week, I happened upon Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz by Omer Bartov. I flipped through the first 50 pages. I think it is no more horrific than any book I have read on the same subject.
It will leave you in disbelief, that’s for sure.
Where is the historical research on those who inflicted these acts? Have you ever done something bad and had plenty of time to think about it? Had time where you were forced to think through every single step? That’s what the years following a genocide have to be like, going home after work when memories cannot be blocked out except with drinking or upending the brain on drugs just to drown it all out. There is no way a person escapes their own psyche. All of those children, those women, the innocent people. Those eyes are the last thing they see before they go to sleep and the first thing they see when they wake up, be sure of it.
I am of the opinion that wars open the floodgates for opportunistic psychopaths who make such genocidal acts possible by driving (with leadership skills) those with weaker self-governing with enough momentum to commit to something totally opposite their normal character.
These psychopaths are people walking among us every day looking totally normal, but boy, on the inside is there some dark shit going on. They come out of the woodwork when lawlessness sets in. They seize upon scapegoating or whatever means necessary to ride with the prevailing team in order to release all of those crazy pent up urges they’ve been holding in for so long trying to act like the normal people. I would imagine those people do not go to sleep concerned about the screams ringing around inside their heads. They are marching to some drum I cannot hear.
A coworker said to me: people are good in their core. I said, no, they are not. All people contain an element of evil, it just depends on the greater or lesser degree to which they exercise it. He said I needed to find some new people to hang out with.
I also took a Problem of Evil class in college that left a definite impression upon me. It was such a cross section of theories all riding together along the line probing the question: what is evil? Stereotypically, evil is personified as dark or black, and black or brown skinned people are lumped right in there with every connotation of badness as a result. Jews have been terrorized throughout the ages, tagged as the other, their ethnic differences making them stand out, any excuse, really, to attack them has been used over time, but there are a few longstanding xenophobic approaches to Jewish people – it defies logic just how often a person responds to groupthink. The mob mentality is real.
The mob mentality is why church has never worked for me. I just cannot go along with a mentality full of holes. I do not want to be fed my ethics by another person. I do not want to be directed to harm or not harm based on the word of anyone, I don’t care if they think they are channeling God or Whoopi, I’m not going along with it unless it is sound to me.
Then there is altruism, proof people are good inside. Doing something for someone else when it does not benefit the self. That’s a hard one to chew on. I read a lot of Richard Dawkins during that time, and Elaine Pagels, and a lot about scientists as people of faith. That against the historical backdrop of crusades, Islam, Christianity, and my favorite, Buddhism. Particularly the concept pointed out in the Ted Talk I have posted on the Now Hear This tab for your review. That a part of us can communicate with another person in such a way that transcends words. A connection much higher than verbal, or physical.
That is a boom-goes-the-dynamite concept, if you sit there and percolate on it for a while. I have never considered my feelings for others to be slight. That is probably why I have had some epic crushing life moments. It is hard to feel people out to that level and it is easy to get squashed in the process as not too many people are living on any plane other than a surface one.
So, back to God. With all of this swirling around in my head, I read part of the book on Buczacz and had a conversation with whatever-God-is on the way home today.
See, two years ago, I let go of asking God for protection or to help me comprehend the incomprehensible. This meant I could not reach out in the middle of the night when I awoke with fear in the pit of my stomach, or when I was sick, or if I felt unsure of the state of the world, or for any reason I formerly relied upon God to bring me comfort.
I did not want that relationship anymore. It wasn’t realistic. It wasn’t actually happening. It was only happening inside my head.
Today, I had a conversation in my head with maybe just me, but it was once again filled with why, what, and oh no, how could they…
That made me wonder if I have progressed at all in the last 24 months of being alive. Because there I was, once again back to the old standby: please don’t let this happen again and particularly not to me.
It’s been a long two years. I have felt so uncertain, almost anxious at times, and utterly anxious at others. I have been on a long radio silence before today. Like none of that former conversation with God. Things have changed. Things have changed a lot. I got out of the habit of doing all that other stuff that defined my relationship with whatever-God-is and got into the habit of digesting my life with whatever I had on hand mentally to manage the ups and downs. Except sometimes, I got nothin’.
It is no small thing, so don’t blow this off as, “Oh, damn, so you stopped praying.” No, it wasn’t that at all. It was like the train was traveling at 100 mph and came to a stop at the next station, a crash landing, and it did not start up and leave the station ever again. It was dismantled and totally scrapped. The train does not travel on those tracks anymore.
And I have felt stranded, a lot, and still do at times just like this. Times when I am searching for answers and know I cannot flip on the Jesus Injection of Good Christian Feels to make it all better.
I know I am yearning for something deeper than a surface relationship with whatever created the cosmos. I cannot see it, but it’s something more than faith that keeps me rooted to this spiritual concept. It’s like the Force in Star Wars, it’s not human, it’s not something describable, but it makes good description and story. Whatever force is there, I want to tune right in and release all the reliance on anything I know to be open for what I do not. Worth note, I am watching E.T. while writing this :)