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A moral question

June 3, 2016

A few days ago, I noticed a Facebook posting that caught my interest. It was a video of a young woman being confronted by a young man. The video (purporting to have taken place in Holland) showed an argument culminating with the young man hitting the young woman several times. She fell to the ground, at which point the thug and his companion kicked her repeatedly, including in the head. They then walked away. There were many bystanders — including, of course, the one who had captured the entire confrontation on the video that I had watched.


I was appalled by the fact that this young woman was savagely attacked and I was even more appalled that no one did anything to stop it or to help the victim. I am well aware that confrontation with animals such as these can entail significant danger, so I was prepared to at least understand why no one stepped up. After much thought, I shared the video on Facebook, on a page that is geared to Jewish gun owners, with the following question:


“If you live in a concealed carry state and you were carrying when you witnessed this, would you pull your weapon? What would you do if YOU saw this happening?”


The responses were quite interesting. Most didn’t even mention weapons. There was a lot of bravado about “catching the punks and punching their lights out,” and the like. So, I reiterated that my question specifically posited that the onlooker was carrying and asked whether the commenter would draw his weapon under the circumstances. Most responded that they would draw their weapon. There were numerous comments about the laws governing “concealed carry,” and there was emphasis that the law permits not only defense of self, but also defense of others who are in danger. It was a reasoned discussion and certainly did not include anything in the least bit inflammatory or “trigger happy.” The discussion was far more serious and thoughtful and with far less bravado and big talk when discussing the use of firearms than when discussing the use of fists alone.


However, there was one commenter who truly discomfited me. This fellow said that a person’s concern should be only himself. He said that this young woman, for whatever unknown reason, had put herself into the situation and that she had to bear the consequences. Although I sympathize with the concept that each one of us has as obligation to come to another’s rescue, I do understand the necessity for keeping oneself as safe as possible. However, this individual was far more unfeeling and callous than one who is concerned for his own security but who still recognizes the moral obligation of doing whatever we can to save someone else. This commenter made it clear that his only interest was self-preservation and left no room whatsoever for doing anything to help this young woman.


I have no compunction whatsoever, as a confirmed political conservative, in saying that I firmly believe that each and every one of us has a moral obligation to do all that is possible (within the limits of reasonable personal security) to rescue another from physical harm. My entire existence is framed by reference to the Holocaust. The thought of people standing by while others were abused, beaten and killed makes me so sick to my stomach that I am involuntarily gritting my teeth right now as I am typing. “Never again” is the watchword of my life and that includes any human being in peril, not just a Jew!


Which brings me to the next point of this essay. For a long time, I have been witnessing an increasing number of comparisons to the Nazis. With the passage of time, these comparisons have become ever more ludicrous. Comparing a traffic stop with “Gestapo tactics” is nothing short of obscene. Comparing Donald Trump (regardless of how much I loathe him) to Joseph Goebbels is obscene. However, my objection to the majority of such comparisons does not mean that no such comparison is ever appropriate. To my mind, the Nazis occupy a unique niche as the most evil regime that ever existed. However, they will retain that title only until another unimaginable evil comes marching down the pike. It is utterly appropriate to compare the Nazis with ISIS. It is appropriate to compare the Nazis with the Iranian mullahs. It is appropriate to compare the Nazis with the Khmer Rouge, or the North Korean government, or Boko Haram in Nigeria. There is enough evil for the title to be shared.


However, when we recognize the evil that was done in the Holocaust, or that is currently being done by ISIS or Iran or North Korea, that is not the end. It is not enough to simply wring our hands. The lesson of the Holocaust is that evil must be fought! Too many people look back at the Holocaust and engage in a pity party. Leaders of nations leave wreaths at Holocaust memorials and then vote against Israel in the United Nations because, if truth be told, they prefer dead Jews to live ones.


The Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers and slave camps. It started with small “inconveniences” imposed on Jews. It started with harassment on university campuses (something that is actually happening again, right now). It then proceeded to bullying shopkeepers and people on the street. Then it went on to laws governing what Jews were permitted and not permitted to do. In the end, ordinary citizens came to realize that they could do anything to a Jew with impunity (moreover, they would be praised). It was at that point that the roundups and the killings began.


At this moment in history, the primary targets of evil are Christians and Jews. If we each stand around and claim, as the amoral self-absorbed commenter described above, that our only interest is in preserving our individual selves, then we are all lost. Pastor Niemöller’s famous adage has become a cliché because it is so true:


First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.


Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.


Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.


Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.


I am not one who believes that it is up to me to tell you how to live your life. I do not believe that it is up to the United States to tell the world how they should conduct themselves (so called “nation building”). But I am one who believes that if I see someone being beaten in the street by overwhelming force (such as the young Dutch woman in that video), it is up to me to do what I can to stop the carnage. That means that if I am carrying a weapon, it is my obligation to even the odds by using appropriate force. It is a moral obligation that is as valid for every decent individual as it is for every decent nation. To ignore that moral obligation is to invite evil into your home for tea. Once that happens, there will be Hell to pay.


Stuart Kaufman is a retired lawyer, investment banker and businessman. He relocated from New York to Mount Pleasant in 2012. A friend recently told him that he has been a South Carolinian all of his life ... but he just didn’t know it.


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