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I was speculating how it was that we could do what we have done in the name of the war on terror. I then thought of the Germans of WWII. I thought of what could happen if the same happened here. What happens if we become the evil incarnate we have always said we have always fought against? What happens, if in the simple duty of just doing our jobs, we perpetuate that evil; what happens if a mandate has been codified...

To Give a Little Humanity?


Justice Putnam

The boy was the most reticent I'd seen pass through the transfer camp. Yes, yes, quite unlike all the other children. He was most difficult. You see, we were mandated by the High Command to put these children at ease before they were transferred. So we used many means to elicit some benign emotion. To see a young one cry or to laugh meant we were successful. It would not do for them to be transferred as mere zombies. We are not cruel nor are we uncivilized. We never tried to make those children unconscious about their lives; we wanted them to be awake and aware, as all children must be taught.

All the others had no success with him. He neither cried nor smiled; he didn't play with the other children. He was mostly by himself but always, always, awake or asleep, he never unclenched his right fist.

I was called in after a few days. The next transfer scheduled was only two days after that. I offered him candy and he refused any. Unlike any of the other children that have passed through the camp the last year. My! He was the talk of Camp! I asked him to relax, I said that he would be taken care of and had nothing to worry about. I assured him that he would be with his parents soon and he could just unclench his fist and we'd shake on it.

That reticent little boy ran away! No, normally, normally that would not do. Any other child would have been punished, severely. It will not do for other children to observe such a lack of authority in those circumstances. But this boy was my project and I wanted his laughs or his cries to come without force. I am after all, as I've stated before, neither cruel nor uncivilized.

Like a frightened puppy, this reticent little boy finally began to befriend me. He finally began to speak, to only me mind you, but his little whispers gained some trust in a very short time.

And not a minute too soon. The transfer was only minutes away.

He told me how his father was apprehended by the authorities one morning a year before. The little one cast his eyes down to the ground as he told me his story, his right fist tight and unclenching. He told me of how hungry and sick his mother was; how he would scavenge for some kind of food and bring her some little thing he found.

All the while that reticent little boy told me his story, but his fist never unclenched. I could hear the fires being stoked. The drums of VX were put in place. The children were being lined up for the transfer and I am sure the little boy had an epiphany.

Because he gazed up at me finally and held his right hand out for me to look. Some sad crumbs of an old muffin were moldy on his palm. He had been saving them for his mother, for when he would see her again. He told me she was so hungry and sick.

Then, with tears welling up in his eyes, he said he didn't think he needed those crumbs anymore. He cried as he was transferred.

You cannot know the sense of accomplishment I had! That little boy faced his transfer with the right amount of humanity mandated by the High Command.

As I've said, we are neither cruel nor uncivilized.

from: A Concentration Camp of the Mind
© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

Originally posted to The Justice Department on Netroots on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 06:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  this needs to be contextualized (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JessicaDrewSW, justiceputnam
    I really don't have a clue as to where you are going with this-if the diarist is the actual narrator or speculating ona a narration.

    It's so disturbing that it has to be clarified or deleted.

    I fled to Switzerland during the troll wars.

    by Miss Devore on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 06:34:43 PM PDT

    •  Done... (0+ / 0-)

      ... though I thought the original "introduction" was "specific" enough. I thought of the defenses used by the accused in the Nueremberg Trials. I thought of what our own defenses would be if we were tried for war crimes. I tried to "channel" a guard from a concentration camp in WWII. I saw that we are not that much different.

      Are we, or could we become those "good germans"?

      A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude --Pablo Neruda

      by justiceputnam on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 06:53:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  dunno (0+ / 0-)
        your "speculation" is that there was an effort to "humanize" before putting someone up for slaughter.

        myself, I think, it is the process of "dehumanizing" that makes the slaughter go off effortlessly.

        and if you are talking about parallels as to what we have done to Iraqis....we certainly did not humanize them first--unless you are referring to simple-minded statements that "all people want to be free" etc.

        your intentions may be on the mark, but they may be inadequately expressed here.

        Plus--inventing a story of a child in this situation--I have a bit of prejudice in that I think children should never be used for adult purposes.

        I fled to Switzerland during the troll wars.

        by Miss Devore on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 07:04:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A bit of history is in order... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Skennet Boch

          in that Children were shipped off in a very similiar manner from France. Part of the "work" of litereature is to get in the "heads"of the characters involved.

          I am not advocating any of these crimes. I am trying to show, through the act of "literature", how these things happen.

          And they do happen!

          A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude --Pablo Neruda

          by justiceputnam on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 07:09:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I would say that my 'speculation' is on the mark. (0+ / 0-)

          ... I would maintain that what makes a society truly evil is the ability to humanize those that you slaughter.

          It is not the insane ones that can push the button that are evil; it is the sane and responsible that are the threats. The sane and responsible that would push the button on an order. The sane and responisble that will just do their jobs and strive for a performance recommendation.

          The "testimony" I "envisioned" is very similiar to those that "justified" their actions in France; those Vichy who did their jobs and sent children to their deaths.

          I envisioned a sane and responsble German at the death camp, a man just doing his job; a job that the High Command mandated. But his justification for slaughter is the "good job" he has accomplished  that was mandated.

          It's not only fiction.

          You may not like it, you may feel that what I have wrote is brutal and has no place in the "polite society" here.

          But what I wrote is historical.

          And History repeats.

          A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude --Pablo Neruda

          by justiceputnam on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 08:34:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  the diary is fine as is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      literary works are often disturbing, that's the point

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