As always, watching such stories play out, we're left with the (eventually unanswerable) question: how could human beings be reduced to the kind of barbarity required to round up millions of their fellow humans, men, women and children, and herd them into the trains that transported them to almost certain death? How could they make those arbitrary choices, between forced labor on the one hand--and the gas chamber on the other? How could they exterminate hundreds at a time in those gas chambers, and reduce their remains to ash and smoke?
That the Nazis were not alone in their brutality is witnessed by subsequent atrocities. We say "never again"... but then there was Rwanda. There was Cambodia, there was Bosnia. Today, there is Nigeria, where innocent girls are kidnapped and sold into slavery, and innocent people are bombed into oblivion. The history of human inhumanity seems never to have an end.
The question that haunts me is this one: do we all have this monster in us, waiting to be released? Does each of us have the potential to become a Nazi death camp guard? An Idi Amin? A 9/11 bomber? All the rosy talk about "Buddha nature" sounds like the stuff of fairy tale when held up against the sorry tale of human history. Do we have, buried in our psyche, as great a potential for evil as for good? And what triggers the one as opposed to the other? And is there a way, finally, to rid ourselves of that monstrous gene that engages in murder and destruction? Can compassion win out over greed, ignorance and delusion? I fear that I will not be around on this planet for long enough to find out. And from the perspective of our current history, it appears that there's a real possibility that none of us will...