If you are reading this, chances are, you identify yourself as pro-life. You probably oppose abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research. You call abortion murder, you call euthanasia despicable, and you call embryonic stem-cell research barbaric. But what do you call the genocide of millions of people all over the world? A slow news night?
It seems that the only genocides conservative Americans want to talk about is the Holocaust (usually painting some maligned liberal as a Nazi or Fascist) or infanticide (abortion). We forget that genocide is still happening all over the world. After all, if it isn’t happening in our backyard, or if it isn’t part of a World War II history class, we don’t really think about it. Out of sight, out of mind.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. I was studying at Oxford University, but took a weekend trip to Krakow, Poland for the sole purpose of visiting the two Nazi death camps. Admittedly, Holocaust history fascinates me because it provides a perfect case study that illustrates Edmund Burke’s words: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” Over 6 million Jews, Russians, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, and others died during the Holocaust because good men (and women) sat back and turned a blind eye. Worse, some good men and women joined Hitler and his minions as illustrated in Christopher Browning’s haunting book, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.
As I took the bus through the rolling hills of the Polish countryside to the tiny town of Oświęcim (the Germans called it Auschwitz), I was struck by the beauty around me. Even when I arrived at the gates of the camp, the beautiful red brick buildings masked the evil. However, when I saw the iron gate with the mocking words, “Arbeit Mach Frei (Work makes one free),” the evil became apparent. I saw the barracks. I saw the empty cans of Zyklon B. I saw the piles of shoes. I saw the empty suitcases belonging to prisoners long dead. I saw the shorn hair of thousands of people. I saw the execution wall. I saw the guard towers. I saw the electric fence. I saw the gallows. I saw the gas chamber. I saw the crematorium. I saw evil.
Holocaust survivors beg generations to “Never forget,” but we have forgotten. We haven’t forgotten what happened to over 6 million people, but we have forgotten our role in ending the senseless slaughter of human beings. We have forgotten that American soldiers who liberated Nazi death camps swore this type of genocide would never happen again. We have couched our indifference to genocide in philosophies like Ayn Rand’s objectivism or Barry Goldwater’s (or Ron Paul’s) non-interventionism. We have couched our indifference to the death of millions in materialism, willing ignorance, and American elitism.
Meanwhile, as we fight over partisan politics and other frivolous things, people die because of genocide. According to Genocide Watch, there are currently 8 countries experiencing genocide (Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, and Burma). Do we, conservative Americans, really value human life? If so, what are we doing to end the genocides?
Perhaps you think it isn’t America’s job to end genocide. Would you tell a Holocaust survivor that it wasn’t our job to end the Holocaust? Would you tell a widow from Kosovo that it wasn’t our job to end that genocide? Would you tell an abortion survivor that is isn’t our job to end that genocide?
I’ll agree that America cannot be the world’s policeman. I’ll agree that we can never eradicate evil. I’ll agree that genocide will always be part of a fallen world. However, the acknowledgement of all those things does not absolve America from fighting to uphold the inalienable right to life for all human beings. The right to life is not an American right. It is not a Western right. It is a God-given right to all humanity. Who are we to pick and choose who is worthy of that right?
I don’t have all the answers for preventing or ending genocide. But why do we persist in watching millions die when we have the means to end the genocide or at least provide some relief? Better yet, why do we persist in allying with countries that engage in genocide? We are sending the message that America only values American or unborn life. We care more about preventing abortion in Africa than we do about ending the genocide in Darfur. When is the last time a conservative Senator or Representative stood on the floor and condemned the atrocities in Darfur? But let a liberal suggest funding abortions in Africa, and conservatives will rally against him or her. Why do we value one type of life (unborn) over another type of life?
Fellow conservatives and Americans, we must place the right to life at the foundation of our political philosophy. We cannot have rights to liberty if we do not have the right to life. We must realize that these rights are not American rights. They are human rights. Every human being is entitled to life and liberty. We must earnestly seek to protect all human life whether it is found in a tiny village in Sudan or in the womb of an unwed mother in New York City. The best way to never forget the evils of the Holocaust is to fervently prevent future genocides and end current genocides. Much has been given to America; therefore, much is required. We may not be the world’s policeman, but we can be the world’s beacon of life.