Monday, September 6, 2010

How Long, O Lord, How Long?

Back to my grumpy face for a moment, because I'm still slogging through the mud of James Lord's My Queer War, and I'm feeling a certain amount of cognitive dissonance here. Compare this:
Japan had hardly been endeared to me by Teddy’s fate [killed by a Japanese sniper in the Pacific], and in fact even before Pearl Harbor I’d felt neither sympathy nor curiosity toward a remote and occult country, which the feudal dictatorships had reluctantly revealed to Western eyes less than a century before. Adding to my distaste was the Japanese liking for sadism and cruelty confirmed by shameless atrocities [296-7].
with this:
Nevertheless, the first of these vanquished survivors [Nazi POWs!] were soon to be seen trudging sadly and sullenly along Germany’s roadsides. It was difficult not to feel a certain compassion for them, a quickening of sympathy. They had fought bravely and much, much too well, defiant to the end even when the end threatened to be theirs [297].
To be fair, Lord immediately and reflexively adds: "Then the Satanic question inevitably popped up: Did they know?" But despite the "shameless atrocities" which confirmed German "sadism and cruelty," despite the "feudal dictatorship" to which they'd submitted (and the US had done business with quite happily), Lord can feel a certain compassion for them, even to playing "Das Lied der Deutschen" on the piano for a local audience in a German gasthaus. (But he wasn't responsible -- he'd "played into their hands" [302]!)And we won't even bring up the American atrocities -- the torture of prisoners, the murder of displaced persons -- that Lord himself witnessed during his tour of Europe.

I don't hold any brief for the Japanese, whose cruelty in Asia was indeed monstrous. But it's interesting -- telling, even, though I'm not sure what it tells -- that Lord could summon up some fellow-feeling for Nazis though not for the Japanese, who if no better were no worse.

Almost 50 pages still to go.