Sunday, July 22, 2018

For There Is More Joy Over One Sinner Who Repents

Someone recently recommended Janina Bauman's A Dream of Belonging: My Years in Postwar Poland (Virago, 1988) in a way that piqued my interest, so I checked it out of the library.  Bauman was a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust; she and her husband, the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, moved to England from Poland in 1971.  A Dream of Belonging is a sequel to a previous memoir, Winter in the Morning: A Young Girl's Life in the Warsaw Ghetto and Beyond; as the subtitle indicates, the newer book recounts her life in Poland after the war ended.

Bauman worked for several years in the Polish film industry.  She tells of one of her coworkers, who, although he was (like Bauman) a member of the Communist Party, was not trusted by his superiors.  Eventually he told her why. During the war he had risen in the Polish army through distinguished action:
After two years or so, he was suddenly demoted, deprived of his rank, and discharged from the army  The reason for such a severe punishment seemed unbelievably trivial.  Before the war Marek had as a child belonged to the Polish Scouts.  After the war this organization was blacklisted by the new regime.  Marek had never thought of mentioning his youthful involvement to his superiors.  So, when they somehow dug it out, he was accused of concealing his political past.  And this was a very serious sin.  This was the skeleton in Marek's cupboard for which he was to be punished till the end of his life, it seemed [112].
This mirrors the purges of premature anti-Fascists and other leftists in the West after the war ended.  But the last sentence I quoted reminded me of some defenses I've seen of George W. Bush by liberals, such as "So I guess we have to hate him for the rest of our lives. No one gets a break at the Intercept right?"  This refers to criticism of Bush by people who aren't impressed by his recitation of anti-Trump boilerplate, which, accompanied by his appearance on Ellen DeGeneres's TV show and a hug from Michelle Obama, signaled Dubya's rehabilitation in the eyes of the Party.  (The Democratic Party, you understand, which puts a whole other color on the phenomenon.)

I shouldn't make too much of this (just try to stop me, though), but it seems to me that at least some Democrats are unconsciously echoing stories like Marek's, the lament that it's just not fair that some poor guy should be punished and hated for ever just for a little mistake in his youth.  In Marek's case, I agree, but I lived through eight years of Bush's presidency, and Bush is no Marek.  Marek's "offense" was buried in his personal past, and more than balanced by his heroism during the war.  Bush's offenses were committed in the public eye, with worldwide publicity.  Marek belonged to an organization that was not proscribed at the time he belonged to it.  Bush committed terrible crimes (aggressive war, torture) that were known to be crimes, which he celebrated publicly.

Nor has Bush ever expressed any contrition for his crimes -- let alone been held accountable for them.  He didn't even suffer the minimal accountability of being voted out of office: he served two terms and retired to Texas to paint pictures in comfort.  Just attacking Trump for doing much the same things he himself did (while never acknowledging the continuity) is not contrition.  I might be too strict, but I wouldn't take him seriously unless he presented himself to the International Criminal Court as a war criminal, ready to stand trial; but needless to say, he hasn't even begun to acknowledge his crimes, let alone accept responsibility for them.  And I think it's significant that so many liberal Democrats are willing to forgive and forget, even though Bush has never bothered to ask for forgiveness -- and really, it's not for them to forgive him anyway.

(Notice, by the way, that in the interview I linked to above, Nancy Pelosi theatrically begged Bush's pardon for confusing him and Trump.  I'm sure a Christian man like Dubya would graciously grant her pardon for the blasphemy.)

It's as if they don't realize just how serious his crimes are.  Starting two wars on false pretenses, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the injuring of many more, and the turning of millions into refugees -- and that's only a partial list -- are not petty traffic offenses to be wiped from his record lightly after he undergoes probation and counseling.  But then most Americans never consider such peccadilloes to be serious crimes, as long as American presidents commit them.