“And rats may die, and one need have no compunction about rats . . .” Human beings or animals? | Street Jazz

Sunday, May 20, 2018

“And rats may die, and one need have no compunction about rats . . .” Human beings or animals?

Posted By on Sun, May 20, 2018 at 1:30 PM

In recent days, the Great Humanitarians of Facebook have been debating (well, not debating so much as agreeing) that there are people in the world who are not human, but animals. It should come as no surprise that many of these philosophers are the same folks who either posted juvenile memes or else wrote long, dry pieces defending Donald Trump, when he referred to certain nations as shithole countries.

To start with, I suppose, I should begin with the usual (by now required by law, I think) affirmation that MS 13, just like many other such groups, scares the living crap out of me. Some of the things they have been accused of doing are monstrous beyond words, and, well, you get the idea . . .

But here is where I’ll draw a line between myself and the Great Humanitarians of Facebook - many of whose online history shouldn’t be looked at too closely, unless you enjoy post after post after post of anti-Muslim memes, folks beating the word “libtard” into their keyboards, and meme after meme mocking young people worried about gun violence.

I just can’t go to the place where I regard someone as an animal, despite what my president may like. I won’t travel that Dark Road where he is taking so many of my fellow Americans.

Yes, men and women can act like animals - which is sort of insulting to animals, when you put it that way, since animals as a general rule (various cats I have lived with aside) don’t act out of cruelty.

No, the actions of street gangs, rapists, murderers, or any of a whole host of ugliness marks them as distinctly human. MS 13 are human.

Ted Bundy was human.

Al Capone was human.

Jack the Ripper was human.

The above all engaged in particularly human activities, as vile as they were. The prissy, holier-than-thou crowd would deny that, even as they would deny the own possibility that somewhere inside them is a common humanity with those who commit evil.

For the Great Humanitarians of Facebook, the concept of redemption is science fiction, something they no longer, if they ever truly did, ascribe to.

As an aside, I am a believer in the power of redemption. Oh, perhaps not in a religious sense, but certainly in an emotional/spiritual sense. We can be bad, but we can get better. We can be better, and serve as an inspiration to others. If we stand forth and declare that certain human beings are animals, we cannot also say that we believe in redemption.

Since I have been reading the prattle on Facebook, I have been thinking about Saul Levitt’s play, “The Andersonville Trial.” The ex-commander of the prison, Henry Wirz, is talking about the efforts of Union prisoners to escape from the Confederate camp, digging, always, digging, “like rats,” he says.

“Colonel Chipman, the prosecutor, interrupts with, “And rats may die, and one need have no compunction about rats.”

“Yes,” Wirz replies, and then, taken aback by what he has admitted, accuses Chipman of taking him in by a cheap lawyerly trick. Chipman agrees, but adds, “But they were no longer men to you . . .”

We live in a world, as Colonel Chipman says, “Where we cling to our humanity by our fingernails,” and the mad rush to deny basic humanity to those we fear, those we despise, those we hate, well, it’s only a matter of time before some Great Humanitarian levels the same accusation at us.

So, really, I believe that even the most evil among us can redeem themselves, can become better men and women. They can leave their past behind them. Even the Great Humanitarians of Facebook.

And they certainly don’t need the likes of us to tell them whether they are human or not.

******

Joy and Sadness

It is one of the great joys in my life that I can recite from memory entire passages from “The Andersonville Trial.” It is also one of the great disappointments of my life that no one has ever asked me to.

*****

Today’s Soundtrack

Enjoying some Nat King Cole this morning.

****

Quote of the Day

“In my ugly, elitist opinion we are not all entitled to voice our opinions, we are entitled to pass along our informed opinions.” - Harlan Ellison

rsdrake@cox.net

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