Q. How many Jews in Germany have been killed or have committed suicide in the last seven or eight years? L.H.
A. Since 1933, 20,000 Jews are reported to have committed suicide and 8,000 to have been murdered by the Nazis.
Question & Answer column of The Hartford Courant — Aug. 6, 1941
The world knew the Nazis were killing a certain segment of its citizens long before the liberation of the concentration camps in World War II.
Everybody knew. But it was nobody's business but Germany's.
The world walked by.
And so the 8,000 became 6 million. And more.
Then, it was isolationism and anti-Semitism by those outside Germany. Now, it is war weariness and anti-Arabism/Muslimism on the part of Americans. Why fight for those who may turn and fight against us? Why send our sons and daughters, husbands and wives to fight for them?
Life has no guarantee that those we help may not turn against us, any more than yesterday's foe may be tomorrow's friend.
Still when a horrific crime is committed in full view, there are two crimes. The first is by the perpetrator; the second by the people who see it and do nothing.
One is a crime of law; the other, a crime of conscience. Crimes of law are punishable with penalties; crimes of conscience, well, the punishment applies only if you have a conscience.
We seem to be in the clear on the latter.
It is unconscionable that we, America and the world, should walk on by and do nothing. It should not matter whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its people or whether rebel forces used chemical weapons to implicate the Syrian government with the hope the world would intervene.
The matter should be that, according to United Nations estimates, 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war by "conventional weapons." The matter should be why the world is somehow OK with that and is only outraged when chemical weapons are used.
The matter should be why our nation is the only one grudgingly willing to take action after Syria apparently all but stomped on the chemical weapons line that President Barack Obama warned Syria not to cross last year.
We are a war-weary nation. But the issue should be more than just the chemical weapons.
So if the Syrians agree to international oversight of their chemical weapons, it's OK for them to continue killing in every other way?
The message we send the world and the world sends back is that it is OK to kill in any way other than chemically. The message is that in war it ain't right for the killed to look as if they are merely asleep. Way too ghastly.
Show us their blood. Show us their mangled limbs. Show us their missing heads, their blown off legs, their chunks and chips of flesh, their rivers of blood.
Show us all that — 1,000, 8,000, 10,000, 100,000 and more — and we the world will let you be.
That is our message. Yet, we today look back with moral superiority at those in the past.
Whether it was the Holocaust, the annihilation of America's Indians, the enslavement of millions of Africans, the bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four little girls 50 years ago this Sunday — we tend to look back with moral superiority at the horrible things done by those before us and wonder how it could have happened and why no one stopped it.
But as the present clearly demonstrates — we are no better.
Shame on us. It should not be about the gas.
More than 70 years ago, The Hartford Courant reported that 5 million gas masks that U.S. Chemical Warfare officers described as the best in the world would be ready for American civilians — including special "Mickey Mouse" masks for children.
If we do nothing in response to the 100,000 killed with conventional weapons, we will need masks to cover our shame, and our asses should the wind shift.
Frank Harris III of Hamden is a professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at fh3franktalk.