Monday, 14 August 2017

Maximilian Kolbe /  Heather Heyer

Bracketing these two together, on the feast day of the former.

Both died because somebody else decided that some people, some lives, are worth more than others.

Did those who first supported Hitler imagine how it would pan out? They wanted to blame someone for their state of affairs. Supported the strong man who would put things right. Ended up with a Catholic priest being put to death by injection because they couldn't starve him fast enough. How, the guard that killed him might have asked, did we get from there to here?

By not recognising the humanity in others. Start with those who having nothing in common with you - once you've dehumanised them long enough, you'll soon enough not recognise it in anyone.

Same way when a bunch of child abusers can rape kids because they're not Muslims, because they're white - passing them around because they think they're worth less than their own kids.

Same way that the EDL and their friends can use those rapists to  smear an entire religion, a whole racial group. To make them somebody other, somebody less important, somebody who must be feared.

And so a racist who went on a racist march for racialist motives with people carrying Nazi flags claims he doesn't want to be called a racist. Well you  wouldn't , would you? That would imply you were the oppressor - being called that might cause a moment of self-realisation when you ask, in the manner of Mitchell and Webb, "Are we the baddies, Hank? You know, us with the swastikas and flaming torches shouting about blood, hanging out with the sort of fantasists who drive cars into innocent people?

If you don't recognise the humanity, the diverse image of God if you think that way, in people not like you - that's when you think driving cars into crowds, driving needles into priests' arms, is a reasonable way to behave. It doesn't start with murdering priests, Jews and gypsies. It starts with that suspicion that somebody is less than you - that that somebody wants your power - and that you'll support somebody who'll do something about that.

I'm not going to claim any moral equivalence between Heather Heyer and Maximilian Kolbe. Because some would object that one is better than the other, because one is a priest. And Kolbe's view of Jews has been a source of controversy in itself. But I can identify the common evil that caused their deaths - a fear of others that leads to making them less than human. As a snowball starts off downhill, and causes an avalanche, so do the smallest put-downs, the tiny fears, that lack of love turn into full-on hatred, death and oppression.

Tomorrow is the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin.  And here life turns the world's injustice on its head. If small fears and hates can turn to a terrifying oppression then here's a story where a small good thing turns to a great one - as one young woman says "yes" to hope and brings joy to a whole world, and the promise of a justice that makes tyrants and oppressors fear. 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.


  1. "As a snowball starts off downhill, and causes an avalanche, so do the smallest put-downs, the tiny fears, that lack of love turn into full-on hatred, death and oppression." Inspirational and challenging. Thank you for this post. I've linked to it on my blog about Kolbe today.

  2. A simple but all-important truth, beautifully expressed.
    Many thanks.


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