Why I Won’t Say Designers of the Holocaust Are Monsters

They are not monsters; they are iterations of a horrid variety of human being, violent sociopaths without an inclination to see others apart from how they exist to satisfy them. (This must ring familiar in our moment.) My concern with “monster” is that it tends to allow us to believe they are not human. That’s a mistake. The evil they embody and act on is a human variant. Not to say that squarely, to mythologize or simply metaphorize their type of human into non-human creatures, real or fantastical, is a mistake because it elevates the baselines of humanity and masks if not denies the very broad range of what humanity is. Our job is to celebrate and to confront what humanity is, full measure. It’s about using language to distance men such as they are from us, to separate who they are and what they do from ourselves, for despite the fact that so few of us behave or would behave in the sordid ways they did, it would be an error for us to become too comfortable with descriptors that too easily permit us to deny their humanness and our own.

Hannah Arendt had it right despite the blow-back that came her way after “Eichmann in Jerusalem” hit the shelves.

These people, prior to Shoah, after, and now…they will always be dreadful variants of, yet wholly part of, our human condition, part of this Crazy Place.

We gain nothing by denying that, by using language that makes avoiding that aching honesty easier. We gain when we  both celebrate and confront who we are, full weight.

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