Ferguson, Foolishness, and the Folly of Failure in the United States: Lessons for Police Shootings from the Legacy of Nazi Germany
By Rev. Henry L. Allen, Ph.D.
Few highly-intelligent persons could be satisfied by the ineptitudes displayed by misguided police shootings, for no police force is above the society of citizens it serves, from the least to the greatest. Furthermore, there is no sinless or angelic set of police officers—as attested by many studies of police deviance. Unfortunately, the bulk of moral officers allow themselves to be tainted by the reckless conduct of those who misuse the awesome responsibility of activating deadly force. For the unsophisticated public, even those in professions with advanced degrees, there are historic lessons from the legacy of Nazi Germany that must be recalled when abominations involving police misconduct are obvious to the world. Here are a few lessons:
- From my Pastor, I was reminded that unethical behavior was legal. Many persons in the military and law enforcement communities committed gross atrocities to preserve the status quo or to scapegoat their enemies (postulated as minorities or Jews). In his epic book entitled Sociodynamics, physicist Wolfgang Weidlich shows exactly how any democratic society can be corrupted and deceived by its own bigotry, racism, and stupidity.
- Mass media and the populace can be deceived by its own depravity, refusing to acknowledge its collective deficiencies or oppressions. Just like millions adored Hitler in Nazi Germany, the masses in the United States can adore a mythology about freedom that erases the concurrent legacy of slavery. The balance of humility can give way to systematic abuses of power among leaders across social institutions. Sociologist Peter M. Blau describes this nomenclature of deception in his book, Exchange and Power in Social Life.
- Nazi Germany also teaches that leaders (within and across political, economic, religious, criminal justice, media, and educational spheres) can manipulate ideology, evidence, protocols, and procedures for sinister purposes. To maintain their consensus about power or preserving the rudiments of social order, they may favor the guilty over the innocent—forgetting that diabolical evil can masquerade as a paragon of virtue. The New Testament Gospels demonstrate how leaders in various domains can collude together to murder the innocent or ignore social injustice. The experience of the Holocaust should remind us how easily a society can justify its corruption.
- The Nazi legacy exposes how average or ‘good people’ can perform horrendous deeds or do bad things, even if they are military or police officers. Conformity is contagious for those blindly infected by the pathology of injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned the citizens of the United States to beware of moralistic ignorance and conscientious stupidity—an admonition many leaders have ignored by the seductions of indifference.
- Like the Ebola virus, racist propaganda, ideological or symbolic prejudice, and ethnocentric patriotism can trump morality and reinterpret objective evidence. Delusions can be substituted for the plausibility of normality. Note that the Nazi regime thrived in the citadel of the Protestant Reformation. Wise global citizens can recall Gunnar Myrdal’s insightful conclusions about the endemic contradiction between creed and deed in the social fabric of the United States. Religious or secular fervor can breed terrorism for those who oppose the tyranny of majority opinion, a lesson from the recent Civil Rights Movement.
There are many more lessons, but what is the use of elaborating them if the populace cannot grasp the aforementioned items. All societies rise and fall based on their morality. Perhaps, jingoistic leaders and their cadre of supporters who justify shedding innocent blood should recall the biblical wisdom of the Old Testament Book of Daniel, Chapter 5: the God of Israel will deal with the indifference and treachery of corrupt societies at His appointed time! The folly of Ferguson and similar incidents will not escape His purview!