The Sins of the Fathers

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Do you remember the commercials that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) used to run on television?  Well, the behavior they deplored has been going on around the world for millennia.
ADL Commercials of old

Cities in Germany that were active in blaming the Jews for causing the Plague (and killing them indiscriminately)  in the 14th century are the same communities that still have an intense, illogical hate towards Jews today.  Why?  Because these beliefs are taught by  parents to their children, who teach it to their children, ad inifitum.  And, other people move to these communities, because they find those prevailing beliefs compatible with their own prejudices.  These are some of the findings of Voightlander and Voth in their paper (click on SSRN to download the whole paper).

These prejudices are exactly those exploited by Hitler in his escapades to destroy all the Jews.  The Nazis scored 1.5 X the votes in cities that blamed the Jews for the Black Death some 600 years earlier.  Jews were 6 X as likely to be targeted by attacks in those same cities,  under the Hitler regime.    Cities that had large inward migration did not follow that pattern; the newcomers obviously changed the behavior.

Guy Milliere explains that there is a new force for this renewed anti-Semitism in Europe; the mass migration of Muslim immigrants.  This has only been the impetus (inward migration feeding on the already innate anti-Semitism within communities) to burning of synagogues in Greece, France, and other locations in Europe.  This is also escalating the prevailing attitude of hatred toward Israel.  A survey was effected in Germany, France, Italy, and Poland asking attitudes towards Jews and Israel- negative images ranged from 72% in Poland (0.6% of the population is now Jewish, down from 15% before Hitler) to a low (?) of 32% in France. In another article, Soeren Kern reports that about 1/2 of Spain is anti-Semitic, yet has only 0.08% Jews among them.  (The Inquisition is still alive and well in Spain, as I found during my two trips there.)

Before one feels smug that this is not true for their communities, consider this.  Why is it that the Aryan terrorist groups thrive in Idaho and the Southern states in the US?  Or that Virginia persisted in “massive resistance” and prejudice towards blacks as late as the 1970s, as I found the Commonwealth,  where I have now resided for nigh 35 years?

As Spencer Tracy stated in “Inherit the Wind”:  Fanaticism and Ignorance are forever busy.

And a more modern quote, from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young:  Teach your children well… and feed them on your dreams.

Please make sure they are dreams and not nightmares!

Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

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21 thoughts on “The Sins of the Fathers”

  1. Well said Roy. This is very close to my heart, as I see close friends and family leered at, heckled as terrorists (i.e. my partner who is Anglo-Indian and has lived in Australia since he was 4), and treated as 3rd class beings for just having a slightly different colour skin, cultural belief or different style of dress. I so wish that everyone would learn to embrace the beauty of the people in the world, instead of focussing on the differences all of the time. This is ONE world, and it’s the only one we have.

  2. Roy,

    It is a sad commentary on human existence that these prejudices continue even today. It’s as wise King Solomon said thousands of years ago, “Man has dominated man to his injury.”

    1. The problem is that there seems to be a propensity for certain people to blame specific people for their own self-generated problems. It happened and happens in Europe, it happened in the South, it happens in Idaho…
      I personally believe we should be working in Iraq’s schools insuring that the teaching of hatred amongSunni, Shia, and Kurds is outlawed, for example…

  3. Interesting thoughts from this blog. Hate seems even more powerful than love and religion which is about love seems to bring out more hate. Sad.

    1. Roberta- the saddest part is that even if the religion is theoretically based in love, certain folks subvert it (and justify said subversion) to justify their hateful (and, often, murderous) acts…
      Thanks for your comments!

  4. I haven’t been a victim of hate myself, I have friend and also some cousins who have been discriminated because they think that my religion is teaching violence. Also, skin color has been a judging factor.
    When my dad visited the US, he did have to answer a lot of questions about his beard. Also, my aunt was questioned about her being a Pakistani and marrying an Indian man. While I was studying in India, though I traveled every 6 months to meet my parents, I was questioned very strictly at the Indian airport of my visits to the UAE. The fact that my parents are working in the UAE for the past 20 years didn’t seem to make a difference to them. I am not blaming countries in any way. Just that I feel strongly about this.

    We need to teach our children and also learn and imbibe that we are different only on the basis of how we are inside, our hearts, our intentions, our ambitions, our dreams…that’s all. The color, origin, caste, religion, race is man made for understanding people as where they come from, not for discriminating them.

    A topic very close to my heart.

    1. I am not surprised that it would be, Hajra. This has been a problem for millennia for Jews; a problem for centuries for blacks, and now a problem for decades for others.
      This assignation of blame for an entire people for the actions of one or two is insane. (And, why does NO ONE blame White Christians for the acts of McVeigh and his act of terror in Oklahoma City???).
      Thanks for your thoughtful addition to this discussion!!!

  5. Hi Roy, I’m not sure why this comment didn’t take but I’m reposting it. I think this was an awesome blog post, and I applaud you for taking the time to research this important topic. I especially, like your quote about fanaticism and ignorance. Great stuff – I’ve gone ahead and re-tweeted this as well!

    1. Thanks for the first (which never made it here) and for trying again to reach the blog.
      Glad you made the effort.
      Education- spreading the word- is about the best medicine we have in our arsenal against this scourge.

  6. What a sad, stupid, self-limiting state of mind prejudice is.
    It should embarrass haters to no end to think of people as no more than their race, religion, or birthplace and that, oftentimes, they have to disregard their own lineage to adapt to this distorted view.
    Fortunately, it’s no longer socially acceptable (even here in the Deep South). Unfortunately, so long as they can remain in relative anonymity, far too many will continue to wallow in ignorance and influence future generations.
    The rest of us just have to counter that as best we can in forums such as this. Proudly and under our real full names.
    Outstanding post as always. Shared around the Internet.

    1. Thanks for your comments – and their underlying sentiments.
      Yes, we need to stop this. And, that means education- not the kind that is parroted under no child left behind, but by teaching children to think, to process, and to recognize valid points.

  7. What makes life interesting, is the unique. Embracing the beauty of the different cultures, languages, art, dance, music brings color and choice to our world. I do not understand hate…never have. Yes to education, yes to tolerance, yes to celebrating the differences. This is the conversation we need to keep alive…thanks, Roy!

  8. This makes me think of my hometown, Vancouver. People have the misconception that multicultural societies are automatically more accepting, but the truth is that racism is still rampant. People mostly stick to their groups and zones of the city, and people are often making racist comments about one another, even in the newspaper!

    Informative post, Roy! Thanks!

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