My attempts to remain impartial and detached on matters of history often fall apart when discussing Stalin. I find it very difficult to see Stalin as anything but evil.
Some of our prior discussions had informed me of this, but I also know that you are clued in on the irresponsible forms that revisionism can take on. You have witnessed it yourself in your travels in and familiarity with Germany and her people, in how any topic associated with the period of 1933–45 has become so taboo and policed that there are now actual criminal statutes in place governing how one may and may not discuss them.
Also my becoming at least in an introductory sense acquainted with the work of Hannah Arendt, and her theses regarding the “banality of evil” arising out of her being eyewitness to the Eichmann trial in Israel, has helped me further in identifying the intellectual and moral vacuums left by too-simplistic a summation of evil as its own known quantity. She had the effrontery, which came to cost her dearly among her own fellow Jews of the intelligentsia, of seeking to examine and decode Eichmann as a man and as a careerist, in seeking to uncover what had led him to do the evil he did, and others like him.
As I’m sure you as a scholar know, evil as a banality, is a revolutionary idea in itself. It is not explained away by merely calling it evil, any more than by the evildoer falling back on the disclaimer of “I was just following orders.”
It was with these things in mind, that I brought out the matter of Hillary Clinton’s first criminal case in Arkansas in 1975 and made as much a public spectacle of it as I could manage during 2016. The monstrosity of the “page 34” document in itself was banally evil enough, and was a chilling event in my life upon first reading it. But what was even more horrifying, was how quickly and consistently her defenders would arise, every last one of them a woman and a feminist, and play the “she was just a lawyer doing her job” card to explain away a raw and undisguised tactic of blaming a female victim for her own rape. It was the responses I got, more than the case file itself, which brought into astonishing clarity for me how the banality of evil manifests itself in the rationalizing process, even more than four decades after the case was tried.
We also are experiencing this same kind of historic bleaching here in the United States, in the matter of the former Confederacy: its flags, its war heroes, its symbolism and even whatever can be accused of being representative of the secessionist movement. Rather than study and research calmly and in detail what complex of historic factors ever led to slavery, secession and civil war, and learn from it, instead we are seeing the exact same drive to simply erase the entire record of the antebellum south and of the Confederacy as a political experiment, and file it away in a near-empty drawer marked “systemic racism.”
With your deep and broad knowledge of the African/Arab origins of the slave trade, and with my own lifelong coexistence among the civilization of the American south as one of its descendants, it is clear to me that there is far more to be learned from the entire question of legal slavery, than to simply be satisfied that it was “evil.”
Another bizarre banality I used to encounter on Twitter now and then, was feminist women who would run Scarlett O’Hara up the flagpole as the epitome of a “Strong Woman.” Scarlett the slave-owner, Scarlett the Klan wife, Scarlett the beater of servants, Scarlett the unapologetic exploiter of “darkies” and chain-gang convicts to maximize her profits in the lumber business, was, I was told, “a strong woman” because in a splashy Hollywood epic she says as God is her witness she’ll never go hungry again.
It goes on and on: the excusing of a mass inflow of motivated jihadists in the name of multi-cultural tolerance across Europe, the elevating of IRA terrorists into halo-endowed “freedom fighters”, the ignoring of centuries of genocide among and between native American tribes while blaming everything that happened even before 1492 in the western hemisphere on white supremacy, the blatant erasure of Japanese crimes against humanity across half the planet while calling two experimental weapons’ being used “racism”…
So call it my trying to help you keep your focus, and not fall into the same trap, of forgetting even for a moment, just what a banal and mundane and everyday thing evil is. So much so, that if one studies it accurately and diligently, it’s mostly almost too boring to stick with. So much easier just to wave signs around and shout slogans and expect somebody else to set it all to rights, then ignore the evils those somebody else’s go on and do, because no one has the training or the attention span to see evil for what it really is.