Historical Love and Savagery

Happy Valentines Day! My original intention for today’s blog was to compose uplifting flowery prose which might inspire love and connection. However, as I delved into the complicated and muddled past of this whimsical day of adorations, I soon discovered there was nothing whimsical about Valentines Day. Its curious beginnings have been studied by various historians sifting through the dusty realms of the past, but unfortunately, rather than locating a precise origin, the beginnings are vague and incomplete. According to some, our designated day of love began with animal sacrifice and ended with a lottery in which young virgins were raffled off. Other chroniclers surmised February 14 was named for St. Valentine, a Roman priest, executed for secretly marrying young lovers against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II, and thereafter was named the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers.

If you find the history of Valentines Day tragic, I would agree, but that said, haven’t we done something amazing? We took a historically horrific day and turned it into a day to express our love for our families and our friends. Each time we gape at our history with distress in our heart it’s an opportunity to revisit and become aware of the tribulations of the past thereby creating a brighter future.

Let’s consider the years of 1933-1945, when Adolf Hitler, the German dictator sought war and hate instead of peace and love. His leadership was directly responsible for the deaths of six million Jews and five million noncombatants. Many of those died in the concentration camps, and thousands of deaths were attributed to medical experimentation by Nazi doctors. During Hitlers war campaign the rape of innocent women and children were common occurrence, and he actively persecuted homosexuals and people with disabilities, and went as far as authorizing a euthanasia program for disabled adults.

Today, we look back and wonder how this devastation could have happened, the survivors tell us it occurred quite gradually, it began with a propaganda campaign, a stealthy layering of words resulting in a slow twist of the mind. The government sponsored media used radio, newspapers, posters and flyers, to dehumanize their fellow Jewish citizens and dissidents. Eventually they considered those people enemies that needed to be dealt with, debate was not allowed, disagreeing voices squashed and demonized.

“The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little ones but would be ashamed to tell a big one.”

Adolf Hitler

Around that same time period from 1922-1953, Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, became responsible for over six million peoples deaths and perhaps as many as nine million if you take into account death by starvation and concentration camps for dissidents. A historian, Norman Naimark, penned the book, Stalin’s Genocides, to illustrate the dictator’s horrific deeds.

“In the process of collectivization, for example, 30,000 kulaks were killed directly, mostly shot on the spot. About 2 million were forcibly deported to the Far North and Siberia. They were called ‘enemies of the people, as well as swine, dogs, cockroaches, scum, vermin, filth, half-animals, apes. Activists promoted murderous slogans: “We will exile the kulak by the thousand when necessary— shoot the kulak breed.” The kulak class were farmers. ‘The destruction of the kulak class triggered the Ukrainian famine, during which 3 million to 5 million peasants died of starvation.”

Norman Naimark

It’s ugly. It’s terrible to read, and it’s difficult to consider those times, yet if we turn away from the bloody history of our world we dishonour the pain and suffering of the dead. A forgotten history is a repeated history. Out of all the mass murdering leaders of the 1900’s, the Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, reigned supreme at killing his own people. His rule led to the deaths of 45 million people. Forty-Five Million. Rodgers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team can hold 20,734 people for a concert. You would need approximately two thousand-one hundred and seventy Rodgers Places to hold all the bodies that Mao Zedong was responsible for killing.

“Mao thought that he could catapult his country past its competitors by herding villagers across the country into giant people’s communes. In pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivised. People had their work, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them. In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, it became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate. As incentives to work were removed, coercion and violence were used instead to compel famished farmers to perform labour on poorly planned irrigation projects while fields were neglected.

A catastrophe of gargantuan proportions ensued. Extrapolating from published population statistics, historians have speculated that tens of millions of people died of starvation. But the true dimensions of what happened are only now coming to light thanks to the meticulous reports the party itself compiled during the famine….

What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction. When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten kilogram stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – punishment for digging up a potato.”

-Frank Dikötter

People are complicated creatures, our egos and fears sometimes lead us into unreasonable actions. In the 18th century around twenty percent of all woman died from the Black Death of childbed. Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, sought to solve the reason. Fairly quickly he established that the mid-wives had a much lower rate of mothers dying after childbirth than the doctors, therefore he concluded the mid-wives must be doing something different than the fully trained doctors. After spending time observing the mid-wives verses the doctors, he eventually came to the conclusion that the doctors did not wash their hands between seeing patients and delivering babies. In short order, Dr. Semmelweis instructed his staff to begin washing their hands and cleaning the instruments between patients, and in response the rate of Black Death in his delivering mothers dropped off dramatically. Incredibly, the other doctors did not immediately follow his solution and actively shunned and mocked Dr. Semmelweis’s suggestion. It took years before hand washing was implemented and in the meantime many more woman died.

History holds so many warnings in the crotch of its bloodiest years. Looking at history we can see, the first sign of a government gone astray can be found in the wording used by their media and its leaders. It utilizes disparaging language, singling out a particular group through blaming and name calling. Cultivating emotion through the use of certain phrasing is a the most powerful tool a leader can use in addressing its citizens. It can either bring people together or drive people apart.

“We all know people who are deciding whether or not they are willing to get vaccinated, and we will do our very best to try to convince them. However, there is still a part of the population that is fiercely against it.

They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist. It is a very small group of people, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they take up some space.

This leads us, as a leader and as a country, to make a choice; Do we tolerate these people?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Do you tolerate me? Do you think I am racist and misogynistic for making a personal choices for the only thing I truly own on this earth—my body? Dividing citizens has never proved a peaceful path into the future. Love and unity is the only way to move forward. Consider this, ordinary civilians are not the instigators of an oppressive and tyrannical society, however, through fear and manipulation the majority of citizens do grant their leaders that power. Our history is being decided now. I am an unvaccinated healthy citizen on the side of freedom— love me or hate me, it makes no difference to me, I still consider you a potential friend and ally in a world that seems to have gone over the edge. Happy love day to you.

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