Racism & Bigotry: Is World War II Over Yet?

In 1974, Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda emerged from the jungle in Lubang Island in the Philippines. Someone finally persuaded him that the war was over. He’d held out for nearly 30 years thinking it was still going on.

I know how he feels. World War II was a war against racism and bigotry. Is that war over now because Hitler and his thug friends were defeated? Or is Hate, like water, a morphing thing that assumes the shape of whatever vessel chooses to spew it?

WWII newspaper with Peace! headline
A Royal Australian Air Force officer holding up a newspaper proclaiming WWII had come to an end in August of 1945.

Anti-Semitism lived on, shape-shifting all the way. From the “Zionist conspiracy to take over the world” to the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics to the al-Qaeda killers of 9/11 who attacked “the alliance of Jews and crusaders” to the current hysteria ascribing super-villain status to a handful of Jews living here and in Europe, blaming them for nearly every crisis and calamity—from wars to protests to refugees to climate change—it’s all the same hate, just with a different coif and spin.

I remember the tension in our Jewish community in Washington, D.C. when we learned that an extreme group (we’ll simply call it that and not name the name, though the group is still very much alive and well and growing) bought the large house next door to our synagogue. The tension only grew when the new inhabitants cut down the tall shrubs separating the two buildings and installed rifles pointing at the synagogue “for security.” Security from what? “Dangerous” Jews worshipping peacefully? The leader of that group made no secret of his disdain for Jews and proudly compared himself to Adolf Hitler. An old man now, his opinions have not mellowed or changed, but have spread.

I remember some years later attending my sister’s wedding at the northernmost kibbutz in Israel. While merrymaking and joy ensued in the community center, I could hear the footsteps of the armed guards above me patrolling the roof, and the barking of their guard dogs on the ground below. Outside the building I could hear gunfire off to the north near Israel’s border.

Is World War II over, or are we simply fighting it on a different front now?

Haters count on “reasonable” well-intentioned people to say, “OK, I can see that” or “sure, that makes sense,” to enable them, bit by bit, to gnaw away at our nation’s soul.

In our daily lives, in our social media, conspiracies and paranoid thinking about groups and races and foreigners have gained legitimacy and support. Is it any surprise, then, that according to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents had their sharpest one-year increase in history in 2017—over 60 percent?

Is World War II over?

There is no single source of anti-Semitism in the United States. It is an equal opportunity cancer. We see it from those who claim that Israel is the product of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy against our way of life; and it comes as well from those who consider Jews to be a separate race bent on diluting our American purity by allowing “invaders” (immigrants and refugees) to pollute our shores. Neo-Nazi groups are no longer rare on college campuses. Weeds thrive in an untended field.

Haters count on “reasonable” well-intentioned people to say, “OK, I can see that” or “sure, that makes sense,” to enable them, bit by bit, to gnaw away at our nation’s soul in exchange for an agenda. The Pittsburgh synagogue gunman’s main beef, it seems, was that Jews were funding foreign “invaders” through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Though his actions were deplorable, his xenophobic views are widely shared. By agreeing with such, good people are unsuspectingly allying themselves with anti-Semitism and by extension, legitimizing hatred as an operating basis in life.

Is World War II over?

People who would not think twice of cheering for John Wayne as he leads the GIs to victory on Iwo Jima are now firmly and unwittingly forwarding those very same dastardly aims of racism and hate that half a million U.S. soldiers perished in trying to obliterate from existence 75 years ago.

Jews number less than 14 million in the whole world—that’s 1/535th of the world’s population, not even 2/10ths of 1 percent. Could they really be THAT dangerous?

Is World War II over?

Long ago, in Hebrew school, I studied a heated argument amongst a group of rabbis as recounted in the Talmud over a thousand years ago. The question: what is more powerful—good or evil? After pages of debate and discourse, the question was settled. Evil is indeed more powerful than good, in every way except one: good in its very essence contains love, and love dissolves evil. Love is what tips the scales when all seems lost.

Don’t forget love. It can end the war at last.

John Evans
John Evans has written for theater and the big screen. His essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in several publications on the East and West Coasts.