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Caution: free thought and expression of unpopular ideas

Just a bit of warning: I was thinking today about certain issues. And when I'm thinking, you know I'm dangerous.

Anyway, we were talking about Eastern Europe in my Vampire class today. Apparently, some people couldn't think of 3 ways E. Europe was affected by World War 2. The TA was especially disappointed about the omission of on particular detail that only showed up on about 10 tests out of 200: the Holocaust.

I started off thinking about why it wasn't included. I know it was mentioned in the readings, but it got only two sentences, really. Then I wondered if it was mentioned in class, and I started thinking about why I didn't put it down:

I was writing answers based on the information provided in the class. If the Holocaust was only mentioned in passing in the class, should we have been expected to use that answer on the test, especially when there are other issues that were directly referenced in the class? I know I thought about it, but I didn't think that the answer was suitable due to the amount of importance placed on it in lecture and in the readings.

Of course, all those thoughts are safe. It was the next one that had me worried.

I started thinking about Holocaust deniers. You know: the people who say that there were no death camps, that there was no murder of 6,000,000 Jews, and that really the Jews *were* the problem but that our politically correct society can't admit it. Yeah, those jerks.

Anyway, I couldn't help but think that, to someone who really wanted to look at the events following World War 2 from every angle, he/she would *have* to look at WWII from the idea that the Holocaust never happened. After all, there's enough scholarly (or, shall we say, pseudo-scholarly) work out there on the "lies and myths of the Holocaust" to warrant investigation.

Whether the idea is right or wrong, it deserves a chance to prove its case.

In other words, an historian should look at the Holocaust through the glass of the Holocaust denier in just as unbiased a manner as he/she should look through the glass of a Roman general talking about the Marian reforms to the Legions. It should be afforded the same amount of respect.

This was terribly hard for me to think about. After all, some things are just wrong, right? If we take this tack, then we need to also consider the multitude of books out there by Christian Fundamentalists that discuss New Age religions as cults, and we need to take them seriously.

Now, how could this be useful? It sounds very much like the first step down a long dark road of intolerance and whining.

But it's more than that. The use of non-conventional sources and ideas serves to embolden and enliven our ideas, and to see our own biases and flaws. To look into such things is like looking into a funhouse mirror: what you see is a true reflection of events, but one that has been twisted for another's amusement. While it's frightening to start with, eventually we come to understand how the twists come about, and where the wacko ideas we see come from.

Every idea has a place. Even twisted, misguided and ignorant ones like those of the Holocaust deniers and racists in general. The trick is to use them to expose themselves, or (more importantly) to learn something from them, no matter how disgusting they appear.

Of course, I don't study WWII or modern racism, so my points may be moot. I'm certainly not going to be reading anti-Holocaust literature, because I think it's cracked seven ways from Sunday. But I can't help but think that it's useful in some way.

I'm really disgusted at myself for that last sentence.

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