How will people look back on this?

It pains me to do this, but it makes me wonder how people fifty or a hundred years from now will look back on the figures of today.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Executed for conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler who, as we all know, set up special facilities to butcher Jews. Was Dietrich defending life?

Eric Rudolph: Pleaded guilty to orchestrating an attack on, among other things, a facility where the government has allowed “doctors” to butcher babies. Was Eric defending life?

10 Responses to “How will people look back on this?”

  1. Gao Aisa Says:

    People won’t look back on it.

    History will soon end.

  2. Elle Says:

    Good. I did my taxes anyway. You know, just in case.

  3. John H Says:

    People today get very superior about our forebears who condoned slavery and other forms of injustice and oppression. Indeed, in schools this can frequently tip over into a form of indoctrination: “Your parents and those who came before them are evil! It falls to you to cast aside their wickedness and embrace what we are proclaiming as the new path of tolerance and acceptance of all people!”

    But if you want to know what “condoning slavery” looked like in practice, just look at the range and complexities of people’s responses to issues such as euthanasia and abortion - where our attitudes today will, I am convinced, come to be looked back on in unmitigated horror and disgust by our descendants, and even those of us who are “against abortion” will be regarded with incomprehension, that we could have continued with ordinary life knowing what was going on.

    But I say that, not as an argument for firebombing abortion clinics, but as a reason for urging us to extend the same humility and charity to our own ancestors as we hope will be shown to us in two centuries’ time.

  4. Jason Evans Says:

    History will look much Dietrich Bonhoeffer than it will on Eric Rudolf. Why? Well, this is pretty sick, but I think it’s because society sees aborted babies as being nothing more than unwanted tissue. To try to kill Hitler to save the Jews who are “wanted” humans is courageous. To kill doctors and others to save “unwanted tissue” is radical terrorism.

    I personally have issues with both events in history. That’s just how I think history will remember both men.

  5. Simon Says:

    In what way do you have issues with both events, Jason?

  6. Simon Says:

    John H,

    I think that was an excellent comment. I must say that while I leave open the possibility that one day our descendants will look back in horror over the legalization of abortion, I have a lot of trouble seeing that people’s attitudes with regard to euthanasia and the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment will change in the direction you hope. My reason is this: technology will get better and better, more capable of extending people’s lives longer and longer — perhaps with some increase in quality of life. But as long as technology allows the sustaining of life in any form to persist longer, regardless of quality, I doubt that a majority of people will rid themselves of the idea that dying with dignity — in not wanting to be remembered in a helpless state, in not wanting to be an emotional burden on one’s children, etc — is desirable. Of course, that’s just a reasoned guess.

  7. Sam Says:

    Most people don’t know who Bonhoeffer is today. I think he’s a real hero and it is despite the fact he wanted to assassinate Hitler. As tempting as it is to want to save lives by taking others, I just don’t think those are God’s instructions. Rudolph bombed more than just abortion clinics. I think it’s safe to say he is a dangerous person even to us “innocents.” Also, I think that what people believe 50-100 years from now depends on the actions of the church today and how effective we are in spreading the Good News.

  8. Josh S Says:

    “To try to kill Hitler to save the Jews who are ‘wanted’ humans is courageous.”

    Unless we’re on a historical trajectory in which we arrive at the conclusion that society may exterminate any “unwanteds” among it. Jews were hardly “wanted” in Germany or Poland.

  9. Res Ipsa Says:

    I hope it is the Oskar Schindlers and Corrie Ten Booms of our day that they will love, more so than the Bonhoeffers.

  10. Acton Institute PowerBlog Says:

    Economics of Martyrdom
    Although purporting to be a post about the “economics of religion,” EconLog’s Bryan Caplan discusses what is really the “economics of martyrdom,” or, to be even more accurate, the “economics of a particular type of ‘martyrdom,’ suicide terroris…

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