In 1939, the British and French empires were initially unwilling to honour even the letter of their solemn pledge to come to the aid of Poland if it was attacked.
And they remained in no mood to truly honour the spirit of that pledge and provide serious help to the Poles.
But - pushed by some bold MPs in the British Parliament - they at least (and at last) declared war on Hitler and thus began the formation of the coalition of people that finally stopped him.
And these two empires did so without themselves being attacked by Hitler's forces.
Let us always honour them for at least that.
For all the other nations in the ultimately victorious Allied "Coalition of the Unwilling" only took up arms against Hitler when his forces attacked their own nation.
And then they defended their homeland against him with a fiery determination.
Militarily impressive but morally indefensible.
Because until then, the sight of Hitler (and Mussolini and Tojo) attacking neighbour after neighbour the previous ten years had left the bulk of these people strangely unmoved.
They loved their own collectivity (group-love) oh fully well , but not their neighbours (no agape self-less love for them).
Often their narrow group-love went beyond the indifference of bystanders to an active dislike of neighbours as a collectivity and as individuals.
So the battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil would have had very few participants, if Hitler and his Axis trio had only restrained themselves.
Just a few aggressors, a few victims and a few defenders ----- along with a whole bunch of "bystanders" , as such conduct is referred to in books on the (Jewish) Holocaust.
Maybe it is past due time that we extend the use of this term "bystander" to cover the conduct of most people on most aspects of WWII - in particular their global inaction during the long ,slow buildup to the formal declaration of war.
We bystanders stood back and did nothing while Manchuria, Ethiopia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ,Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece and Yugoslavia got gobbled up by bigger bully neighbours.
It took two Axis mistakes to finally get the American people into the ultimate fight of good versus evil .
One was the stupid Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbour along with the British and Dutch eastern empires , and the other was the even stupider personal decision of Hitler to declare war on America.
So there never was any internal moral impulse that moved the bulk of Americans to 'do the right thing'.
But individual Americans did try to do the right thing : I intend to focus on the largely unknown agape efforts of Dr (Martin) Henry Dawson.
Conventionally, Agape, the English word, means openness in general, including openness to new experiences and ideas ; Agape, the Greek word, means openness to others' needs .
My sense of Dawson's efforts was that his agape-ness showed a very broad 'openness to others' , open both to their individual needs and to their individual experiences and ideas.
His WWI efforts to help those wounded in combat extended to his 1930s and 1940s concern for the forgotten institutionalized chronically ill.
He was clearly open to others in need ; this is why he started to grow his own penicillin to try and save the dying SBE patients.
They had been abandoned to die by an American wartime medical establishment seeking to emulate how the wartime Nazis would treat their own SBE patients.
But Dawson was open to the pioneering idea of using natural penicillin made by the lowly penicillium mold .
All the other doctors expected penicillin could only be made by man-made efforts.
I think he did so because his studies on commensal oral bacteria had opened his eyes to the versatility of the humblest types of lifeforms.
Because when we approach others in a spirit of Dawson-like agape-ness, we not only seek to help them when they are in trouble, we also cherish them when they are not - because they have interesting ideas and experiences that we do not have and we are never smug that our group has all the answers.
Agape-ness gives us clarity as well as charity....
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