During my childhood I was an altar boy in the small village of Erika. I absolved the entire Catholic Church program: baptism, confession, communion, confirmation, abuse. From 1987 to 1995 the clergyman sexually harassed boys from the village 227 times, touched and caressed them indecently. For years the village priest could commit his criminal acts because the whole village remained silent.
„Rethink your accusations well, if you want to continue living peacefully in town“, the parish council chairman advised parents unequivocally. Some parents were „no longer interested in prosecution“ after such advice, the police later said. The faithful citizens of Erika had a creepy respect for their church, which for them represented love, peace and the true, good life.
Locals insisted for a long time the accusations were „exaggerated“. Anyone who resisted the collective vow of silence was considered a traitor. When I was nineteen, the local newspaper wrote about a play of mine that dealt about this issue: „Testing the limits of good taste: The four of them, Gerd Buurmann, Christoph Lammers, Mella Ebel and Hanno Schulz (…) are quite courageous by performing their theatrical piece so openly in their home town. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that the symbolism of the plot was often exaggerated and thus, despite artistic freedom, no longer within the realm of acceptable taste.“
With my theatrical piece I criticized an institution that stood for the good. The village priest preached charity, humanity and peace. He collected for the sick and poor. How dare I accuse this „good man“ with „exaggerated symbolism“.
I am not the silent type, not then, not now, not tomorrow. It’s not shameful to talk openly. It’s rather a shame to condemn people because they talk.
In recent years I have accompanied a few people in the process of dying. I have seen close relatives who cared for the dying say to me in private: „I wish he were dead“ or „Why isn’t she dying already?“ Afterwards they were always ashamed of their words. However, there’s no reason at all for their shame, because they were there for the dying person until the last breath and beyond. Their actions showed what good people they really were. Their words were merely an outlet to better endure the situation.
It doesn’t matter what people say. They can say even the most outrageous things. What they actually do is much more decisive.
The village pastor spoke the most heavenly words, but his deeds were hellish. I know people who said the worst things, maybe even meant the worst things, but when it came down to it, many did the right thing. I know people whose vocabulary is openly racist and sexist, but when a person needs help, they don’t care about skin color or gender. They simply help.
The boy who first dared to make the priest’s actions public was an outsider in the village. He was considered a good for nothing. His words were uncouth and his behavior crude. But he did the only right thing for which the village shunned him. He spoke out.
He’s dead now, having taken his own life.
On social networks, commentary columns become execution sites. In the past, if you were branded a witch or in league with the devil. Today if you contradict self-named promoters of peaceful coexistence, you are in league with evil powers and risk likewise being condemned as inherently evil.
In the past, those who didn’t speak in the way the Christian Church had determined out of love and humanity, were considered followers of the Devil. Today a person is condemned for merely not following the language codes of current political trends. And what is the greatest possible evil today? It has something to do with Hitler, fascism and white supremacy. Even Candace Owens was called a white supremacist for the crime disagreeing. Whoever is not in line with current political trendsetters is automatically guilty and probably meets secretly with Nazis at night at the covenstead.
Just as Christian zealots once tried to force their fellow humans then to behave accordingly, a Legion of Good is missionizing today.
At the end of the 15th century, the Catholic priest Girolamo Savonarola warned of God’s last judgment. He prophesied the end of the world for the year 1500 (around 12 years, sound familiar?) and radicalized especially children, whom he sent through the streets shouting threatening slogans. Children were Savonarola’s most fanatical followers. They patrolled the streets and watched for forbidden acts. Women who were dressed „lewdly“ or „too luxurious“ were admonished. They searched for indecent things in their parents’ and neighbors’ homes.
Today the Legion of Good patrols the internet. I know people who have demonstrated throughout their lives that they abhor racism, sexism and other group-related misanthropy. But if they should write a „wrong“ word, they are condemned mercilessly. A “wrong” word can erase all their good deeds, according to the motto: You are worthy to come under our roof, but speak a wrong word, and you will be cast out into the desert.
While my hometown priest was abusing children, a woman in the United States of America produced a series under her name: „Roseanne“. In this series, not only the typical problems of an American working-class family were addressed, but also homosexuality, discrimination, racism, violence and other taboo subjects. Roseanne Barr was responsible for several episodes as screenwriter and director. She always fought against racism, sexism and homophobia. She often threw her full weight into the ring, endangering her career more than once. Her deeds speak volumes.
Her values have not changed since. She still fights for the equality of gays and lesbians, the legalization of marijuana as a medication and against racism and sexism. But she is also still a loud woman who says indecent things. Having dared to say things that supported Trump and touched on conspiracy theories, she was drawn to the attention of the inquisitors of the Legion of Good. When she finally said something that could be interpreted as racist and sexist, she was kicked off her own show.
All her previous deeds were erased. She had said “wrong” words. That was the end of her career. Her entire team remained silent, as was the village I grew up in. Among them were men and women who were in the show expressly because of Roseanne Barr. She fought for them.
Words can be tasteless and inconsiderate, even the words of Roseanne. However, they come from a woman who proved herself time and again in her deeds.
Even today, I experience again and again how public figures are transfigured into role models who in turn tell us which words are allowed and which aren’t. These role models are quick to condemn others. They denounce people because their words allegedly violate strict codes which define what is good, humane and decent. For the Legion of Good, deeds matter less than words.
Verbose idealists act according to the motto: „I want to look at myself in the mirror!“ But people who really help live according to the motto: „I want to look out the window!“
I’ll never forget the kind and innocent face of my hometown priest, a kind face worse than all the nasty words. I prefer to spend my time with people who speak incorrectly but are there when you need them, rather than with people who make grand speeches but fail in practical everyday life.
People can complain, whine, curse, insult and use the wrong words. But, to denounce them for contradicting „good people“ reminds me of a village’s collective silence. It’s well to talk, even with poorly chosen words. No poorly chosen word can erase good deeds done. But, evil deeds can for sure cancel well meant words.
I’m afraid of people who remain silent for the sake of a superficial peace, because I know what people are capable of when they don’t speak up in order to bow to the Legion of Good.
If you want to support me, Gerd Buurmann, in my work as an author, artist and operator of this blog, please consider to transfer an amount of your choice to my account on PayPal.