I am reading The Sunflower which details an incident in 1944 where a young Jewish death camp victimized/enslaved/preincinerated man is compelled to listen to a dying S S soldier's confession of atrocity. The Jew (a very young Simon Wiesenthal) does not respond to the confession except to listen and remain silent. The story ends with the question, should the Jew have forgiven the Nazi.? Over the next 25 years (1972--1997) fifty-three people made formal responses to that question. I have not read all the responses yet, but it appears that almost all those who responded said that Wiesenthal had no obligation or no right to forgive. The most definitive "noes" came from other death camp survivors, many of whom could not visualize a circumstance in which a Nazi would in good faith ask for forgiveness from a Jew. Many of the more secular responders considere forgiveness, at any rate, a rather trivial gesture. The very few "yeses" seem to have come from non-Jews who had a somewhat mystical orientation.
Some of you know that i have somewhat of an obsession with "spirituality in extremis" situations where people are challenged to live by their principles, maintain serenity, or continue to love their enemies in the face of the most horrible environments.. I ask myself whether mystical spirituality is a middle class luxury available to those with relatively great resources and a relatively wide range of choices, and whether it is cruel to offer people without resources or choices the teachings of spiritual traditions and 12-step programs. I remember that in over five years in Al-Anon, i met almost no one who hung around very long who was not prepared for the program by a middle class background or a good education, or a spiritual tradition, or extraordinary insight.
And i recall how the authors of The Cloud of Unknowing, and The Bhagavad Gita insist that their teachings not be shared with those who are unprepared to receive them. Even the Tao Te Ching says that 90 percent of people will laugh at Taoist teachings and if they didn't laugh at them they would not be Taoist teachings.
But i am an egalitarian at heart. I must believe that truth is available to anyone who seeks it, and everyone will seek it in this life or in another.
Perhaps i need to visit Tibet, where impoverished and persecuted Buddhists continue to behave like Buddhists.