I like Will Smith. I have ever since his music video Parents Just Don't Understand was on MuchMusic back in the 1980's. I've seen several of his films and enjoyed them all. Therefore I was disturbed to read headlines in Jewish on-line newsites that claimed he thought Hitler was good.
Now remember that there's a special opporbium surrounding anything to do with Adolph Hitler, y"sh. A few yars ago one of the candidate in a federal election here in Canada used a quote from Hitler in his campaign literature: "What luck it is for rulers than men do not think." For this he was villified in the national media. Quoting Hitler? Why, that makes you a Nazi and glad that six million Jews were killed! How dare you?
What went unsaid is that the quote was spot on. Hitler himself took advantage of the German's desperation to unleash the evil and terror that he did on the world. How else to explain the widepread support for communism through much of the 20th century? How else to explain why the Toronto Maple Leafs play to a sell-out crowd game after game despite their incompetence?
This is Will Smith's quote from IsraelInsider:
"Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'Let me do the most evil thing I can do today,' " Mr. Smith said. "I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good.'"
Naturally he was roundly condemned and forces to issue an apology and clarification (hey, how come no sensitivity training?). But once again this is what went unsaid: He's right. Hitler did not wake up every morning thinking: Hah, hah, it's time to be evil! He woke up thinking: The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world. I must eliminate them to make the world a better place.
This is hard for people to fathom but is essentially true - most of history's worst villians were not motivated by a mindless desire for murder, blood and destruction but to rebuild the world in the image of what they felt was ideal. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and all the others were trying to create an ideal society and felt that murdering those who didn't belong in it was the right thing to do. They were psychopaths and they were evil but in their own minds they were right.
And this is what's important about this whole episode. A subjective, personal sense of morality is no guide to objective rightness. We often forget this, giving ourselves credit for being moral and decent but as Rav Benjy Hecht of Nishma once pointed out, you wake up in the morning and try to make the world a better place. So did Hitler. What's the difference between you and him?
The only answer I can accept is that I wake up and try to make the world a better place following the dicates of Torah which I accept as objectively true. I don't let my personal biases and foibles decide my actions but rather trust that God, in His perfection, has told me how to really make the world a better place. Anything less than that is a meaningless, directionless guide.