The Banality of Evil: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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50 Responses

  1. richard says:

    It appears that some relish in thinly veiled attacks against our president and conveniently omitting the sins of previous administrations. Drone strikes ? nothing to see here. Abortion ? keep moving along. Just say it’s Whataboutism. Just say you’re being current. It’s about immigration, and don’t use the word “illegal immigration”.

    We all make choices, each and every day, and some are tougher than others. Many are not black and white but shades of grey. We need to pray every day for the Holy Spirit to guide us. And to stay humble.

    I miss MLD. Many times his words made me question the madness.

  2. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – I agree with all your points – I even like the title “The Banality of Evil”.
    However, I wonder why when we look for comparative evils we always run to Hitler and ignore our own?

    How was the FDR decision made to place our own yellow American citizens in concentration camps – around a conference table, voice vote, show of hands?
    How about Truman’s racist decision to drop the A bomb on our yellow enemies, obliterating 2 cities and all people in it’s path – and choosing not to do so to our white enemies in Europe? Was the decision made around a conference table, voice vote, show of hands?

    America has a long list of evil throughout our history – we don’t need to go beyond our borders to make today’s actions look bad.

    I don’t doubt that Americans throughout history have been bastards – I just think we should use ourselves as the examples.

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Richard beat me to it LOL. I had a phone call midway through my typing – good chance we would have been simultaneous. 🙂

  4. MM says:

    So how would you describe a leader of a community who allowed over 100 days of destruction of community property, businesses, disregard for authority, the humiliation of women, and eventually open murder?

    A man who did nothing except blame others for inciting the destruction and murder in his community, the one he was paid to protect, and then the best he could do was ban the use of facial recognition algorithms used to find the murderer.

    If we were to go through the decalog, line by line, how would this man be evaluated?

    Did he act in a moral way, love his neighbor or was it pure evil cloaked in rhetoric and deception?

  5. Duane Arnold says:


    I had not originally planned to go to 1942, but thinking of “the banality of evil” linked the Wannsee Conference with Hannah Arendt and her use of the term in describing Eichmann at his trial.

    Yes, I am sure there are a multitude of examples, but the banality of evil, behind closed doors, should concern us all… at least in my opinion.

  6. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I understand – I just don’t want it to always be “If we don’t watch out, we will be evil like Hitler / the Nazis.”

    Instead, the warning should be “If we don’t watch out we will be evil like FDR / Truman (or fill in the blank of your favorite American evil doer).

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    Perhaps the greatest warning is that if you had asked the lawyers and PhDs gathered round that table, they would not have considered what they were doing as being evil. They went home that night to their wives and children after “just another meeting”…

  8. Em says:

    2 things FWIW…. We weren’t prepared for war… Pearl Harbor, remember? Some of the Japanese in the western U.S. were helping their homeland and we couldn’t sort out who, nor would the patriotic Japanese citizens snitch on their fellows.. And those two bombs we dropped? They actually saved lives of both our soldiers and the Japanese as the citizens of that land were prepared to fight to the last man, woman and child defending their homeland. Was it Christian? Probably not – – –

  9. Jean says:

    What our nation or any previous administration did in the past can’t be changed by anyone, nor does using a past decision as a litmus test or for comparison purposes, determine whether a current action is acceptable or evil.

    We as a country today are dealing in the administration of the southern border. What is being done is either good and acceptable or it is evil. If children are separated from their parents and caged without proper nutrition, education, medical care, hygiene, bodily security, access to parents or a legal guardian, is that moral? If those things are done to innocent victims intentionally for the purpose of deterrence or punishment, is that moral? Would we treat white European undocumented immigrants in a similar manner?

    We are responsible as citizens and leaders for the administration of the border. I am certain that if church leaders organized in defense of those children the way then do for the unborn, the administration would reform their actions and provide humane treatment for those children. I can only assume that church leaders are either afraid of their members or don’t care about the children or don’t think our treatment of the children is immoral.

  10. Em says:

    And. 😇 there is such a thing as evil masquerading as good

  11. Duane Arnold says:


    “I can only assume that church leaders are either afraid of their members or don’t care about the children or don’t think our treatment of the children is immoral.”

    Or they want to act as though they don’t know what’s happening…

  12. MM says:

    Welcome to twitter truths.

    “Would we treat white European undocumented immigrants in a similar manner?”

    Another statement made without checking the facts. Even a simple internet search would reveal the hardships of past immigrants into the USA.

    Does it make it right? Never, but it does reveal man has not changed and will always build an enemy from within. Including spreading false truths on the internet.

    History Test.

    Who first said, “the Jewish question…” Hint, it wasn’t Hitler.

  13. filbertz says:

    Another fine article. I would submit that there is a counter-point, the banality of good as well. Loving our neighbor can be as routine, boring, and everyday as evil. It doesn’t have to be extreme or trendy to be good or evil. Our culture’s constant quest for originality, flash, and recognition makes the challenge of love more difficult in my opinion.

    thanks for another provocative piece.

  14. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, I hope you were admonishing Duane and not me. He made the moral comparison of tactics – I only suggested alternatives.

  15. Jean says:

    I’m admonishing anyone who wants to hide our nation’s current behavior behind the sins of the past, or wishes to excuse the behavior by drawing a oral equivalence to something done in the past.

    The past is in the rear view, and we as a nation are not captive to the past.

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I admit all of our nation’s sins – fighting in unwarranted wars – troops stockpiled in foreign lands – the NSA / CIA / FBI spying on American citizens – I could list another 50 without making my thumb tired.

  17. Duane Arnold says:


    Most 12th graders know that it is Marx… not Groucho.

    As for the rest, I think in your desire to defend your political turf, you have missed the point…

  18. MM says:


    No one is hiding behind anything at all. You did your typical biased post without considering history. By doing so you actually repeat history and (using a popular theme) posted a racist at its heart comment.

    If our leaders fail to know and consider history then yes we will repeat it again, just different faces, ethnics and borders.

    BTW you are using the very same style of rhetoric as Presidential Candidate Biden who just called President Trump an “arsonist” in his Delaware campaign speech. Surprisingly while President Trump was about to land in California to survey the wild fires raging (and attributed to arsonist in many cases) on this Nation’s West Coast.

  19. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks and good point!

  20. MM says:


    It wasn’t Marx, so you failed your history test.

    But, I understand you’re expertise is “church history.”

    Me, I don’t have any expertise.

  21. MM says:


    Have you every sat at a table and raised your hand? Maybe a table with eleven others would be more appropriate.

    My point, your and I are equally as guilty.

  22. Duane Arnold says:


    As I said, “I think in your desire to defend your political turf, you have missed the point…”

  23. Jean says:

    First, I don’t think anyone here, myself included, as requested anyone’s admission for the sins of our nation’s past.

    Second, I haven’t said that our nation should not learn from the past.

    Is there a reading comprehension issue, or do people simply not want to face the present, particularly the subject matter of this article?

  24. Michael says:

    Thank you for this, Duane.
    I have very limited time, but for the record, I lambasted Obama many times publicly over his immigration policies and lack of movement on DACA.
    Every time I would point out that Obama was the deporter in chief, conservatives would say I was lying.

  25. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean – I was not talking about our nation’s past sins in my 11:06 – what I listed are current and ongoing.

    I would hope you too see them as our national sins as much as the border.

  26. Jean says:


    Regarding your 11:06, I don’t see them as “categorical” national sins at all.

    There may be unwise or unlawful examples, within the whole, but there are as many or more examples that are moral and lawful within the categories.

  27. MM says:


    “Is there a reading comprehension issue, or do people simply not want to face the present, particularly the subject matter of this article?”

    Not at all, however you made a non-factual statement designed to spread a bias and brought zero to the table.

    The separation of children from their parents is reprehensible no matter who does it or for what reason. Ironically the very first poster here was 100% correct in Duane has posted this article, veiled as it may be, to point out his political position.

    No one here would argue what was done was wrong, but the actual discussion of immigration, the proper channels and legality is being ignored for personal political purposes of the writer. The topic Duane brings up and how he demonizes it via the Nazi party and all the implications he makes should be obvious.

    If he was truly interested in solving, or at least addressing the real issues of immigration for discussion purposes or maybe the topic “banality of evil” and how it really is in us all, maybe he would have taken another direction or example.

    Immigration and how to handle those who attempt to do so illegally is always a problem. The question really in this situation is, what is to be done with those children born in the USA through illegal immigrant parents? Truly separation from their parents was and is the absolutely wrong solution.

    As always the unintended consequences of allowing illegal immigration is what it does to the children involved. This needs to, no must be addressed and I believe it is.

  28. MM says:

    Now for a more fair position on the subject:

    And if you think this is limited to the current administration then again another you have accepted another “twitter” untruth.

    The Arizona Republic article, in part, said:

    “They are undocumented. They entered the country illegally. And when they were apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, they were shipped to Nogales from overwhelmed processing facilities in Texas.

    “But they are still children in cages, not gangsters, not delinquents. Just children, 900 of them, in a makeshift border-town processing center that is larger than a football field.”

    The article adds that the children are “housed behind 18-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire.”

    I am really tired of the current trends to deny truth and misrepresent the facts.

  29. Jean says:

    One of the favorite delay/ignore tactics of the right is to say, “such and such also needs to be discussed as part of the solution” I say, no, evil should be stopped and “such and such” can be solved in the absence of evil.

    Over and over again, whether it’s healthcare, guns, undocumented minors, racial justice, etc., some big overarching issue is raised, which has no simple solution, so the evil part just somehow is accepted as part and parcel with the whole. I say, no! Stop the evil, then deal with the whole.

  30. Duane Arnold says:


    I was actually addressing the issue of the banality of evil, but you can only read through a political lens. BTW, I explained to MLD the “why” of my example, but you seem more interested in promoting a partisan view. Moreover, I do think the decision made by that show of hands in 2018 is a prime example of the banality of evil… just as Hannah Arendt wrote about in the 1950s…

  31. Michael says:


    Immigration issues have been my passion for twenty years.
    This administration is by far the worst in my lifetime and delights in creative cruelty to those fleeing poverty and violence.
    I’m not going to argue about…you won’t find an immigration lawyer or activist that believes differently.
    This is not a political issue to me…it’s a biblical one.

  32. Jean says:

    I still don’t understand how bringing up or comparing the past with the present addresses the banality of evil.

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, I guess you have made up your ‘pecking order’of evil differently than some others.

    We live in a world where we make those distinctions.

  34. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, as I pointed out, Duane brought up the comparison to past evils.
    I don’t argue that past sins may be valid in discussion. I just think he chose the wrong ones.

    Why do people still bring up our past sin of slavery? 160 yrs in the rear view mirror according to you.

  35. Duane Arnold says:


    The “banality of evil” used a particular historical example… I used the same and I would again, it fits.

  36. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I think we need to learn from the past. I didn’t argue with that.

    Jean seems to think the past national sins are not only irrelevant but get in the way.

  37. Duane Arnold says:

    “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”
    ― Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

    This is very much my view of those raised hands in 2018. I don’t consider Sessions or Pompeo to be monsters. The fact that they are “normal” and could make such a decision and implement it is far more terrifying…

  38. Mike E. says:

    Thank you Duane for reminding us of what is happening in our name on the southern border. I have been anguished since the beginning thinking of the horrible emotional toll our actions have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate on these poor fellow human beings. It’s unconscionable. Of course it is immoral beyond belief. There can be no defending it. I agree with them MLD that America’s list of sins is long and dark. May God have mercy on those poor families and may God have mercy on all of us.

  39. Jean says:

    MLD: “Jean seems to think the past national sins are not only irrelevant but get in the way.“

    Me: “Second, I haven’t said that our nation should not learn from the past.”

    Now, apologize for bearing false witness. Your lying gets tiresome.

  40. Duane Arnold says:

    Mike E

    Many thanks… yes, “immoral beyond belief” is a good description.

  41. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, at 12:56 you indicated that bring up the past sins only confuses (at least it confuses you).

  42. Jean says:

    Look MLD, either humble yourself in apology, or I bind your comment and request that you cease and desist from any further interaction with me or my comments, either directly or indirectly, on this blog. I will pay you the same courtesy. I don’t have the time or energy to correct your misrepresentations of me. Thank you.

  43. CM says:


    Some good news on the immigration front as it relates to DHS and ICE.

    Because both DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and ICE head Cuccinelli are not actually legitimate in their roles as “acting” head as the time of 210 has expired. Both are in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). Since any officer appointed in violation of the FVRA is an unconstitutionally appointed officer, any rules promulgated during the tenure of that officer cannot be enforced.

    So rest assured both DHS and ICE rules will be challenged in Federal Courts with motions to dismiss any all cases that stem from said rules.

    Apparently “Law and Order” only applies to the people rioting according to Trump.

  44. CM says:


    Here is the GAO office report on this:

  45. Jean says:


    I fear our country is entering a period in which there is the law and there is the way things are done.

    We are in a period where the pardon power is being deployed to encourage defiance of the law.

  46. MM says:


    First let’s get this straight I am not trying in any way to promote a “partisan view” of anything. In fact I am accusing you of consistently doing so and showing your bias both politically and socially.

    You may disagree, but I have consistently pushed an unbiased view of the facts as much as we are individually capable of doing so.

    I have also consistently pointed out all of us are unable to be completely unbiased or “open minded,” something you and Jeans seem to be unable to confess.

    I will leave it at that and continue to read your often hyperbolic biased positions, something all of us can are guilty of.


    I clearly understand your position on immigration and whole heartily agree with it. I also know it is clearly a bi-partisan problem and not limited to the current or past Presidents. The facts and evidence clearly show for decades the USA has not had a clear policy or fairness in the matter.

    On the issue of the “cages,” attributing this solely to this President and his Administration is factually incorrect and dishonest. It is a problem inherited by him from the past Administration. and will be dealt with by the one elected in this November.

    I believe the only thing the public can do is to continue to make known the issue and make maybe do a “Snowden,” (who BTW was part of the former Administration) and point out the abuses.

    Thank you for your work!

  47. MM says:


    “We are in a period where the pardon power is being deployed to encourage defiance of the law.”

    Don’t you ever fact check your comments!

    President Trump as of Aug 28, 2020
    A total of 26 and 11 clemencies.

    President Obama total 212 pardons and 1,715 clemencies (most in his last year)

    “On Jan. 19, then-President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 federal inmates who were convicted of drug crimes. As a result, Obama increased the total number of commutations to 1,715 individuals during his presidency, including 568 people who have been sentenced to life in prison.

    Though CNN once declared him one of the “least merciful presidents” in U.S. history, Obama granted more commutations than any president and has surpassed the number of commutations granted by the past 13 presidents combined, the White House reported. ”

    Just numbers which make it obvious the previous President used his Executive power to pardon and commute to a greater degree.

    What you should be asking is, what are the differences in the people pardoned by various presidents?

    Instead you make another biased non-factual broad brushed political statement.

  48. Duane Arnold says:


    “You may disagree, but I have consistently pushed an unbiased view of the facts as much as we are individually capable of doing so.”

    You are correct… I disagree.

  49. Jean says:

    You misunderstood me, and if I was ambiguous, then it’s my fault, not yours. I am not talking about pardoning convicted drug offenders. I am talking about encouraging civil servants, who have sworn an oath to the Constitution, to break the law with a prophylactic commitment from the President to pardon said civil servant should a criminal proceeding be brought in court against him or her.

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