I recently ran across a television documentary that revealed Danes were not always the good guys on this planet.
Oh, I know that Danes (Vikings) had been a bloody bunch generations ago. They slaughtered and they plundered.
Danes today are seen in a far better light. In fact, some organizations have declared the Danes to be the happiest people on earth.
The happiest people on earth are vicious Vikings no more. They are civilized people who live a warm and fuzzy life. They know better than anybody that slaughtering people is not a profession that makes friends. People who murder and plunder endure grim lives. The Danes of centuries ago could never have felt good about themselves.
Today’s Danes are like the Germans and Japanese back in World War II who made the long leap from savagery to civilization within the short span of half a century.
I am keenly aware of the amazing improvement by Danes because I was a child during World War II and because my 100-percent paternal great-grandparents came to this country a hundred years ago, and they were Danish. That makes my father half Danish and me one quarter of that improved version of Vikings.
I feel a little cleaner just knowing I have some Danish cleansing genes to dilute the imperfect other parts of my existence. I am able to lighten the mood of my other parts – the Irish, English, German and Seminole portions of my lineage. If I don’t master the cool tranquility the Danes have found, my kind will never reap the international declarations of how happy we are.
Unfortunately, that documentary the other day uncovered an ugly element I had not realized. I speak of slavery. The documentary said early Danes brutally descended into enslaving others – just about the worst thing human beings can do to one another.
Of course, we have been painfully aware of the slavery practiced on a huge scale in this country before Abraham Lincoln came along.
This was not the first time I had encountered reports of nations that had, in their heartless years, subjugated other humans. Four years ago, I read (and enjoyed) Robert K. Massie’s biography of Catherine the Great – the 18th-century empress of Russia.
The book says Russia in those years practiced a form of serfdom no more than a hair’s difference from standard slavery. Catherine tried to modify and maybe even end slavery, but she wasn’t powerful enough politically to dare end the practice.
Go back in history far enough and you will find slavery throughout much of the world. Some slavery persists to this day in most countries, including ours. Every few years the authorities discover forced laborers imprisoned in dark corners of America and other countries.
Lincoln spoke in his second inaugural of slave holders “wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces.” And now, Pope Francis begs for the needs of the oppressed.
As a general rule, this country doesn’t go so far any more as actual slaves. But sometimes slavery is reminiscent of places like my own failing Idaho where people are expected to survive on a minimum wage of $7.50 an hour. That’s not actual slavery, of course, but it sometimes leans that way and the sour scent of stinginess hangs in the air.
There are three kinds of wages in the world: There is a worthy wage. There is hard-core slavery. And then there is the beginning drift toward slavery in places like my once-generous Idaho.
So what would Jesus, Catherine, Lincoln and Pope Francis say?
For that matter, what would modern Danes say?
Contact Bill Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.