“Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“The mob in front of Pontius Pilate wanted blood,” explained the visiting priest at St. Marcel. “Not just any blood. It wanted the blood of Jesus of Nazareth, the ‘King of the Jews.’ ”
“What crime has he committed?” Pilate asked. But the crowd cared little for legal procedure. “Let the deed be on our heads,” they said, giving Pilate a way out.
Any one of the group might have killed Jesus himself. The man walked among them, unarmed.
A man's sense of fair play and his common decency usually prevent him from making a real beast or fool of himself. For that, he needs a mob. It is mob thinking that makes attitudes toward war such a puzzle of contradictions. The mob is happy when a war begins, but usually happier when it ends. It claims to hate war, but it reveres war heroes and war leaders. Of course, most of the time the difference between a war hero and a war criminal is determined less by the actual events than by the outcome.
But still, there are also real heroes who have done their duty in war time and deserve our respect. Usually, these are the war heroes who had sense enough not to follow orders, but instead, listened to their own moral intuition.
Here, we recall an incident from France's war in Algeria. It was after World War II that an independent movement in Algeria took hold. France sent its brave young men to put down the uprising, but after fighting for a few years, the French had had enough. They could win the battles, but they could ...