In the essay called After Ten Years, in which he reflects on lessons learned in their decade of resisting Hitler, Bonhoeffer includes a section called “On Success.” He is thinking of the fact that Hitler had rid the country of crime (except his own atrocious crimes), restored the economy and restored military strength to Germany. He had even fulfilled his promise to return Germany to a habit of winning.
Hitler was, by his own standards, a success. And success, argued Bonhoeffer, is not “ethically morally neutral.” That is, while success may be morally neutral in the short term, in the long term it actually changes what people think is morally acceptable.
That certainly was the case in Germany. People got so used to Hitler’s brutal ways of doing things that they willingly surrendered their own sense of responsibility and simply participated with a clean conscience in the most inhumane cruelties. They simply – and quickly – got used to evil.
In much the same way, we can already see in America that supporters of Donald Trump are so accustomed to his outrageous lies, irresponsible accusations, and utter nonsense, that they cheer him for his trumpiness, as if being Trump were a self-determining good in and of itself.
It happened in Germany and it is happening here. Scary!