It’s become a dirty little word, quisling, entering the language during World War II to describe people who betray their beliefs serving the enemy; a traitor. The word itself, of course, is the name of a real person, Vidkun Quisling, the fellow who ran Norway for the Nazis. Though he was what he was, a traitor, we needed something more to describe him. Quisling’s act of treachery wasn’t some secret sabotage, some dark deed of selling vital information, some dangerous sabotage of a nation’s capability to defend itself. Quisling brought a new dimension to the traitorous act, added new meaning to the word. As a matter of fact, Quisling’s life required that the word traitor, itself, be retired. You see, after Quisling, traitor doesn’t , somehow, capture the cowardly and slimy nature of the business, the act of becoming, living as, being a traitor, a cooperator with evil, a coward, a person who thinks only of himself. Perhaps I was wrong in using the phrase “betray their beliefs” to describe traitorous acts. The whole notion of what quisling means belies having anything like beliefs.
As a matter of fact, the thought occurs that I may be wrong entirely about beliefs and quislings. Of course they believe in something. They believe in themselves above all else, and in their privilege to believe in that. It is their right so to do; and in such matters of right who may say what is not right.
We are surrounded by quislings; and in no small way we ourselves can be quislings, greater or lesser in degree as we go about the day, don’t you know. Think on it. Ask the question of yourself. Are their times and circumstances when you have compromised some thing, some principle which you held, dearly or lightly, for a gain or satisfaction, however brief or inconsequential? Would the knowledge of it among your friends have led to embarrassment, or the offering of exculpatory excuses? Did you not conclude while doing this that it would be alright to do so…as long as no one knew, or could gainsay your doing it? It was the act of a quisling. I know that I have been a quisling on many occasions, selfish enough to do something for some short gain or advantage, and to hide the secret, or to believe that I had every right to do it.
There is another word, older than quisling, much older, which describes behavior of the same, or similar type: Judas. But, it seems to me, there is a difference between Judas and Quisling. Who doesn’t know of Judas’ decision to sell Christ for thirty pieces of silver, of his one despicable act, and his subsequent despair and suicide. Judas comes to a quick end, a dark and tragic figure, food for flies, a maggots’ nest. He is there and then gone. Except as an example and as a reminder of the wages of sin, he doesn’t matter. He is a curse hurled in anger, and exclamation, an accusation.
Who would curse someone by calling them a quisling? They would be asked to prove the case. They would be, themselves accused of breaking faith, of failure to understand , or, perhaps more seriously today, of that great sin intolerance.
Judas convicted himself and imposed punishment. Quisling, brought to trial at last was executed. He was convinced to the end, though, that he was right and all creation was wrong. Well, I guess that was his right, his belief, his truth.
Quisling and quislings came to mind when I read about the number of people who are currently in Congress and governments at all levels enforcing, voting for and supporting what have come to be called “reproductive rights” and a “woman’s right to choose”. It all boils down to one thing, actually; the rightof a person to take the life of another person, and the support of that right through legislative and judicial and executive means.
Many of these people are members, so called, of the Catholic Church which has taught from earliest times that one has no right to take an innocent life. At the very highest levels of government they publicly pronounce that they support policies which allow this. They accept millions of dollars from large organizations which promote these practices, and their consistency in voting for funds for these organizations, and laws and regulations forbidding those who disagree, or wish to curtail the “rights” is well known.
When asked, they will to a person say that they privately do not wish to see anyone deprived of their lives in such a way; their Catholic beliefs forbid such things, and they are, after all, good Catholics.
Shamefully, some Catholic organizations court their favor, honor their achievements in government and accept their patronage. But, once in a great while there is an exception. A case in point is what happened in Minnesota not too long ago when a Catholic school revoked the honors it had bestowed on a legislator after his public support for abortion and acceptance of money from abortion promoting organizations: (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14950)
It is as surprising as it is commendable. Would that it were less surprising. Would that it were totally unnecessary.
I suppose that Vidkun Quisling started his life as a bright and loving child, and lived a good part of it trying to do good. He loved his king and country. He probably even loved God. I suppose. Somewhere, at some time, he became a quisling, and betrayed them all, ordering patriots executed and cooperating in the annihilation of those his masters decided were not persons and had no right to life.
The British newspaper that coined the term “quisling” to describe him and all like him had this to say about its inspired creation: “To writers, the word Quisling is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for traitor… they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters. Actually it contrives to suggest something at once slippery and tortuous.”
He was the first. How long the list has grown since.