Friday, December 23, 2016

Watch the Sword, Not the Flag!

People, look at the sword, not the flag!! Trump is a master of deceit, deftly focusing attention away from the real stories. Real stories include rampant conflicts of interest, deliberate manipulation of news in ways that harm political enemies, cabinet appointments of people who plan to dismantle the agencies they're  assigned to shepherd, and fishing expeditions for the names of career civil servants who worked on particular projects.

But there's also a dual purpose in the scintillating hint that the nuclear arms race is about to be revived. One of the first steps that every authoritarian / fascist / totalitarian regime takes is to create a perceived threat which is then utilized to justify allocation of resources and erosion of liberty and privacy. Both Putin and Trump need an excuse to rattle their sabers and create crises, in order to justify what comes next. 

If you are a Republican and have read this far and think the poor little liberal has lost their mind, be warned. Consolidation of power by the would be despot takes awhile. The first who will  be attacked are the old-school Republicans who stand up for principles of fairness and decency, like McCain, Romney, and Lindsey. But after that, anyone who crosses the fascist Right will be targeted. It took Stalin 23 years to fully consolidate his power, but by 1940, Stalin was the only survivor, literally, from among the top political officials at the time of Lenin's death. 

You say it can't happen here, but it can. The only gate that prevents this happening in any society is the gate imposed by those who recognize the signs and stand against it.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Why President Elect Trump Does Not Represent Politics As Usual (Part I: COMMONALITIES OF FASCIST REGIMES)

No one, ever, wakes up and says, "I think I'll become an alcoholic today."  Alcoholism comes on slowly, taking us unaware, until we find ourselves unable to resist its inexorable grip.  In a similar way, this is how Fascism overtakes societies.  No democratic society makes a deliberate decision to give up freedom in favor of Fascism.  It comes on slowly.  We make compromises in favor of what seems to be the greater good.  The compromises then become larger and larger until we find ourselves inextricably tied up in more than we bargained for.

These small, baby steps have been happening in the USA for a long time.  I won't go into details to support that statement. Those who choose not to see, would not believe me anyway, no matter what evidence I present.  Let me merely say, "He who has eyes, let him see, and he who has ears, let him hear."  The USA is well on its way to becoming a Fascist state.  This is not a "Democrat" or "Republican" thing, either.  In a future blog post, I will show how policies of both major political parties have failed to staunch these tendencies.

Moreover, Trump is not an anomaly.  He is a logical result, merely taking a tendency one step further.   But he is, indeed, extreme.  This is why his election does NOT represent  "politics as usual."  The water has turned from tepid to hot. It's time to take notice, and stop it, before it's too late.

No one wants to hear that, including me.   But, if you are willing to be honest, take a hard look at these characteristics I've compiled below, with characteristics of Fascist regimes.  Judge for yourself where the USA falls on this scale.  Whether you believe me now, or not, it is important for all of us to know the following signs of the slide into Fascism, and resist wherever we find it:  

On Being Nice

Nice people made the best Nazis. They just wanted everybody to get along and get with the program, be unified, get behind economic development and making Germany great again.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Why President Elect Trump Does Not Represent Politics as Usual (Part II)

Why are people upset about Trump, you ask? How could one possibly see any resemblance to Nazi Germany (or any Fascist regime)?

Image is Hitler at a 1932 political rally, courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 

Is this not an over the top expression of paranoia? After all, this is a free country! There are no stazi troops marching in the street, bursting into homes, burning books, right?  "What's there to be alarmed about," you ask? 

Well, don't forget that, in 1925, most ordinary, freedom loving Germans never would have imagined that this could happen to them, either. This was a country steeped in Christian values, governed by decent people.  But there is no inoculation that protects us from human nature. No one wants to own the label "fascist," but , human societies are all at risk of sliding into rule by authoritarian regimes. This has happened many times in history.  Nazi Germany is merely one of recent ones. 

One thing notable about Nazi Germany, however, was the shock to the Western European consciousness. How could this have happened, here, to us?!  In the aftermath of World War II, numerous scholars, ethicists, philosophers studied the issue. I've read some of these.  I've felt very uncomfortable about what felt like a slide toward these tendencies I could feel, but the 2015 - 2016 presidential election had a different, more ominous feel.  How might it have felt to an ordinary German, living in the 1920's and 1930's?  After all, one doesn't jump from being an ordinary, moral person one day and exterminating a race of people the next.  How did that happen?  Could it be happening today, of course in a different context and  expressed in a different way, but a similar kind of event?

Check out this first hand account of how one person  experienced the slide from decency and tolerance into a different world, piece by piece, bit by bit:

Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, 'It's not so bad' or 'You're seeing things' or 'You're an alarmist.'

And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. ...

But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked - if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in '43 had come immediately after the 'German Firm' stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in '33. But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying 'Jew swine,' collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in - your nation, your people - is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God.

Exerpt above is from They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945,  (University of Chicago Press. Reissued in paperback, April, 1981), in which Milton Mayer interviewed people who had lived through the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.