The parallax view from here….

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ … That is how it started in Germany.”  Thomas Mann in response to accusations by the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a communist.

74a72e9d61ef6e8fb175031b4318632dThe novelist who gave us a classic novel, The Magic Mountain, was an early and fierce critic of Adolf Hitler and the poisonous culture of the Nazis.  Because of his public, even fearless words against them, he was forced to flee his native Germany in 1933, eventually finding refuge in the United States where he became a citizen in 1944.  Yet, even in America, he found himself similarly threatened and hounded by the forces of McCarthyism as he publicly protested and wrote against the oppression of American writers and intellectuals during the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that amounted to nothing less than fear mongering persecution, eventually leading to blacklisting and even to prison sentences as in the case of the Hollywood Ten.  As a result of his public criticism of yet another fascist movement, he was finally forced to leave the U.S. and return to Europe.

The McCarthy era was a low point in American history, proving beyond doubt that the fears of those Americans like Sinclair Lewis, who in 1935 imagined the seed of fascism could find fertile soil in the American psyche, were more than prophetic,  The House Un-American Activities Committee and the later McCarthy hearings in the Senate demonstrated that “it can happen here” and it did to the extent that the foundations of intellectual oppression and propagation of fear was laid.  All that was lacking was the proper demagogue, a role that McCarthy tried desperately to fill.  Thankfully he was thwarted.  The saving graces of our nation at the time were the decency and strength of its leadership, as exemplified in people like attorney Joseph Welch who challenged McCarthy at the Army hearings, and the power of the free press, the courage of journalists like Edward R. Murrow.  The eventual shaming of the demagogues who very nearly destroyed the character and intent of our Constitution was inevitable, but not before they exacted a terrible price on their victims, literally destroying the reputations and careers of thousands of people on the basis of lies and baseless accusation, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.

All of that seems now to have returned and we are once again faced with the ugly specter of fascist intent and unprecedented demagoguery in the person of Donald Trump.  Time and again, this amoral, despotic individual has proven himself invulnerable to every criticism, moving by incremental steps toward autocracy by pushing against the moral and institutional constraints that we always believed were inviolable.  He toys with Congress, attacks our courts, vilifies his critics, challenges and ruthlessly mocks the authority of anyone in our government who tries to oppose him.

On any given day, one could point to any one of a dozen of his actions as a dangerous precedent, the sort of behavior that would eventually bring down any previous politician… and yet, it almost appears as if he draws strength from every cry of “foul” that comes his way.  What is it that makes this man invulnerable?

Has he so wearied his critics with his lack of shame that they simply give up in frustration?  We know well enough that for all his faults, his enablers are willing to forego any appearance of personal integrity for the rewards they receive when he satisfies their corrupt intent, giving them the license they’ve always craved in pursuit of autocracy.  But now, even his greatest critics within the government seem impotent, utterly restrained from meaningful action against him.

Is it possible that they too see opportunity in the phenomena he’s unleashed?  Are they afraid of him?  Or merely and similarly as jaded as his enablers. The answers may not come from a normal perspective.  Perhaps they will come from a parallax view, an unpopular and skewed perspective from the fringes of our society, from a perspective that may no longer exist in our contemporary culture.  Perhaps it will come from the distance, from the past, from the echoes of what we once held dear but seem, somehow, to have lost.

Where is our Sinclair Lewis?
Where is our Thomas Mann?
Where is our Joseph Welch?
Where is our Edward R. Murrow?

Or have we become the very force that feeds the beast we fear, if not through outright support, then with silent acquiescence?  Is this present circumstance the sum of our failures, the substance of our corruption as a nation?  If we hope to survive, we’d better find out just what it is we have lost and regain it.  And soon.

Time is not our friend.

Racing toward a different kind of world with apathy and elan… America descending

I’ve written about this before in other venues, been criticized for the analogy accordingly, but I truly never better understood until recently, if at all, how the German people allowed such a bizarre, motley crew of bigoted fanatics, political extremists, and the outright criminally insane… how they allowed such dangerous, posturing fools as those surrounding Hitler to march them so proudly into self-destructive trends with such obvious intent from the outset.  One need only read Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, which was published in two volumes in 1925 & 1926 to understand how he might respond in the 1930’s and 1940’s as a leader of the German Reich.  The predictability was stunning.

AFP_L72YNBy the same token, one need only observe the people surrounding Trump… to have listened to everything Trump was saying before he was elected to the office of the presidency of the United States in order to not only know how he would respond to the power given him, but to accurately predict that he would seek to abuse the office, broach the legal limits thereof, and to personally enrich himself from a position of authority in our government.

Nonetheless, early and numerous critics of his amoral and despotic style notwithstanding, who among the red-hatted throngs that followed him from the start could possibly predict that Trump would so easily discern the corruption around him and use the profound lack of integrity extant in American politics today to his advantage in dismantling the very government and its Constitution which he is theoretically sworn to uphold and protect?  Certainly they cannot still be blind to his character… or, more properly, his lack thereof. Do they even care?  And if not, why not?

So many American people, like the Germans before them, seem to need and to love a strong man who will soothe their fears concerning uneasy perceptions of threats from within and without.  For all their denial… for those, at least, who do not say such things aloud for fear of criticism… his message is unwavering and infinitely clear.  It’s a very dark message.  Is it now the message of America?

I’m reminded of the Bible verse, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

I have no doubt that the critics of Hitler, those who were not fooled by their fears, could easily discern the subliminal truth in the evil of his message.  Were they happy enough to shrug their objections aside when the German economy rebounded as it re-armed itself with a mad sort of pride in its growing invincibility?  Is that why they let him continue?

They did, you know… let Hitler continue.  He could never have done what he did if they’d truly opposed him when opposition was possible.  Is that what’s happening here?

 

Under the sun… nothing new, nothing new, only bigger. The coming storm and the Green New Deal…

“I, for one, do not believe that the era of democracy in human affairs can or will be snuffed out in our lifetime. I, for one, do not believe that the world will revert to a modern form of ancient slavery, or to controls vested in modern feudalism, or modern emperors, or modern dictators, or modern oligarchs in these days. The very people under iron heels will themselves rebel.”

These words spoken on November 11, 1940, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a speech commemorating Armistice Day, the annual celebration of the end of first World War were prophetic. Spoken a full year and some weeks before it was even understood that there would be another World War. In a time of peaceful sublimity for America, if not for the world, the words were composed at the height of New Deal successes following the Great Depression.
Then, more so than today, the American people still understood the tyranny inherent in the marriage of unbridled wealth and political power, the great house of cards that collapsed in 1929, when the exclusive, privileged world of the financiers, bankers and other wealthy financial predators collapsed under the weight of its own greed, taking most of the country and much of the western world along with it into devastating economic collapse.
The New Deal, a huge, multi-faceted government program that served the common welfare of all Americans, an ambitious program that was vilified in its inception as a socialist dream was an unqualified success, finally brought order into the economic chaos, rebuilding the nation, restructuring our priorities.
But today and once again, our economy is at the perpetual edge of collapse as another and more powerful breed of financial predators than those who caused the 1929 collapse threatens not only our financial system, but the very air we breathe, the water we drink, as they seek to establish a more crippling autocracy than the common welfare of our nation could ever sustain and must not continue to tolerate.  We do so at our own peril.
This is the reason and the necessity for the Green New Deal. And like the old New Deal, this Green New Deal has been labeled a socialist dream. but it may well be the last chance for a peaceful political movement to take us back to a proper and sensible path before inevitable environmental and economic collapse necessitates the kind of violence that will always occur when the rich become too rich at the cost of our common welfare as a nation… the most influential nation in the world… such that collapse here at home will have profound echoing effects worldwide.
The Green New Deal.  If you don’t know what it is… now is the time to find out. Ask me. I’ll tell you how. But don’t wait too long, lulled by the silence and the peaceful sublimities that so often precede the most violent of devastating storms.

Is this really about free speech…

….or part of a plan to criminalize dissent and to foster a state-approved political perspective? It’s a reasonable question, since his signing ceremony linked to an executive order has given the dais in the White House to members of right wing organizations like Turning Point, USA, which pays college students to disrupt public meetings of organizations on the left like the Democratic Socialists of America and to spy upon and add professors with opinions they do not deem correct according to their skewed values to a national database which has led to intense public and private harassment of faculty members in colleges and universities across the nation.

In cloying terms during the ceremony, Trump introduced students, portraying them as victims of abuse for their politically conservative and religious views before giving them a national platform in the people’s White House. He then, in the manner of a third world strongman lacking only the iconically be-ribboned uniform affected by dictators, proceeded to threaten public universities with defunding.

Tomorrow, the headlines should read, “New Zealand bans military assault rifles, while in the US, Trump moves to criminalize dissent.” I personally believe our nation is on a very dark path. Please pay close attention. Incremental authoritarian trends are dangerous. Study the history of the Twentieth century and you will see how totalitarian states are born… not overnight, but by slow, inevitable, and unchallenged progression.

At the very least, please watch this unfortunate, purely partisan display and imagine where the rhetoric will take us…