Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We've seen this movie before

Throughout my life, until recently, I learned about the phenomenon of fascism and the world war that it caused, and thought to myself “that could never happen again”. After all, it was so very long ago, and fascism was an anomaly caused by the leadership of a madman. As far as fascism in the U.S. was concerned, the thought never occured to me. I wrongly thought America was immune to this because of strong democratic principles in our Constitution, upheld by the great moral principles of her citizens.

Lately, more and more historians of are saying that America is in danger of sliding into fascism, bit by bit. History is repeating itself. For example, Hitler introduced the Enabling Act, (similar to the Patriot Act), and it passed the German legislature democratically. Hitler took over that country in gradually and legally.

Observing the similarities begs the question, how does a nation slide from being a democratic republic, and egalitarian society, where free speech is not only valued, but enshrined in your founding documents and enforced by the law of the land? How do you slide from that, to being a state where people are simply vanished; whether they are undocumented workers, whether they are “terror suspects” like Jose Padilla, who is no longer charged with any terror crimes? I would submit that a good chunk of what makes that transition is people in the media URGING IT.

The racism against Muslims seems to be getting worse and worse. The Reich Wing Media is attacking with the organized murderous rage of the German SS, vital sources of information, such as the brave hosts of Air America Radio who would dare to speak truth to power. I have never heard such vitriol.

BILL O’REILLY: “So, all those clowns at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains?”

Ha, ha. Very funny, Bill.

The so-called “liberal media” (which does not exist, outside the Air America syndication and a single TV show “Countdown” with Keith Olberman on MSNBC), is one of their favorite targets. Another are the so-called “Hollywood liberals”. In other words, talented, creative, artists, actors, and musicians with a conscience, who use their celebrity to speak truth to power.

Mike Galleger was invited to sit with George W. Bush, one of the Reich Wing talk show hosts to broadcast from the White House talking about Jill Behar, on The View, who made a comparison between Donald Rumsfeld and Adolph Hitler – that they are both war criminals. I’ll go on record saying they are both war criminals, although I don’t think there’s a good clean comparison between Rumsfeld and Hitler. Hitler was a maniacal madman, the consequence of whose actions caused the deaths of 10s of millions of people. Don Rumsfeld, he’s a small time mass murderer. Just a few hundred thousand people who have died as a result of his actions. But they are both war criminals. So, she points this out and Mike Galleger goes NUTS.

MIKE GALLEGER: “This is for Joy Behar – I think we ought to round up all these folks, round up Joy Behar, round up Matt Damon, who last night on MSNBC attacked George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney… round up Olberman, take the whole bunch of them, and put them in a detention camp until this war is over, because they are a bunch of traitors.”
What did Matt Damon say that he should be put into a concentration camp for? This is Mike Galleger, the Reich Wing talk show host, friend of George W. Bush, saying that Matt Damon should be put in a concentration camp. What did he say that was worthy of that?

MATT DAMON: “The sacrifice of the war should be shared by everybody, and if the President has daughters that are of age, then maybe they should go too.”

THAT’S worth putting somebody in a concentration camp?!?

Mike Galleger is representative of the same kind of media that expedited the rise of the Third Reich. (see Wake up and smell the fascism)

This phenomenon is tearing America apart from the seams. For example in the music field, once upon a time, the Dixie Chicks and Ricky Skaggs worked together, but because Natalie Maines made an innocuous spontaneous comment about the President in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, (“I’m ashamed that the President is from Texas”), Ricky decided that she had committed an act of treason. Many like-minded Republican country fans agreed, “How could she say that about our Dear Leader? So they formed mobs that smashed their CD’s in a similar fashion to the book burnings of Nazi Germany. Treason is punishable by death in this country. Does Natalie Maines deserve to die for that off the cuff comment?

It’s looking more and more like the German Fatherland in this country. Anyone can be named an enemy combatant without trail, and rendered to a secret prison and tortured for the rest of his or her life. If you would have told me 6 years ago that Habeus Corpus would be suspended, that the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th amendment of the Constitution would be broken, the Bill of Rights would be shredded, so that our houses could be searched without our knowing it, our phone conversations and online activity could be monitored, that we would attack a sovereign nation that didn’t attack us, and as a result 3000 Americans and 600,000 innocent people from that country would die, I would have said you were crazy. But everyday I wake up to this horrible reality, and I wonder where my country went.

Historians say this kind of thing happens almost in perceptively. It didn’t happen overnight. Most Americans didn’t even notice it, but now many are drawing eerie parallels to 1930’s Germany.

Milton Mayer was a Jewish American reporter from Chicago. He spent a year or two in Germany after the war, and interviewed ten average Germans. He really got inside their heads and wrote the book “They thought they were free” based on their stories. It chronicles in a very personal way, Germany’s slide toward fascism. Here are some excerpts. You can draw your own parallels to current day events in this country.

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security.”

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.”

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it - please try to believe me - unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted', that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures' that no 'patriotic German' could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.”

“Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing: and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something - but then it was too late."

“‘Yes,’ I said.’”

“‘You see,’ my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. 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. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.”

"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.”

“How is this to be avoided among ordinary men, even among educated ordinary men?” Mayer’s friend asked rhetorically.

He said, “Frankly, I don’t know.”

Here’s how. The Germans in the thirties did not have the benefit of looking back to previous Nazi-like regimes and saying, “Ah, oh! We’ve seen this movie before”.

We have that benefit. So when we see stories like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying, “Well, we have nuclear power now.” And Bush saying, “Well, we’re sending another fleet of aircraft carriers to park up alongside Iran” - at the same time Iran is talking about switching oil dollars into euros. Well, we’ve seen this movie before.

Last week, George Bush signed a bill allowing us to sell nuclear technology to India. Sending this fuel in the first place is like pouring gasoline on the fire of war that could spread worldwide. But Bush went a step further. He didn’t like the restrictions that Congress tried to place on India’s use of the stuff, so he attached a signing statement to the bill. Bush has now attached over 1000 signing statements to laws passed by congress. Most of our laws are meaningless now, because of these signing statements. Executive power increases out of control whenever a country is at war. We’ve seen this movie before.

When will we ever learn? We have the precedent of history, so we have no excuse. We also have a new Democratic congress with subpoena power to investigate how this happened, and who is responsible. Perhaps the new legislative branch can reign in the arrogant overreaching executive branch, which continues to threaten the world with more pre-emptive wars. Perhaps the 110th congress can also gradually undo the tremendous damage this administration has inflicted upon this country, but it will take generations to dig us out of the economic hole we find ourselves in. Facing a recession, George Bush’s solution is to encourage Americans to shop. He suggested that after 9/11, when we could have united the world behind us. Shopping didn’t work then, and it won’t work now, because Americans have a negative savings on the average, and spending beyond our means will simply put another nail in the coffin of the middle class, which has been attacked by every administration since Reagan.

Obviously, we cannot leave the politics up to the politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans. The power still belongs to the people somewhat, so we must start the parade, and the politicians will naturally jump in front of it and carry the baton. The ISG is correct. The situation is dire. Our President is ignoring the intervention. The dry drunk is threatening Iran. We are teetering on the brink of World War III. We must act, before it’s too late. Otherwise, like Pastor Niemoller, if we survive the “long war”, we will have to humbly tell the saga of the downfall of American Democracy and economy to our children, and how we stood still and did nothing to stop it.

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