Chew On This…

…Or Not

I thought I’d better start this post off with a snap of our boys (RIP Mikey) in their prime:

“Honey, get OFF the computer…he’s ranting about Republicans again!!”

Too bad. Y’know, it would be real easy to just not give two shits about politics, about what is happening around the globe; I don’t have kids and I’ll be worm food before you know it. Probably, like me, you are elderly and have fought the fight you’re gonna when you had the energy. But, if you’re under forty, you have the energy but also might be thinking that everything is A-Okay and you’ll always be able to do what you want, freedom is easy and cheap, ain’t nothing bad gonna happen here, or to me and mine.

But there are people in positions of power and influence that beg to differ. They’d like nothing better than to control your life, take all the money, make sure people of ‘color’ are squashed like bugs, and white folks get all the perks.

The words Nazi and Fascism are frequently bantered about these days which dilutes their meaning. People on the right use them as accusations against the left and people on the left toss them out just as freely toward the right.

Personally, I associate these words with white supremacy, the Ku Klux Klan, and Evangelical Christians. These groups have been active for years in this country and are not going away. And one guess who thinks these are ‘very fine people?’ That guy who is also not going away. And the Republican Party as a whole still stands behind the orange man who may well be elected again. The GOP (and like-minded individual and corporate sponsors) campaigns for, and spends billions, to elect candidates who still endorse Trump, think the election was rigged, and are just hunky-dory with the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and predatory activities that are not veiled in any form of secrecy.

To most Republicans, he is still the HEAD of the party; the party that wants to do away with your Social Security, your Medicare, to disenfranchise American voters of color by gerrymandering districts all across the country, who are anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-science, think that parents know what’s best for school curricula, is against all of the reforms that Democrats are trying to push through in the Senate (but take credit for the stuff that does get passed because, duh, people like it when shit gets done that’s FOR PEOPLE), climate-change deniers, on and on and on. I'm not sure that Republicans really believe that their budget cuts, tax heists, gay bashing, pro-gun absolutism, and the rest, are really the best course on which to steer the ship of state. They just know it frustrates people who actually give a shit, and that's all that matters.

The Republican Party chose a lying racist-fraudster, thrice-married (with children by each woman) sexual predator, flim-flam man as their standard bearer. And he and his ilk are dangerous to every man, woman, and child in this country.

And this is happening across the globe as well. Last night, Heather Cox Richardson wrote that “(Russian president Vladimir) Putin, (Hungary’s Viktor) Orbán, (Belarus’ President Alexander) Lukashenko, and others like them are advancing a very old version of society. They believe that a few men—white, Christian—should run the world and amass both wealth and power while the rest of us support them. While they attract voters with their cultural stands—attacking immigration and gay rights, for example—they have rigged elections, turned their economies over to cronies, and stifled the press. They have turned their nations from democracy to an authoritarianism that has been called “kleptocracy” or “soft fascism.”

So, with that off my chest, below is a series of conversations my friend Bruce Blackstone had with his mother who was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1921. These conversation took place roughly between 1973 and 1981. He also had a few similar conversations with his mother and her mother when they visited his grandmother and grandfather in Germany.

Bruce: So Mom, growing up in Nazi Germany, what did you, Oma and Opa (grandmother and grandfather) do about Hitler and the Nazi’s?
Mom: Well, once the Nazis were in power there was nothing one could do. If you spoke out you risked the possibility of being shot by the Gestapo, or getting sent to a concentration camp. And it wasn’t just you… they’d go after your friends and family.
Bruce: Did you, Oma and Opa know that the Nazi’s were going to be that terrible before Hitler came to power?
Mom: Well sort of, I guess. Anyone with any education or intelligence, or anyone who really cared to pay attention, knew that it would be very, very bad if they somehow managed to ever come to full power… but no one knew it would as bad as it was…
Bruce: So what did you guys do to prevent them from getting into power?
Mom: Oh, we supported the other political parties and we always voted in every election. We talked a lot about it with our friends and family… It wasn’t enough, but we didn’t know that at the time. We should have done more, I guess…
Bruce: So obviously all that you guys did…. didn’t work. You didn’t do enough.
Mom: Well we thought we were doing enough. The majority of Germans really didn’t like the Nazi’s and knew they were crazy. Besides, in the beginning, anyway, the Nazi’s were in the minority. No one really took them seriously. They were just a small bunch of crazy fanatics…
Bruce: So how did they get into power?
Mom: It’s all a bit complicated, actually. But basically it took the Nazi’s about 10 years. They started chipping away at things. The Nazi’s often seemed dull-witted, stupid… Most people didn’t take them seriously at first, and the Nazis were often made fun of. They lost a lot of elections and a lot of legal cases in the courts for years and years… But the Nazis were very, very serious. They were well organized and extremely zealous and determined. Once it really became obvious what this small group of people were about, it began bringing out some of the worst elements, the worst people, in a lot of our society, The Nazis began infiltrating the local police in small rural areas along with local rural judiciaries. They began recruiting thugs. The Nazis started out small. They were considered a fringe group. And then Hitler got appointed Chancellor of Germany because the dominating political powers thought they could control him, They saw Hitler as a fool, a crack pot… and… well he kind of was, actually… but others more intelligent and sophisticated than Hitler saw in him a way to gain power for themselves and eventually get power over Germany and within 6 months of Hitler coming to power Hitler’s henchman had managed to completely infiltrate the judiciary and the police all across Germany and that completely collapse German Democracy…. It seemed like it all happened overnight. Everyone was stunned and numb.
Bruce: Wow! But that could never happen here in America.
Mom: (Laughing weirdly) Oh, it could happen here. Those same elements exist in our society just as they did in Germany. We’ve seen similar things here already.
Bruce: No way. Like what?
Mom: McCarthyism, for one, The KKK for another, and then there are the evangelical Christians…
Bruce: Yeah, well everyone figured out McCarthy was full of it, and the KKK is only in the south. So what? And, as everyone knows the evangelicals are nuts and are all about money. Besides the vast majority of Americans are not like them…
Mom: So….these kinds of people tend to be very ruthless underneath their polite demeanors. They actually have little to no morals and they will stop at nothing to get what hey want, because they tend to feverishly believe certain things without question.
Bruce, do you remember what happened when you spent the weekend with your nephew and his church?
Bruce: Yeah…at first I felt deeply touched by the acceptance they had for me. That felt so good. I never experienced anything like that before, I wanted it all to be true, but when I started asking questions (they asked me if I had questions) their answers led to more of my questions, which then began to get met with this weird kind of anger, even though I kept insisting that I wasn’t looking for a fight, just answers…. It was all very weird and disturbing in the end. I don’t know what to make of it…
Mom: Yes, yes, yes…. Just like the Nazi’s!
Bruce: What the hell do you mean, “Just like the Nazi’s”? They were not Nazi’s. Did you personally know any Nazi’s back in Germany? We’re they like the evangelicals here?
Mom: Of course. Everyone knew Nazi’s. Especially after they came to power. Suddenly it seemed like half of everyone you knew was a Nazi. On average they were kind, good natured people, good neighbors and always willing to lend a hand. They just liked beating up and killing Jews and foreigners in their ‘spare time.’
Bruce: But I still don’t see how anything like this could happen in our country.
Mom: It would happen slowly at first. Not many people will notice or care. Then some little laws start changing, and then other laws, and then crazy people start getting elected to minor positions. And then these people start making more and more noise about patriotism, and blaming minorities and foreigners, and the press, for economic and other problems. They eventually start building momentum, and to appease them and their followers, concessions are made by the powers that be.
But the real trouble starts when what was once thought of as normal becomes abnormal, and what was once thought of as aberrant behavior become more and more commonplace. There could be a rise in street violence, tensions among people start to mount as everyone begins to distrust their neighbors. And what was once considered amoral behavior becomes moral, and what was once illegal becomes legal and visa-versa. Things start getting more and more confusing and surreal.
But the big thing to look for is either a dismissal of our Constitution, or huge changes being made to it. We never imagined these sorts of things could happen in Germany, but they did. I’ve seen enough here in America to know that, yes, something like the rise of the Nazi’s could very well happen here.

It took the Nazis several years to work their way to power that then changed everything about Germany, and all of Europe. It was slow going, just as the GOP has been decimating democracy since 1980. Slow change is barely noticed. What are we going to do about it?