Tag Archives: Hitler

Is a Non-Violent Solution to Trump Feasible?

Another outrage, another march. This time – Families Together. I marched again, from Foley Square in Lower Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge (yes, that one).  We dispersed quietly on the other side of the bridge and took the subway home.

The closest I can come to describing the feel of it is that it was like sitting through a baseball game in August, losing 1-0 at the end and slinking out of the stadium, exhausted and enervated by the heat and the futility and the sense of loss. The crowd was in a mixed mood, with the usual chanting but also some anger in the tone. At the same time everyone was buoyed up, cheering loudly, when cars would pass on the adjacent roadway, horns blasting and fists pumping out of windows in solidarity with the marchers. One or two gave us the finger; favor returned.

More to the point, at one spot on the bridge a young man was handing out slips of paper headed “STOP I.C.E. DEPORTATIONS,” The paper went on, “Starting now, we will be occupying space and interfering with deportations, not with court hearings or release of immigrants.” It includes the hashtag #OccupyICENYC,” among others. The Instagram account of that name, like many other social media sites, is a verbal battleground between those who see ICE as a military-type deportation force “following orders” from the Great Leader (recalling Nazi Germany) and people who appear to be terrified that the United States is being overrun by crazed hordes of lawbreakers and who support most forms of abuse of “lawbreakers,” regardless of their personal situation (fleeing MS-13, for example). Passions over these issues are running high and seem to be escalating as the “Abolish ICE” theme gained a foothold among the protesters and became a major point of counterattack by Trump’s supporters.

I was reminded of a scene from the late 1960s, during one of the largest of the protest marches against the Vietnam War. We were moving along on the National Mall, tens of thousands strong, when there appeared a small group of rough looking young men carrying Viet Cong flags and screaming at the protesters as they ran by “you’ll never end the war that way – come with us!”

The effort to recruit the protesters in a more aggressive posture failed at the time, although throughout the war protest period there were major incidents of violence inspired by the hatred and fear of what the United States was doing in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. For the most part the protesters believed that peaceful resistance was, in the long run, the only effective means of pressuring the government to change course. The conflict and passions ran deep, dividing families, neighbors and congregations.

In the end, the protests, I believe, had a lot to do with changing the “public mind” about the war, helped along by journalists who risked, and sometimes gave, their lives to reveal the lies the government was telling about body counts, strategy and pretty much everything about the war. In the end, the U.S. “strategy” became untenable. The United States, for the first time, was defeated.

The Trump administration, like the Nixon one, has the strong support of perhaps 30 to 40 percent of the voting population. Those people appear not to care that the President of the United States is a serial liar, corrupt to the core. He continues to feed on their ignorance. As Trump and his enablers in Congress and state governments work to strip social and economic support from the population while, like Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, continuing to enrich themselves, Trump’s supporters stick with him because of single issues that are at the core of their belief-systems. Issues like abortion. They are so sure that it is right for the government to intervene in the personal lives of women that they will accept any form of degradation to roll back the right to abortion. Their anger, fear and ignorance are so profound that they do not grasp the significance of the changes Trump is making to our government.

Trump, with his enablers at Fox News, Breitbart and other right-wing fantasy-news shows, continues to escalate the rhetoric, conspiracy theories and outright lies. His tweets are more personal and strident than ever. He attacks and threatens American companies that react unfavorably to his trade policies. He directly threatens long-standing U.S. allies with “you will do as I want or else.” I don’t believe any other president in American history has behaved this way. It sounds more like Adolf Hitler demonizing segments of German society than an elected leader of a democracy.

In discussions with conservative friends over the years, I have asked a hard question but never received a good response: how long do you suppose the American underclasses are going to accept the tilting of the economic and political system against them before they say “enough” and rise to challenge those who are oppressing them? No one seemed ever to believe such a thing is possible here in the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave.

The usual response was a form of whataboutism that I did not recognize as such at the time: if you work hard, you can get ahead; if not, too bad. My family came here legally so why should we let people who came here illegally become citizens? It’s our country — love it or leave it. And so on. Similar responses to those from Trump supporters. Don’t care what is happening to “them;” they’re not “us,” so to hell with them. Beneath Trump’s adoring masses are racism and xenophobia that we, foolishly, thought had finally been vanquished when Barack Obama was twice elected President.

Let me be clear that I do not believe violence is a workable response to the Trump despotism. My concern is that as Trump’s moral depravity, selfishness and egomania continue to degrade political discourse and threaten democratic institutions, including the right to equal counting of votes in elections, while he conspires with foreign powers hostile to the American way of life, we are going to cross a line of intolerance from which violent responses will seem to many the only viable response remaining. People in the right-wing already are talking of violent responses to any attempt to remove Trump from office, regardless of the evidence against him. ICE is arresting protesters, including elected officials, for purported interference with its deportation program that has, with direction and overt approval from the highest stations in the Trump administration, ripped apart families and shredded the oath of office he took to support the Constitution. Trump has overtly called for government coercive actions against people that will bypass the court system and ignore the clear mandates of the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.

Trump’s history as a corporate mogul is well documented. His behavior has been that of a bully who ordered underlings around at his whim, cheated many people and bankrupted many companies. It is therefore hardly surprising that a man who does not read, has no patience with facts that complicate his personal advancement and who has behaved with astonishing cruelty toward disabled people, women and non-whites, citizen and non-citizen alike, would behave like an ignorant bully in public life, catering only to those who show total obeisance to him. It seems entirely plausible that such a person would stop at nothing, including conspiring with enemies of the United States, to achieve his personal ambitions. It has happened elsewhere, and as many thoughtful scholars have documented, it can happen here.

As Trump’s conduct continues to degrade the office of the President, to undermine relations with important foreign allies, and to threaten the ability of the American political system to hold him accountable, the question lingers:  how long will this go on before desperation takes hold and desperate measures are taken? Even the Women’s March is growing impatient, as shown by this tweet: “Like we’ve been saying: marching is not enough. It’s time for direct action. It’s time to disobey. #WomenDisobey” The tweet referenced an opinion piece in the Guardian to the same effect. https://bit.ly/2KNvN3D

There is no clear answer to my question, I suppose. The question is, as it has always been, too hard. I believe that there is one, and probably only one, ray of hope that can forestall our descent into violent resistance: the elections of 2018. If you have read my posts before, you have no doubt seen my pleas regarding the importance of getting out the vote. As I reflect on our troubled past as a nation, not perfect but far from the worst, it seems to me that the election, the precious irreplaceable right, and obligation, to vote is the only path to salvation as a free democratic country.

In practice, however, it is not enough to just vote. The Trumpers are alarmed and engaged about the threat to their hero and they will be aggressive in voting too. And, of course, there are the numerous, documented cases in which legitimate voters have been rejected for various reasons at polling places around the country, particularly in red states. What is needed, I suggest, is for every voter in contestable precincts to take responsibility to (1) have all eligible members of the family registered to vote in November, (2) create an ironclad plan for how the family will get to the polls, and (3) identify one or more other people who may need help getting to the polls or actually voting and do what is necessary to get them there. Your country, your freedom is at stake here. One-party control of the government must be ended and this is the only way to do it.

For those interested, I have posted photographs from the New York City Families Together March in a separate post below this one.

Visiting the Holocaust Museum

For years, I have resisted visiting this museum, in part because I had read many books detailing the history of the Nazi takeover of Germany and its aftermath and, in part, because I knew how jarring it would be. When my wife announced Sunday morning that she had acquired time-entry tickets for that afternoon, I relented.

The museum is indeed a jarring experience. The faces of the visitors, many quite young and many very old, tell the tale. Seeing the photographs and films while hearing the voices of the men and women who perpetrated the most monstrous genocide in world history is not for the light-of-heart. The cruelty of it cannot be described; it has to be seen. Even then, it sometimes does not register because it is so alien to how normal human beings see other human beings.

There are many lessons to be taken away from the experience of the Nazis in Germany. I won’t pretend to be competent to state them all. Others have done so in words more memorable than anything I can offer. But I can, I think, draw one observation that, for me, was the dominant idea and the dominant sensation that impressed itself on me as I passed through the origins, the implementation and the end results of the Nazi worldview. This sensation does not diminish the horror and the outrage of the Holocaust in any way, but aside from profound revulsion at what was done in the name of racial purity, there is a practical lesson that has immediate relevance to the United States and indeed the entire world.

I am speaking of complicity. Understated somewhat in the museum displays is the historical reality that much of the world, and in particular and notably the United States, turned its back on the Jewish refugees who were trying to escape the Holocaust spreading across Europe in the 1930s. And there is the historical reality of appeasement, the belief that by giving Hitler some of what he wanted, he would stop the ruthless expansion toward world domination that he so clearly stated was his ultimate desire. Intelligent people concluded that another war with Germany was to be avoided no matter what, that Hitler could be sated with a few more pieces of territory, a few more subjugated populations. The world largely stood by and watched Germany roll over much of Europe. Citizens of some of the victim countries actually welcomed the Nazi invasion. By the time the United States actively intervened, it was almost too late. Millions died, millions, while governments around the world failed to act.

Now let us turn to the present. I have written about this before. See http://bit.ly/2qoDaYE. Visiting the museum brings the message into sharp focus. Many of the same tactics used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party are routinely employed by the President Trump, his acolytes in the White House and his appointees in the major Executive Department agencies. Trump’s attempts to delegitimize the independent media, calling them the “enemies of the people” are right out of Hitler’s playbook. That may seem harsh or over-wrought but the history is there to be seen. Holocaust-deniers are just like climate science-deniers in their capacity to block the truth in favor of more satisfying mythologies.

I won’t belabor this. I don’t know that Trump plans to replace the Constitution, but then again, we have seen him refer to it as “archaic” and “really bad for the country.” He has railed at the courts for decisions he opposed and generally appears to see the Constitution as an unjustified obstacle to his political agenda. He has many apologists who are quick to respond that “he really didn’t mean that” or “he is just frustrated; pay attention to his actions, not his words.”

But his words are his actions. Many people said the same things about Adolf Hitler’s words. Then they saw his actions and remained silent or joined the Nazi bandwagon.

The real point is that people of good will who value their freedom must not be complicit in Trump’s undermining of American institutions such as the free press. Silence is complicity as much as active cooperation. Both silence and active cooperation made Hitler’s rise to power possible. They have the same effect in our time. It is the moral responsibility of every person who believes in the ideals of the American way of life as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the invitation inscribed on the Statue of Liberty to actively resist the Trump administration’s cynical effort to undermine those ideals.

You can do this by subscribing to the information sources at MoveOn.org, ACLU.org, Indivisible.US, PeoplePower.org, Dailykos.com, TakeCareBlog.com or any of the other major authenticated sources of real information about what the Trump administration is doing to undermine the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the freedoms you enjoy as an American. Sign the petitions, participate in the marches, stand up and fight back! If you know someone who voted for Trump, reach out to them and politely, without judgment or acrimony, try to reason with them using the facts and truths that are readily available. And then VOTE in 2018. There is no other way. Do not be complicit by your silence and your inaction.

As you leave the Holocaust Museum, you pass a wall inscribed with these words of Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor who openly opposed Hitler and spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Nothing more to say.

Black Friday Redux

I thought “Black Friday” was a day, immediately after giving thanks for all our advantages, when we were supposed to go collectively insane and buy everything in and out of sight because it was cheap because it was Black Friday which is always right after Thanksgiving….

Then, this past Friday, yesterday, I opened the Washington Post to the headline that President-elect Trump (hereafter just “Trump”) has chosen a general with the nickname “Mad Dog” to be Secretary of Defense. In case you missed it, the paper also reported that Trump has threatened U.S. companies with “consequences” for moving jobs offshore, details to come later. Meanwhile, back in Washington (aka the Nation’s Capitol, hereafter the NC), it was revealed that “rogue employees” of the NC’s Metro system have been falsifying reports regarding safety conditions for at least a year, placing thousands of daily commuters at risk for another fatal derailment. Management didn’t know. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Hou­­se Democrats are upset that Trump won’t explain how he will prevent conflicts of interest and violation of his lease for the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania avenue once he becomes the actual President.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Post reports, thousands of protesters are marching in the streets about charges of corruption involving Prime Minister Sharif, whom Trump just days ago called on the phone, without, it appears, consulting anyone at the State Department or other U.S. agency with expertise regarding Pakistan, and whom Trump then declared was “fantastic,” according to a Pakistani transcript. Trump has not denied the adulation he heaped upon Sharif.

Meanwhile, back in the NC, Trump was reported to have picked former high-ranking officers of Goldman Sachs to manage the key financial agencies of the federal government. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the news, on Wednesday of this week, Ms. Scottie Hughes, known for her role as surrogate for Trump declared, on The DIane Rehm Show, that “facts” are no longer a … fact:

“… on one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other hand, there are many people that go, “no, it’s true.’ And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch, is that people that say facts are facts—they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way – it’s kind of like looking at ratings, or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” [emphasis added by ShiningSeaUSA.com]

Black Friday déjà vu all over again. No more facts. Imagine. A report for The Atlantic said Ms. Hughes stated later in the interview that she was a “classically studied journalist,” which may explain her position on “facts.” It was, in fact (sorry, couldn’t help myself), none other than Friedrich Nietzsche, writing in the 1880’s, who first said there were no facts, only interpretations. Ms. Hughes should be more forthcoming about her sources when she throws out lines denying the existence of facts.

Nietzsche also said:

 “[D]eception, flattering, lying and cheating, talking behind the back, posing, living in borrowed splendor, being masked, the disguise of convention, acting a role before others and before oneself—in short, the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity is so much the rule and the law that almost nothing is more incomprehensible than how an honest and pure urge for truth could have arisen among men. They are deeply immersed in illusions and dream images; their eye only glides only over the surface of things … their feeling nowhere leads into truth, but contents itself with the reception of stimuli, playing, as it were, a game of blind man’s bluff ….”

On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense,  1873, reproduced at      http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/modules/Philosophers/Nietzsche/Truth_and_Lie_in_an_Extra-Moral_Sense.htm

Perhaps this is the root explanation for Trump’s popularity even among people who acknowledge that he is a remorseless liar. That, I suppose, would be a matter of interpretation whether you believe Nietzsche or not. I don’t pretend to have the answer. I am still trying to absorb Friday’s major news items, another Black Friday in what promises to be a long line of them. Buckle up.

It also occurs to me that if you were among the long-suffering college students who took philosophy and always wondered why, this latest skirmish about the meaning of reality may be the answer. People like Nietzsche sometimes come out of nowhere to explain, or at least give context to, the otherwise inexplicable. It helps to have at least heard of him, as Ms. Hughes would no doubt verify, but only, of course, as her “interpretation,” not as fact. For in her world, and in the world of our new Chief Executive, “the truth is whatever I say it is.” Hitler and Stalin would approve.