You’re Alive Now, and You Are ‘There’ Now

Posted: January 29, 2017 in News, Politics

if-you-had-been

Okay, now that I have your attention…

Edit: Additional: 2/16/2017 – When I wrote this last month, it was on the heels of the Trump administration coining the term “alternative facts” to describe their lies, promising to promote alternative facts to combat media reporting they didn’t like, and the beginning of Trump’s war on reality and facts. This was after a campaign largely built in part around fomenting hatred towards various ethnic and religious groups. I didn’t actually see Trump as a Hitler then, and, truth be told, I still don’t now.

But the last week has changed things a bit.

Trump and his people have gone beyond just warring against the press and reality. Trump has also launched attacks at US intelligence agencies and our court system. We were also told the following by one of Trump’s closest advisors.

“Our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned”

Think about that. The administration in office sent someone out to say that their power, their actions, WILL NOT be questioned by you, me, the media, their political opposition, or even the Constitutional systems put in place by our Founding Fathers to ensure checks and balances on executive power. And Trump has let that statement stand.

Today, Trump spoke directly about going after the press, about doing something about coverage of his Presidency that he does not like. This is a continuation of his comments as a candidate where he made clear he would go after media entities- that he would use the power of the Presidency to attack and hurt media outlets –if he didn’t like how they were covering him.

This is on the heels of conservatives and Republicans who support Trump saying that the courts can’t tell him what he cannot do and initially insisting that they could just keep on doing what they wanted to do with regards to Trump’s ban despite the rulings of multiple courts. This is itself following the pattern we saw a few years ago when elected Republicans stated that the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage didn’t matter if they didn’t like it and wanted to ignore it. They made the laws after all, and if they could ignore checks and balances if they so chose to do so. That itself follows the pattern of many conservatives- and even elected Republicans – over the last several years saying that court rulings they didn’t like were somehow not really valid. But the saving grace then, and the thing that’s changed now, is that they did not own all three branches of the government then and the President in office at that time was not an emotionally and mentally stunted man-child who had expressed over the years admiration for the strength displayed by dictators who crushed their own people.

We are truly approaching a turning point moment in the history of this country. It’s a turning point moment not dissimilar to those that have occurred in other countries over the decades and centuries. Whether we make the correct turn or allow our country to go down a darker road is entirely up to us.

How dark of a road? As I say in the original piece below, I don’t believe Trump could rise to the level of a Hitler. I’d like to believe that in our country we would never allow ourselves to go down a path that dark. Of course, I also believed we would never elect someone as ill-informed, dangerously unprepared, and disastrously reckless as Donald Trump to the Presidency. But just because the likelihood of following that dark of a historical path is unlikely, it does not insure that we cannot follow other paths- including ones we’ve walked before.

I’ve watched in absolute dumbstruck wonder over the last ten to fifteen years as members of the conservative movement, conservative punditry, elected Republicans, and then the Tea Party embraced the philosophies of Ayn Rand. I have watched in absolute horror as many of the same people defended and tried to rationalize and justify the actions of Joe McCarthy and, even more terrifyingly, the American internment camps used to imprison the Japanese- American citizens of Japanese descent -during WWII for no crime other than looking like the people who bombed us. Some of them have even taken it a step further by suggesting that we could do something like that again to some other group today if we wanted to.

That might not be as troubling in some other years, but many of these people- as well as others who have advocated doing today in this country far worse -are now diehard Trump supporters. Worse still, some of them have both Trump’s ears and his praise.

The ears and praise of Donald J. Trump- a man who just sent out a top advisor to inform the world that we will all learn that Trump’s power will not be questioned, and who just himself declared an intent to start attacking the free press in this country if it does not start catering to his desires for glowing coverage.

It’s no longer a theoretical. It’s not a matter of saying, “If I had been alive back then, if I had been there…”

We are unfortunately very much alive now and very much on the edge of being there right now.

———————————————————–

First, let me say up front that I am not saying that Trump is Hitler, nor am I making a direct comparison between the two. Not yet at least. What I am pointing to is a moment in time.

There have been any number of examples in history of demagogues rising to power and assuming power in a country by preaching a message of hate, fear, division, and anger. They rallied the angry- and often the poorly educated -and told them that “those people” were the cause of all of their problems and the reason they had to live in fear. The people who were scapegoated by the political and social leaders were foreigners, religious minorities in the country, and anyone who looked different than the majority of the citizens.  

Very often in history, it is actually only a vocal, fiercely active minority of the country that initially supports such demagogues. The problem has always been that many others stood silent, stood inactive, as the demagogues built up their power and began converting others to follow them. Sometimes this has taken the form of “keeping the country safe” by slowly removing and disenfranchising those who might stand in their way and/or by claiming fraud in the processes of electing government in order to suppress the will of those in that society who would not side with the demagogues and their parties.

Some form of a litmus tests also becomes popular. If you fail it, if you’re not the right religion, the right sexual orientation, the right political party; you are deemed not a “real” countryman or patriot. What’s more, you are propagandized into being the threat that the demagogue says the “real” countrymen and patriots need to be afraid of. 

That fear and anger usually leads to a very bad, very dark chapter in a county’s history. 

I use the image above for two reasons.

Reason #1- It gets attention. It gets attention for very specific reason. That would be…

Reason #2- In my lifetime and in the lifetimes of most the people I know, there is one chapter in human history that is the example of these things spoken of and discussed more than any other. It is the one chapter that everyone will instantly recognize without confusion. That is of course Nazi Germany.

When discussed, three things are often asked.

“How did it happen?”

“Why did the people let it happen?”

“It couldn’t happen here, could it?”

This is often followed by a deceleration from many that it wouldn’t happen- that it couldn’t happen -now or here because we aren’t like the people that let it happen there and back then. If only, they will tell you, they had been alive, if only they had been there back when…

Here’s the nasty secret of history. Most of the people that “let it happen” back then aren’t that different from the majority of the people alive in the here and now. People then, now, and everywhere tell themselves that it’s not what it looks like, it’s not happening here, and then, when it’s almost too late, that it’s not happening to them or to the people they care about. 

Trump is not a Hitler; certainly not yet. The odds are that he will never be a Hitler, because the odds are that even in Trump’s America the people will not tolerate the scale and scope of the atrocities seen in Hitler’s Germany. But we are standing at a turning point in our country’s history. We are standing on the edge of a very crucial turning point moment where our actions will either lift us up and back towards what we should be, or we will descend into a very dark chapter in our history. 

We have seen the rise of an administration that is at war not merely with the press, but with facts and reality. The very morning that I am writing this, one of the President’s top advisers and most frequently used mouthpieces sat on a national news program and asked when reporters would be punished and fired for what the administration viewed as negative coverage of the President. This is the same person who seven days earlier declared that covering the President’s falsehoods as falsehoods would force them to reevaluate the administration’s relationship with the press and make them have to put “alternative facts” out to counter the coverage. 

We have seen the election to the Presidency of a man who may be a pathological liar, but now seems more likely simply someone who is incapable of understanding and recognizing the difference between the truth he dislikes and the lie he cherishes. As a result, he believes the “reporting” of people like Alex Jones while condemning factual journalism that isn’t to his liking.

This very weekend we’ve watched as the combination of those who are heartless and those who are incompetent in his administration created one of the biggest clusters we’ve seen in some time; not to mention the backing issue of a litmus test that is a reflection of the darkest chapters of the history of other countries. 

If you have ever said things would have been different if you had been alive and if you had been “there” at some point in history; now’s your chance. As of right now, it is becoming abundantly clear that we are there now. Time to put your money where your mouth is.

Let’s also be clear on this point. 

This is not a call to violence of any form, and it should not be interpreted by anyone as such.

I spent the better part of the last eight years condemning Tea Party idiots who advocated storming the White House and lynching Obama. I spent the better part of the last eight years condemning Tea Party idiots- both regular voters and elected officials -who declared that if they didn’t get their way at the ballot box they could always turn to the bullet box as an option and openly discussed 2nd Amendment remedies on national television. I spent the better part of the last eight years condemning Tea Party idiots- both regular voters and elected officials -who stated that violence was an option they weren’t willing to take off of the table. I spent the better part of the last few years condemning Fox News and elected Tea Party politicians for holding up as heroes and true patriots the criminals of the Bundy Ranch even as they were pointing guns at the heads of federal officials and later swearing they would kill and die as they took over a federal building in an armed occupation.

We are not at the stage where violence is called for. We’re not even near it. We are at the stage where people must stand, they must be heard, they must become visibly active, and when the time comes they have to get up off of their asses and vote.

Walking down the street now while carrying a sign is nice. I won’t knock it because it makes it clear that opposition is there and that it has a voice. But if that’s all you do, you’re useless.

The way to keep from going into darker times here and now is to be active and to be there when it matters. Get involved. Make a point of getting out and voting first on the local level, then the state level, and then on the national level. It also has to be done more than once.

Get involved locally. Find a candidate who will fight this and support them. Volunteer your time. Do what you can to help them get into the places we need them to be to help us.

Just as important- Stand up when the little proto-fascists out there decide that they’re going to attack someone because they’re Muslim, Hispanic, or [fill in the blank that they don’t like] because they think it’s they’re time again. Don’t initiate violence, if at all possible just try to use presence as a way to make them back down and leave their target alone. I can tell you from experience- including actual experience with this in the last few months -that they are cowards and will slink away the minute they cannot outnumber their target two or three to one. But be aware that they may still get violent.

The way to keep from going into darker times here and now is to build the resistance from the ground up. It must start now.

 

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