Saturday, July 9, 2016

History on Repeat

As we look back on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, year after year, we're confronted with our past in a very uncomfortable way. The vicious dogs, the fire-hoses, the lynchings, the angry white faces frozen in hate as they scream into black faces. They're all there for us to see, dutifully documented by newspapers, and photographers. Everywhere we see pictures of who we were, to remind us of who we could become again if we aren't vigilant.

Unfortunately, the general attitude of today is that something like that could never happen again in this country, not without a fight. Recent events, however, are showing how easily we give up the rights that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans have fought and died for. The Acts of Sedition and The Patriot Act alone have made our entire revolution moot, and now we're beginning to see the real psychology of Americans in that we tend to fight hard FOR rights, and then allow them to be taken again with hardly a whimper. All it takes is a little fear.

It's a story as old as history itself, really. The most violent antisemitism, homophobia, and racism in general happens after a major economic downturn. In Germany it was after their defeat in WWI, that the Treaty of Versailles was signed and the value of the German currency tanked. This laid the path for the National Socialist party to take power. Even today in Greece there is an actual Nazi party called "Golden Dawn" that took over 30% of their parliament seats after the country's economy crashed. Their symbolism couldn't be closer to the swastika and their platform is similar to early 1930s National Socialism. And us? We've just had a major housing crisis that wrecked our economy for years, and here come the racists and fearmongers, right on schedule.

The need for an oppressed and downtrodden people to have a target for their aggression is well known to rulers and government officials, and has been for millennia. They wouldn't want the people to begin blaming THEM for their problems, so in comes a bit of misdirection. Who's spreading the plague across Europe? The Jews! Who's threatening the safety of our pilgrims? The Muslims! Who's slowing our progress west? The indians! Who's taking our jobs? The Irish! There's always a group to point to that the general public, given enough hardship and desperation, will blame and punish. All they need is a nudge in the right direction. Machiavelli said this in his book "The Prince" in 1532 and even recently we have this example:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

Once it starts, the people are almost always powerless to stop it. The rush of anger and fear from a swelling mass of people following a charismatic person who knows EXACTLY who is threatening their safety, their property, and their daughters is as quick as it is powerful. Think of a mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants with torches and then imagine that on the scale of an entire nation. Simply not wanting to be a part of such a movement, becomes a silent fear of that movement all too quickly as the window where you could actually fight it comes and goes before most people even realize what's going on.

Today, similarly, we have a man running for president who knows exactly who our enemies are. Who's taking our jobs? The Mexicans. Who's threatening our safety? The Muslims. His open racism, sexism, fascism, and a slew of other -isms would've been unheard of in politics not 10 years ago. Back then, the smallest indiscretion or mistake could do great harm to a campaign with Rick Perry losing all of his support when he drew a blank on a word, and Howard Dean doing the same after he got a little too excited at a rally.

Nobody knows why, but it could be eight years of a black president bringing up old ideas in the people who oppose him politically and just can't seem to beat him. They lose debate after debate with him, and eventually they run out of talking points and start hurling insults. In an era where everyone has an anonymity online that shelters them from real social judgement for the things they say, especially when ridicule of the president (the oldest of American pastimes) is acceptable, their attacks may not be entirely political, if at all. Compounded over 8 years time, and you see unapologetic racism because it's never been checked. The normal methods of shaming are no longer working because you can't shame a person who doesn't care what you think, at all, because they've never had to worry about what you think.

The "left", liberals, democrats, whatever you want to call his only political enemies seem powerless to do much of anything. For the last few years they've had this compulsion to single out individuals and destroy them over "microagressions" and publicly humiliate people who use a wrong word or have a momentary lapse in their political correctness. This is how the left fights political battles in the modern world. They'll take their attacks to the extreme of getting someone fired and ruining their lives, but the sad thing is, most of the people this happens to are good people who AREN'T racist, homophobic, or misogynist. They're just easy targets and taking them down makes people feel righteous and like they're enacting change.

When faced with the real deal, however, the left's "public shaming" has no teeth. The only people who care about being shamed, are people who care what you think about them. We've been eating ourselves and crying about being victims of words, thoughts, "rape culture" and all manner of things like that, all the while a man like Trump is unaffected by what destroys the innocent. You see, your real enemy doesn't care that you don't like him, and when you call everyone "racist", "homophobic", "misogynist", and "sexist" over minor transgressions, the words lose the punch they once had. That scientist who wore a shirt adorned with women in bikinis was "sexist", and so is Donald Trump, and so the title no longer matters.

So what are we to do? It could be too late already. The window to halt this movement, like others before it, is closing rapidly, and maybe THIS is what it felt like in 1938 as the people plotted "Kristallnacht".

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