Friday, December 30, 2016

Trump's America - Warnings from a Witness of the Past

With Donald Trump's inauguration roughly 3 weeks away, my sense of dread and foreboding seems to be intensifying.  America is headed towards a nightmare.  Yet, through this holiday season far too many people seem oblivious and more concerned about holiday party frivolity than what the future may bring.  It's happened before, of course.  In Italy in the 1920's, Germany in the 1930's and more recently in Russia where that nations fragile democracy was trans formed once again into a dictatorship under Vladimir Putin.  The Seattle Times has a column that sets out reasons to be concerned and why it's hard for me to say "Happy New Year" now since I doubt that 2017 ill be happy for many Americans or the world as Der Fuhrer takes power.  Saying "it cannot happen here" does nothing to prevent future horrors.  Only actively resisting and opposing the wave of white supremacy and would be fascism can prevent the worse from happening. Here are column excerpts:
Franz Wassermann is not the only person worried about his country. But he is among the few Americans who’ve seen a country upended by words and actions that most people didn’t take seriously, until it was too late.
“I was born in Munich, Germany, in 1920. I lived there during the rise of the Nazi Party and left for the U.S.A. in 1938. The elements of the Nazi regime were the suppression of dissent, the purging of the dissenters and undesirables, the persecution of communists, Jews and homosexuals and the ideal of the Arians as the master race. These policies started immediately after Hitler came to power, at first out of sight but escalated gradually leading to the Second World War and the holocaust. Meanwhile most Germans were lulled into complacency by all sorts of wonderful projects and benefits.”
He sees similarities in our country today, early warning signs of what could happen if people go along imagining that there is no real danger.
We can hope that our government of checks and balances will be more resistant than the Weimar Republic was. Don’t count on it.” - Franz Wassermann
In our time, he wrote, “The neo-Nazis and the KKK have become more prominent and get recognition in the press. We are all familiar with Trump’s remarks against all Muslims and all Mexicans. But there has not been anything as alarming as the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon has, apparently, made anti-Semitic remarks for years, has recently condemned Muslims and Jews and he and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the pick as National Security Adviser, advocate the political and cultural superiority of the white race. At the same time Trump is trying to control the press.”
Wassermann wrote that the entire Nazi ideology is in place and wonders how far it will go here. “We can hope that our government of checks and balances will be more resistant than the Weimar Republic was. Don’t count on it.”
Wassermann was 12 when Hitler came to power in 1933. He said the German economy had been in bad shape for a long time, and no one seemed to be able to do anything about it. The Nazis were the last party left to turn to.
The party negotiated a softening of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which punished Germany for World War I, and the party was praised for speeding up construction of the Autobahn highway system and creating the Volkswagen. The nation acquired new territory. Everything seemed wonderful, Wasserman said. But it wasn’t.
Wassermann kept all the letters that crossed between family in Germany and America in those years and translated them into English so that they could be a record of what happened. Actors read from the letters in two performances this year in Seattle.
And now he is reaching out in this letter of warning, which concluded with a plea:
“We have to counter this trend toward fascism in every way we can. Being alert to all manifestations in word and action. Alerting our representatives and urging them to act. Writing to newspapers. Making our friends aware. Demonstrating when appropriate.”
Could our democracy be subverted in some way similar to what happened in Germany? Only someone who doesn’t know history would say it absolutely couldn’t happen. We are responsible for protecting our democracy, which means recognizing danger signs and challenging ideas and actions that violate the ideals we claim as our own. “I didn’t see it coming” is no longer an excuse.

I am very afraid of what America's future will hold and what my children and grandchildren may face.  Far too many - including "friends" who voted for Trump - have their eyes closed and, if they don't open them, will be claiming in later years "I didn't see it coming" even though all the warning signs were there in plain sight.  Silence and inaction equal complicity.

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