Back in 1938, the German people were sick and tired of being sick and tired. They had had their traditional monarchical government forcibly removed and replaced with what appeared to them to be an impractical, inefficient, and cumbersome joke: the Weimar Republic. They had endured the Great Depression and economically stifling war reparations payments. They had also listened for years to the rhetoric of politicians who pledged to end the republic and bring back the glory days of Germany.
Soon, an Austrian with some rather extreme ideas would take hold of the German chancellorship and turn the built-up rage of the German people to accomplish the unimaginable. The truth is that it could have been anyone with a gift for public speaking. The rage of the Germans could have been turned to almost anything, but it wasn’t. The situation and the time combined to make it possible to victmize an entire people, while the world looked on.
The United States has endured a great deal over the last 40 years. We were tired of Viet Nam and of being held up at the gas pump, having our consulate occupied in Iran, and generally not having the respect of the rest of the world back in 1984 when we elected Ronald Reagan president. We had become sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Reagan, who also had a gift for public speaking, had some rather extreme ideas about how to run the government, which included running it out of town, shutting it down, and basically abolishing the parts of it that were not of personal benefit to himself and his friends, the idle rich class. Reagan went to work on undoing every bit of domestic policy of the previous 25 years that benefited ordinary people. His tactics were more or less transparent: appointing people whose interests were inimical to the departments they were to lead, cutting funding for schools and nutrition programs and the infamous “trickle-down” economic theory, which posited that cutting taxes for the rich would benefit the poor by stimulating business and creating jobs.
Reagan had a cadre of followers who believed fervently that he had the right idea, much in the same way that Adolf Hitler’s followers did, but after Reagan was no longer in public life, his followers continued to put his ideas into practice. Former House Speaker Tom DeLay has said publicly many times that it was his plan to abolish government. It sounds extreme, but taken together,the actions of the conservatives in power are clearly aimed at exactly that.
Hitler needed help to get ans stay in power, so his cronies organized a crew of ruffians, the S.A., or brownshirts, whose mission it was to disrupt the other parties’ meetings. The brownshirts were murderous and ruthless. Hitler was often heard to say that “terror is salutary.” Arguably, our government agrees with him.
Once Hitler came to power, he set about doing everything he had always said he would do, and to do so within the law. The promises he made included abolishing the republic and returning Germany to its former glory. They also included ridding Germany of its scapegoat group, the Jews.
So far, the United States has followed the pattern of pre-World-War II Germany with minor variations. We have found our situation intolerable and followed leaders who promised to abolish the alleged sources of our discomfort and return us to glory. We have experienced the “threat of terrorism” and have been induced to support an open-ended war against an ambiguous enemy, which is beginning to look like an expeditionary conquest.
Like the Germans, we have been given “reasonable” grounds for our foreign policy and bombarded with propaganda (now called spin) that aims to garner support for government policy. Like the Germans, our civil liberties have been curtailed. Now, also like the Germans, we have been given a scapegoat group, the illegal immigrants, on whom to focus our collective rage.
The question remains of whether or not we are willing to continue to follow the path the Germans took in the first half of the Twentieth Century to full-blown genocide. We lack only the right leader.