Wednesday, December 04, 2002

This is an interesting article that was forwarded to me by a friend online. I don't agree with 100% of what she says, or how she says it - but it does come close, and it does raise some interesting points to think about.

> In The Mainstream
> By: Pamela Troy - 12/02/02
> Near the middle of the twentieth century, a war was fought
> that was so shattering in terms of destruction, horror, and
> sheer human loss, that much of the history of that century is
> seen as either leading to or springing from that time. Those
> few years of Hitler's Third Reich offered a glimpse of what
> crimes a supposedly civilized western society is capable when
> citizens willingly relinquish the safeguards of an open society.
> And if I am to judge from much of the commentary I've been
> reading recently, what we have gleaned from this object
> lesson in tyranny is that it is the height of gaucherie to
> draw on it as an analogy unless the parties involved are
> guilty of outright genocide.
> Moderate and conservative writers react to any comparison
> with the Third Reich so violently that you can almost see
> their hands jerking up to cover their ears. And even many of
> those liberal writers who have finally gotten around to
> noticing some of the obvious parallels between the rise of
> the Nazi state and what is happening in this country today
> tend to preface their comments with an
> "I-don't-want-to-overuse-the-term-fascism" apology.
> To hear them tell it, twenty years ago the "f" word was being
> invoked in every critique of Reagan and Bush senior and
> hearings were being held with liberal senators sternly asking
> conservatives, "are you now or have you ever been a member of
> a fascist organization?"
> This is, of course, nonsense. The term "fascist" has not been
> abused to the point where it's lost its usefulness, and to
> avoid drawing comparisons with the most obvious example of
> the rise of a repressive society in the past hundred years is
> self-defeating. The Third Reich offers too rich a mine of
> information about how a formerly open and tolerant nation can
> descend into tyranny. Are we really prepared to claim that
> the only understanding gained from what happened in Germany
> 60 years ago can be summed up in the sentence, "Mass murder is bad?"
> We seem to have forgotten one of the primary lessons from
> that era, a lesson that was so powerful that in the three
> decades following the war, it was generally presented as the
> simple question, "How could it happen?" How could a
> civilized, modern society institutionalize mass murder? How
> could ordinary people watch their neighbors and friends being
> arrested, disenfranchised, driven from public life and
> stripped of their possessions, and remain silent, even
> supportive of such actions? How could they throw away their
> ability to hold their government accountable? The lesson lies
> in the answer, one that is so obvious that at one time, it
> hardly needed to be repeated.
> The answer is quite simple. "It happened." And it happened
> because repressive governments succeed by making repression
> normal and callousness an acceptable part of mainstream life
> and discourse.
> It is a sad fact that many people equate mass consensus with
> morality. Ask them as individuals and they will deny it, of
> course, but an examination of public discussion these days
> shows the power of the crowd. The term "mainstream" has
> become a soothing mantra used to dismiss concerns about the
> rise of hatred and intimidation towards those perceived as
> enemies of the current administration. Do threats predictably
> increase towards politicians and their families in the wake
> of inflammatory rhetoric by a prominent conservative pundit?
> It's all right. The pundit is "mainstream." Does a
> commentator accuse those who disagree with her of treason and
> imply threats of violence against them? It's all right. She's
> mainstream too. And if conservative spokesmen incite hate
> mail, angry crowds, threats against Democratic leaders and
> their families, well, what of it? Politics is a tough game.
> Such things should be shrugged off as ordinary because now
> they are ordinary. They are mainstream.
> Observe how smoothly, how blandly gross cutbacks in civil
> liberties are being presented as if they were barely even
> news at all, nothing that need concern the average citizen.
> The right to confer with a lawyer in private is gone,
> vanished with barely an arch of an eyebrow from the press.
> The president can declare an American citizen an enemy
> combatant and have him or her imprisoned indefinitely, with
> neither a lawyer nor a hearing, and there's hardly a ripple
> in the body politic. It's accepted as normal. Oh, there might
> be occasional rumbles from moderates. The words "troubling"
> or "disturbing" are trotted out, but nothing that's likely
> rock the boat. To use stronger terms is to risk putting
> oneself outside of the mainstream, and thereby becoming negligible.
> Bush does not need to be Hitler, nor does the United States
> need to descend into the same level of mass murder to warrant
> comparison with the rise of The Third Reich. The genocidal
> policies of Hitler's Germany are an illustration of how far a
> repressive society can go, but those policies should not and
> must not be used as the primary yardstick for judging a
> society repressive and inhumane.
> The most important lesson of the Second World War for 21st
> Century Americans cannot be found in the photographs of
> released concentration camp victims, the stacks of emaciated
> bodies, the lines of naked people waiting to enter the gas
> chambers. It can be found instead in a picture taken in 1938
> Vienna. Nobody is being shot, or beaten, there are no dead
> bodies, no blood. Jews are simply crouched on a pavement,
> forced by local Nazis to scrub the streets. The crowd that
> has gathered to watch is well dressed and civilized in
> appearance. Many of the people in it are smiling, plainly
> amused by the sight.
> But it's all right. Those smiling people in the crowd are,
> after all, well buffered by other smiling people standing
> around them. If any of them feels a twinge of doubt, all they
> have to do was look around and quickly be reassured.
> They are in the mainstream.
> Pamela Troy is a contributing writer for Liberal Slant
> 2002-2001-2000-1999-1998
> LIBERAL SLANT Web Publications.
> All rights reserved.
> Send this article to a friend.

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