Tuesday, May 3


I was just discussing with a friend the parallels between pre-WWII Nazi Germany and what is happening in the U.S. today, then came back and discovered this article on the same subject.

The author lays out the following correlations:

(1) Exceptionality. "Nazi ideology grew out of Germans’ belief that their country was uniquely privileged because it was uniquely valuable. This made them an exception to rules and norms. The average “Proud to Be an American” bumper-sticker-buyer believes the same thing. (I’m still waiting for some churchgoing patriot to notice that being born American is a gift of grace and to begin marketing “Humble to be an American” decals.) A belief in your country’s exceptionality takes you way out beyond the warm self-appreciation of patriotism; in naming your heritage “exceptional,” you cut your ties to the family of nations and set yourself above the rules. Our belief in our own exceptionality erodes the walls that hold back human greed, fear of otherness, and violence. Exceptionality makes the unthinkable possible, even reasonable."

(2) Science, lifestyle and the arts. "In physics as in lifestyle and the arts, Germany and the United States both saw a great questioning of old values, limits, and presuppositions of all kinds—followed by an iron backswing of the pendulum rushing to shut down all the openness, answer all the questions, replace uncertainty with certainty, and relativism with absolutes. Does our anxiety in the face of uncertainty and relativity drive us to cook up fake certainties, like which language is better, who is going to Hell, who must live, and who should die? Did Germany, and will the United States, overcompensate for being uncertain like Napoleon did for being short? "

(3) Victimization. "Another family resemblance between Germany of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s and the Righteous Right of today is the feeling that somebody done us wrong. For Germany, the sense of being aggrieved was related to the famously vindictive Treaty of Versailles that settled the overt hostilities of World War I but left Germans with smoldering bitterness against what they saw as injustice and injury. The core resentment that energizes the swing toward right-wing “Christian” totalitarianism is the confusing, painful panic at seeing The Way and The Truth become one of many ways and many truths. As one pulpiteer expressed it, “having our culture become a subculture” is felt as a wound, an assault. On September 11th, the cultural assault on our inner landscape then manifested as a physical attack on our outer landscape, echoing the unsolved burning of the Reichstag building in 1933. Then, as now, terrorism coupled with an effective propaganda machine helped those in power to bring the country together while separating it from its civil rights. Once we feel ourselves to be under attack, are there any limits to what we will permit in the name of “self-defense?” "

"The backlash against openness and uncertainty, together with perceived national victimization, led Germany to begin to pick off voices of dissent in its own house. Some of these were political. Some were religious. German Christian churches were systematically nazified. The governing boards of seminaries were taken over seat by seat. Seminary faculties were pruned of opposition, guaranteeing that the pulpits of Germany would spout preaching that supported the Nazi agenda. The prophetic voice of the church was silenced. The systematic right-wing takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, board by board, professor by professor, pulpit by pulpit, is so eerily similar that it could be an echo of the same shout."

(4) Homosexuals -- Today's Jews. "Once the “evil” was identified, people projected onto the Jews every disowned trait they hated in themselves. Enormous energy was mobilized to oppress, exile, and destroy the theoretically contagious corruption of Jewishness. The righteousness of the cause was “proved” by the visceral disgust the oppressors felt towards the oppressed. Hatred kept the dominant group bonded, energized, focused, and easy to manipulate. Today, similar rhetoric is mobilizing hatred for another tiny minority, homosexuals, who are similarly represented as undermining the entire fabric of American life and values. In the same way, appeals to disgust as a moral arbiter “prove” the validity of the argument. Incidents of violence against gays remind us of the spotty street violence against Jews that came before the systematic, state-sponsored violence of the Holocaust."
Do we recognize the road we’re on, wrestle the steering wheel away from the mad bus-driver, and stop the bus before we get to the last stop, the town of Ultimate Consequences, Pop. 11 Million?

I remember well from my reading (a result of a horrified fascination with the Third Reich) the cynical and arrogant attitude of pre-Hitler German leaders that they could "use" Hitler and his minions and then discard them at will when they'd accomplished their purpose. If Bush/Cheney and their cohorts are suffering from the same delusions that they can ride to a permanent Republican majority on the coattails of an extreme, right-wing theocratic revolution and then break away, they'd better brush up on THEIR history.


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