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“They Thought They Were Free”

My Facebook time line is filled each day with posts about Trump and now, this weekend, about his odious executive order barring entry into the U.S. to those from seven specified countries. (Remember not long ago how the Republicans railed about Obama’s abuse of these executive orders? How dare he!) But few are connecting the dots, the dots of a long line of oppressive and invasive measures undertaken by the last several presidents in the form of the Patriot Act; the vaguely worded NDAA on support for terrorists organizations; the invalidating of posse comitatus; the total surveillance of our lives by the government and the private sector; and the militarization of our police forces, to name a few. Trump’s order is but yet another dot, but how many see that this has been going on for a long time?

Milton Meyer is a journalist who went to Germany after WWII and interviewed German citizens of no particular note. Germans who just went about their daily lives as best they could. His book, “They Thought They Were Free”, is a recounting of his discoveries about how ordinary Germans did not seem aware of what was happening, the incrementalism of policies that were put into place as the Nazis took power. He writes:

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap,took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.”

Trump’s actions are not new but a continuation of governmental policies and U.S. citizen complacency in the face of repressive measures. In an article entitled “Curtain Descending, Fascistization of America”, Norman Pollack writes:

“America today, under Trump, is not something new to its own internal history. We demonize Trump, when in reality he stands on the shoulders of American presidents, their parties, their policies, and their practices—in sum, government itself—going back in recognizable form to McKinley (Open Door), T. Roosevelt (battleship navy), and Wilson (liberal internationalism, i.e., antiradical global stabilization). To experience qualitative change, which I think Trump does bring on, because of its visibility and overtness, does not make light of the past, simply acknowledges the accretive details as making possible the turning of a corner long in the making. Trump is the face of capitalism approaching its undisguised capacity for inflicting harm. As a total social system we can expect more Trumps down the road, provided not interrupted by a nuclear holocaust.”

This tells me that reform of the Democratic Party (I am not even going to talk about the Republican Party) is likely to be a miserable fizzle. At worst today’s Democrats will cling to the Party in desperation thus cutting off any real chance for a political revolution. The neo-liberal hacks who have controlled the Party for decades will certainly do their utmost to co-opt reform by putting lipstick on the aging corporate dinosaur they have created.

About Dick Conoboy

Writers • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Michael Chiavario

Feb 28, 2017

Great article, Dick, except for the part about that the futilitely of the Democrats ‘cling to the Party’. 

What is your alternative, Dick? Do you actually believe that it is possible to successfully build a viable third party? If you do, I would welcome your guidance as to how that can be done.

We have in place a huge nationwide organization, the Democratic Party, that can be moved to the left to reflect where most Americans want to go. If you doubt that, just come to a local general membership meeting or a PCO meeting and note that when the debate gets a bit heated, it’s about nuances of how to go left/progressive, not whether or not to do it. This is happening all over the country. We can use smart energetic people like you, Dick. Come and join us.

 

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