The first week (well, 9 days now) of our new
regime administration has been sufficiently appalling that I feel it is now time to be more blunt with my readers.
History is actually repeating itself. And dammit people, we are better than this. Do not assume that America [or insert your imperiled-by-populism country here] could not become Nazi Germany. Germany didn’t know it could become Nazi Germany. But they didn’t have the template for the rise of fascism. We do. It’s in our history books. For a surviving few, it is in their living memory. We can still easily visit the sites of the horror of the Holocaust. And the burned-out ruins of buildings destroyed by bombs. And a seemingly endless array of memorials to those who were lost. We maintain these places to keep the history fresh in our minds and yet we still forget or dismiss the lessons of the past.
We’ve actually never been immune. Don’t forget, during World War II we created our own camps, interring Japanese Americans out of fear and bigotry and xenophobia. This less-than-savory part of our history is frequently glossed over or skipped entirely in our primary and secondary schools*. We are just now slowly collectively owning up to this chapter of our history. It is long overdue. Taking pride in your country should never mean erasing or sugar-coating the horrible mistakes and atrocities of the past. We must know about them and learn from them so we don’t keep repeating them.
Repeating this kind of history isn’t just folly, it is tragic. It can only end badly. We must remain vigilant against the threat of fascism. America can not be made great again by supporting a leader who makes false promises, consistently tells lies (sorry, “alternative facts”), and is willing to sell us out for his own gain. If this administration had our interests at heart, it wouldn’t be tearing apart families, threatening our health by denying climate change and health care coverage, working to destroy us financially (look at his business history!) and to destroy our place in the world, insulting us with obvious lies and distractions, and going out of its way to discredit anyone who speaks out against it. For crying out loud, it is even picking on our Park Rangers.
While we still have a voice (remember, fascism works quickly to muzzle the voice of the people), use it! Join a protest (peacefully! nothing is gained by violence), sign a petition, write to your representatives, don’t turn the other cheek when people behave badly toward others (again, peacefully!), knit a cap, write blog posts, harness the power of social media to make your voice heard. Apathy and lack of action give power to bad ideas and bad people.
Let us never forget what we promised after World War II: Never Again.
“Thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.” – Yehuda Bauer
*This was very true in my case, I wasn’t aware of the camps until I was in college. An internet search on the topic reveals that it was a crapshoot if you learned about it or not. To be fair to the school system that should have taught me about it, we usually barely made it to WWII by the end of the school year in any of my American history classes. We would, however, spend a TON of time on the Revolution in what was I think a skewed attempt to instill patriotism in us. 😐
The photo is of the memorial wall at the Dachau Concentration Camp.
Yehuda Bauer’s full speech is available here.