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Archive for October 18th, 2019

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“Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’… must someday lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing – each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.

You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father could never have imagined.”

Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

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Yesterday, like the day before that and the day before that and like nearly every one of the 1001 days since Trump– yeah, I wrote that freaking name– took over our government, was a day filled with outrages.

It was a day that saw Trump crowing ( in his typical word salad comprised of baldfaced lies, the bombast of an ultra spoiled eleven year old and a level of stupidity that so far exceeds any other world leader that it borders on being a form of art) about a faux ceasefire that gives Turkish president Erdogan everything he wanted with absolutely no ramifications and was a final and absolute betrayal of the Kurdish people.

It all but assures an ethnic cleansing of some degree.

It was an Orwellian performance, one where the words are so far removed from the reality of the situation that one is left to wonder if they have somehow stumbled on a new dimension in time and space, some new place that they do not know from any of the life they have led to that date. It was also a remarkable display of profound weakness and defeat on his part even though he tried to sell it as a victory.

If that had been all for the day, it would have been momentous but it was only one small part of the day. There were several other instances in the day, all so outrageous that would have set any other presidency on fire in a way from which they could never recover.

But here , it was another Thursday.

It reminded me of the evolution of the evil that overtook the German people in the 1930’s, culminating in the atrocities of the Nazis during WW II. We in the present tend to think that that thing they became was there in that same form from the very beginning. But it wasn’t. It started in an innocuous, political way. It came in small, subtle changes that involved the normalization of behaviors and thought processes that would have been unthinkable in the not so far past.

Journalist Milton Mayer went to Germany after the war and interviewed a large number of ordinary Germans who lived under the Third Reich. It resulted in the book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, published in 1955. The small excerpt at the top captures the spirit of the book, describing an environment in which each day pushed a bit further towards the evil end but in such small, baby steps that one didn’t even notice the changes taking place, both in the country and in themselves.

This situation is often described by a frog being put in a pot of warm water on a stove. It is comfortable at first and nothing seems out of the ordinary as the temperature of the water slowly increases. It swims as it always did and adjusts easily to the temperature increases, so gradual are they, until it is too late and it finds itself being cooked alive.

It feels like the water in our pot is nearing a boiling pot.

I am not alone in believing this. I urge you to read the op-ed, Our Republic Is Under Attack From The President, in yesterday’s New York Times from Admiral William McRaven, the former Commander of the United States Special Operation Command and the architect of the Osama Bin Laden raid. He tells of many senior military leaders as well as regular troops who are alarmed at what they are seeing from this president, witnessing as they are the betrayal of our allies and our long stated national mission. They see Trump’s actions as an attack on our republic, feeling that they are under fire from within.

This is not a partisan political attack from a liberal pundit. This is a man, battle tested and committed to serving this nation, who can see the clear and present danger. It is a stunning statement from a lifelong soldier committed throughout his career to being apolitical.

He can feel that the water is boiling in the pot in which we swim.

And we’re nearly cooked because it’s boiling right now. Not weeks or months or years down the road.

Now.

We must get out of that pot.

Now.

Please read the Admiral McRaven editorial. I also urge you to read a larger excerpt from Milton Mayer’s book which can be seen here.

 

 

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