I don’t understand hatred. I’ve seen people who figuratively hated someone so much that they would cut off their own nose to spite someone else but I’ve never understood how a person can be so filled with venom as to feel that way.
Nor do I understand politics. I’ve rarely been strongly PRO-anybody. The whole idea of putting party first, or putting candidate first is abhorrent to me. There are ideas that are more important than any person or any party. But then I also believe in a few absolutes. You can’t argue with gravity; it’s going to win regardless how you feel about it; and there are such things as “right” and “wrong” and “decent” and they have nothing to do with political parties.
Neither have I understood how someone as despicable as Hitler could have ever risen to power. At least I didn’t understand that before the onset of this election cycle. I’m not a political person, I vote, but I don’t like the process of people telling you all the reasons why you could vote for them, and not vote for someone else. In my mind there’s something wrong with a person who is proud enough to think they ought to be President — in my mind it’s the height of hubris!
What troubles me is that people seem so upset about the choice of candidates this election cycle — yet they are the ones who put us in this predicament — and suddenly the rise of Hitler becomes not so difficult to understand. Popular opinion is a fickle thing. I still remember reading, with fascination, the book by Eric Hoffer called The True Believer, (Find the PDF here), and his discussion of how easily crowds and mobs are manipulated. It forever changed how I view the media and public figures. Even though I read the book in my teens, I still carry lessons with me from that book nearly 50 years later.
Let me tell you a story…
In the 80’s I made several trips to Europe as a religious lecturer. Most of those trips were to England and to France, but one trip took me into the land of my grandparents and I spent a good month in Poland. It was an eye-opening journey in many ways and I enjoyed the experience and the contrasts very much.
While I was there my translator and I stayed in the homes of private citizens whom I’d never met before. I was overwhelmed at their generosity and kindnesses; I may not have known those people but it really was like being “home” again. The trip was pretty rugged, I lectured almost every day, and we had to fit travel in those before and after moments in order to stay on schedule. I felt like an inglorious band member touring the country.
We arrived in Lublin and I learned that there would be two days when I didn’t have to lecture. I was delighted and exhausted. I could have taken a 48 hour nap if I’d been allowed but that was not to be. The local church wanted to arrange a tour for me and I agreed. No one said where we were going, I just got into the car and zoned while we drove through the countryside.
We arrived at Majdanek. To be honest I’d never heard the name before. It was a memorial — I could see that — but until we got out of the car and people started talking with great animation I had no idea where we were or why. And then the multi-language interpretive boards came into sight and I realized Majdanek was a Concentration Camp. I’d heard about them but one of the elders of the church brought me along to one of the interpretive boards and showed me the ‘legend’ board with the emblems the prisoners bore on their clothing to categorize them. It wasn’t just Jews who were exterminated — there were 16 symbols on the board and 16 ‘categories’ of humans who were put to death there.
Because I saw on the ‘legend’ board that I too would have been one of those exterminated. One of the classifications — the dread purple triangle — was for a group of Christians known at the time simply as “Bible Students” — in later years some of them would be known as Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian splinter groups, but in those days there was a broad gamut of Christians who fit under that category who would not today be recognized within any one group. All of which does not change that fact that a goodly number of brothers and sisters in Christ — folks related to me in various ways — had been taken to that place, and suffered the same end as millions of Jews and others.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because when I listen to the rhetoric I’m hearing this year from candidates and from candidate supporters I’m more than embarrassed. I’m not going to repeat the lies, the exaggerations, the mysogyny or any of that. Hearing it once on the news would be bad enough without hearing it endlessly repeated. How anyone who lives in this nation that was founded on ideals; that has sheltered refugees and immigrants from around the world can speak so offensively about Muslims and women and blacks makes me embarrassed to be a U.S. Citizen. That is not what made this nation what it is today. But the freedoms of this nation allow someone to say such things — allow someone to trample under foot the things I hold dearest. Of course that’s the nature of the “freedom of speech” that we tout so highly; they are free to speak about tearing down the things I hold dearest. That is freedom.
What troubles me, as we sit in a highly segregated community — one that I grew up in, and love to this day — is that I can now understand how the likes of a Hitler came to power. People didn’t think he was all that bad. People were upset with their lives as they were. People felt embarrassed that as a nation they were in the desperate position they were in and they wanted relief. Hitler offered them change. Hitler offered them relief from their embarrassment. Disillusionment is a terrible thing. And the price of fanaticism is that good people do nothing, say nothing, feel nothing.
It does no good to argue with a rabid dog. It does no good to argue with someone who beleives the lies they have told themselves. I hope that on election day enough sane voters will turn out and will vote their ideals.
This nation will get what it deserves on election day. I have no idea how the electorate will vote, nor do I have any idea how the next four years will play out. Why anyone would want to be President at a time when No One in that position has the power to really change the fundamentals that are plaguing us — it’s beyond me. It’s the height of hubris to think you can succeed where others have failed.
All of this comes at a difficult time for our family. Our son-in-law is facing more difficulties with his smashed up foot and the choices remaining to him are not easy. So, it’s possible that our life might change dramatically as well; family is important and you do what you must to support your family. So, the election is not the most important thing in my mind right now. But in the hidden recesses of my brain, I find myself pondering what the electorate of this country is going to do. I keep finding myself remembering what I have been told is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”
Thanks for stopping by. I wish today had been a cheerier message but I’ve argued with myself about whether I wanted to write this post. Still and all, it bothers me that so many people are laughing at the state of affairs. Or that they are saying the election, or the media, are rigged in this way or that way. First, making excuses for why this is happening excuses our own actions as irrelevant, and they are not. But secondly, this country is not something that should be laughed about. Once we stood for so much more than embarrassed laughter.
I’ll be here again tomorrow. I’m sure the topic will be lighter.
P.S.: On Saturday (before the 2nd debate) I caught this post on Facebook. I thought it worth sharing…. He had more to say after the debate but I thought these comments were more in keeping with my state of mind.
The headlines of the moment are in the growing roll call of prominent Republicans who are rescinding their support for Donald Trump. But I am left wondering how his candidacy and those who supported, enabled it, and abetted him until now, will be viewed through the long lens of history. It should be noted that many conservative editorial boards and critics have already come out against Trump long before this latest bombshell in very stark terms.
Apparently everyone has a line, and yet do you feel things would be different if all of these politicians thought Trump could still win in November?
And what should we make of all the other groups who have been insulted and marginalized by Trump and yet his supporters stood by him?
He attacked Mexicans as rapists and murderers – but that was not enough.
He called for barring Muslims from entering the country – but that was not enough.
He incited violence in his rallies – but that was not enough.
He publicly mocked the disabled – but that was not enough.
He retweeted anti-Semitic memes – but that was not enough.
He demeaned a Gold Star Family – but that was not enough.
He insulted the press and railed against their Constitutional freedoms – but that was not enough.
He said that those who suffer from PTSD were weak – but that was not enough.
He had a long history of misogynist and sexist comments – but that was not enough.
He repeatedly lied on issues big and small – but that was not enough.
He refused to release his tax records or health records – but that was not enough.
He joked about violence against his political rival – but that was not enough.
I could go on, and I ask you to do so in the comments section. Perhaps we can tag it with #butthatwasnotenough.
I know some equate Donald Trump with Nazisim – that goes too far for me. But in recent hours I have been hearing echoes of the chilling poem by the German anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller about the culpability of his country’s elite in the rise of Nazism.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
America’s better nature has always been to speak out for the marginalized and dispossessed. It is an ideal for which we have all too often fallen far short. What about now?