1930s Germany and 2000s USA -- an attempt at rational discourse

OK foax, I have no idea how this is going to go but I simply have to get some level-headed input. Enough…here’s what’s on my mind:

I’m driving to work today, it’s not far but I can usually blast a tune or two before I arrive. Today it was Warren Zevon’s Disorder in the House. Which, for whatever reason, got me to thinking about The People (of any country) losing control of Their Government. As I’m not much of a deep thinker, I went directly to a well-publicized, well-documented example of this in the real world–post WWI Germany.

I thought back to my studies of German literature surrounding this period, and of the somewhat frustrated attempts of German parents trying to explain to their kids how they were not empowered, somehow, to prevent their Jewish neighbors from being rounded up and “disappeared” to places unknown–which turned out to be portals to Hell itself. I reflected that the Jews, already an unfavored segment of the population, were actively demonized by The Government; and that Ma und Pa had the burden of everyday living to contend with and no 20/20 hindsight. The Troubles were so distant from the dinner table that little was done, or could be done, to prevent Mr. & Mrs. Silverman from being dragged off in the night. My point is, it’s one thing to say “I’d never let that happen in my neighborhood.” and quite another to try and rally support for protecting your community from its own government.

Now we in the US are facing wiretaps, internet monitoring and who really knows what else, and our government is demonstrating that it has no aversion to combat, nor does it have any compunction about setting up prisons of a non-correctional nature; and I have to wonder.

I have to wonder if the democratic process as a means of a relatively carefree lifestyle has failed us at last? If we as a country have come to a point where the majority of us have agreed to be afraid of The Terrorists enough to entrust our government with complete control; if we have come to a point where we fear every disenfranchised segment of our population to the point where, given the decision to coexist with open minds and tolerance or say “good riddance” to those Scary People we will prefer the latter? And wonder if it hasn’t already begun? Quietly, or maybe even not so quietly, as we sit by and make sure our own bills get paid, that our own tables get fed, and we sit in comfortable outrage, willing to resist only when the boot is kicking in our own door.

I know the differences between Germany then and the US now, but can someone please convince me, without the venom and cynicism imbued upon us by the activities and divisive politics of our current administration, that I don’t need to be as afraid as I am? Not of being blown to pieces by a random suitcase bomb, but of becoming an accomplice by silence to something truly horrific?

Well, you *should *worry about government intrusion and all that, but not to the extent that a comparison with Germany in the '30s is valid. I think you just need to do your part to make the pendulum swing back from the excesses of the present day. Namby-pamby though the Democrats have become, I still think you’d see more respect for the Constitution and the rule of law under them than under the Republicans. In short, even now it’s possible to use the ballot box to chasten the evil-doers.

So turn that frown upside down! (Or alternatively, shoot me for having used the expression.)

I think Sal has made some good points, although I’m not as confident that the Dems are all that much better than the GOP.

Post WWI Germany was really in terrible economic shape, and Hitler was able to get many citizens to go along because he promised, and I guess, provided some better times. Also, a proud (and probably arrogant) people were deep ly humiliated by the loss of the war and the harsh reparations, etc.

As bad as our so-called free press is, it still has the power to expose the malpractices of the government. If not, Inigo,you would not even know these nefarious practices were being done.

I think, indeed, that there is far too much complacency on the part of many citizens (too many are more worried about gas prices than the damn war, etc), but I can’t help but be a bit more optimistic. I think if things get too bad, we’ll all react, rise up in righteous indignation, and heave the rascals out. (And this from a lifelong Republican who a couple of years ago changed his registration to Independent in disgust).

Actually, from the way it seems to be going now, Bush has done more to help the Democrats than any of their own leaders have. I would not be a bit surprised to see both houses of Congress go Democratic in the next election.

If you read our history, we’ve come through some pretty bad times before (Joe McCarthy for a horrible example). I hope we will get straightened out. Having lived through the 30s, The Great Depression, WWII, Korean War, et al, I think we are still strong enough to get back on the right track.

Having said that, right now I don’t see anybody a’tall of either party who I think would make a good president. Ah well…

Inigo, you use the term “lose control of their government.” Well, I do not feel that this applies to Nazi Germany. The Hitlerites and Fascists took over basically by democratic means. The Nazi Party was voted into office by way of being the most numerous and powerful party in the Reichstag - therefore, the German people were well in control of their government.

OK, on a more careful analysis of your post I understand that this was basically your point to begin with.

I think that Bush being elected after 9/11 was more because Kerry was a poor candidate than because people were afraid and desperate for security, Hitler-style. If Edwards had been the contender and not Kerry, and stressed the same national-security policies that Bush did, I think he would have won - Kerry was too pretentious and aristocratic for most people, I feel.

Sure, the nazis had many supporters, but I’m not so sure about “in control.” When Hitler was made Chancellor the NSDAP had 33.1% of the vote and the seats in the Reichstag. A few weeks later, after the Reichstag fire the so called Reichstagsbrandverordnung, an unconstitutional (but hard to challenge under the Weimar system) decree by President Hindenburg suspended civil rights and was used against opposition candidates. Just days later (3/5/33) the NSDAP again achieved a plurality of votes again: 43.9%
Later in March the Ermächtigungsgesetz was passed in the Reichstag under blatantly unconstitutional circumstances. The most important points were that the government could pass laws in the form of executive orders and wasn’t bound by the constitution any longer. After that, the dictatorship was essentially complete as long as Hindenburg played along. In July all other parties were banned and the NSDAP never faced any opposition again. All democratic control was eliminated in the first months.

Think of it this way. Have you ever heard the expression “from my cold dead fingers” with respect to firearms ownership? Lots of people talk that way, esp. with a couple beers in them. Or not. But think about it - if half a dozen SWAT team guys show up at oh-dark-thirty
and kick your door in demanding your weapons, what are you gonna do? That’s what happened in the 30’s Nazi Germany (and Soviet Russia for that matter, and every other totalitarian society) - and if the neighbors protest, they get sent off to the camps too. “It’s terrible what happened to ______, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but keep your voice down!” etc.