It has generally been my position that the people of Germany and Japan were at least partially morally responsible for the outrages committed by their governments in World War II.
The people of Germany and Japan may have been subject to huge amounts of propaganda, but they fell for it. Their leadership may have been dangerous fascists who ruthlessly killed their political opposition, but the people supported them and let them gain power when they were relatively weak, until the German Nazis and the Japanese militarists were able to commit murder and worse with impunity.
I have always understood that in each society were plenty of people who opposed the Nazis and the militarists from the very beginning, who were often killed and/or imprisoned.
I understand that there were many more people who opposed the Nazis and the militarists but did not speak up for fear of being killed and/or imprisoned.
But I also understand that most ordinary Germans supported the Nazis right up until it became obvious they were going to lose WWII, and that most ordinary Japanese supported the militarists right up until the bitter end.
So I’ve had scant sympathy for the peoples of Germany and Japan in WWII. They suffered a lot, but they brought it on themselves for being a bunch of fascist, racist turdballs.
(I realize that most modern Germans and Japanese are very different people from the ones around during WWII.)
But I’ve had a rather alarming thought. Maybe I need to get my own house in order here. Right now, we’re in situation that has certain resemblances to Nazi Germany in the early 30s.
We’ve got a huge right-wing political machine that has taken power in an election that looks very likely to have been rigged.
The political machine has developed a very effective propaganda arm under the leadership of a brilliant media manipulator. The inner cadre of our leadership are a group of ideologues who have developed their own political analysis of what’s going on in the world, an analysis that has arguably led them to embark on a program that amounts to imperialism in the Middle East.
They have started a largely pointless war with a small-time dictator on the pretense that he had weapons of mass destruction and that he had something to do with 9/11 – both charges which were hotly disputed at the time and have since been proven to be completely groundless.
So, the question that has come into my mind is, just how far down the garden path to imperialism are we? Would the signs of incipient Nazism have been any clearer back in Weimar Germany before the brown shirts got to work?
Before we get out the “tinfoil hat” posts, I’m well aware that we are a long way from Germany in the 1930s. We don’t have armies of brown shirts beating people senseless in the street for having the wrong political viewpoints, or anything like that.
But we do have a right-wing propaganda machine spewing hate to Joe Sixpack 24/7. We do have leaders in power whose feelings about the democratic process are arguably suspect. We are making wars in places we have no business making wars. We do have political ideologues in powers who argue something very much like imperialism with regard to foreign policy.
It seems to me that back when the Nazis were the National Socialists and very much a beer hall gang, the signs pointing to what they would someday become were fairly dim. How were people to know?
And of course, the Nazis were in a culture that had always had its violent, authoritarian elements, going right down to Junker noblemen riding peasants into the muck not too many years prior to the 30s. So the National Socialist agenda might not have been so very obvious in such a milieu.
So the question is, how are we to know the neocons and the Bushites aren’t going to turn into some kind of vile, repressive mess down the road? Certainly, they’ve got quite a few seeds planted along those lines, with the Homeland Defense Act and their secret courts and tribunals for terrorists, and their dreadful human rights record with regard to torture.
It wouldn’t be a huge stretch for Al-Qaeda terrorists to become domestic terrorists, and then it’s not a far cry for terrorists to become “terrorists” who haven’t actually done anything violent yet, just had the wrong kind of political ideas.
And what’s our responsibility to ourselves and the world with regard to the neocons and the Bushistas? Are we like the liberals and moderates in Germany and Japan who slowly felt power slipping from their grasp, until suddenly they found themselves helpless parts of a no-limits war machine? Could they have known what Germany would become, even in the early days of the Brown Shirts?
I’m not drawing any conclusions here. I don’t know that the neocons and the Bushistas will head further down the road of imperialism. But I also don’t know that they WON’T. Am I morally responsible if Bush manages to hang on for another four years and turns the country waaaaay to the right, all the way to the Dark Side? Or am I clear because I’ve voted agaisnt him and publicly opposed him in person and in places like this message board? Or do I share in the moral responsibility should we fail to toss Bush out now while we still can? I haven’t done EVERYTHING in my power to defeat Bush, not by any means.
I’d be very interested in hearing how people from outside the U.S. regard this problem.