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Friday, June 9, 2017

Anne Frank's betrayers, your friends and neighbors

At some point the media and the people of America will have to face a fact--which is not a popular thing to do in today's political climate.  The fact is that there is a big segment of the American people who are anti-democratic.  Specifically, they are against American democracy with all its words about freedom, equality, and justice.  Oh, they want those things for themselves, but find it intolerable to extend them to other people.  

And that is the defining point of separation in what we call the political divide.  It is not a divide between Democrats and Republicans.  liberals and conservatives.  It is a divide between people who want to live in  a democracy and those who want some form of authoritarian rule in which they are aligned with the authority.  

As many observers have pointed out,  the United States is replaying the politics of Germany in the 1930s.  The same race-and-creed-based hatreds that drove the Nazi movement run like tidal currents through America.  Muslims are the major target in the American neo-Nazi movement, whereas Jews were the predominant hate-objects in Nazi Germany,  but they aren't being forgotten in America''s rage to hate.  The impulse to denigrate, oppress, and harm is the same process of creating a subjugated class no matter what ethnic, cultural, or political group is in disfavor.    The significance for humanity is not who is being hated but who is doing the hating.  In Germany after World War I, when the people needed to place blame for the humiliation they had suffered, they found a someone who would voice and affirm their attitudes and lead them in the exercise of malice.  Hitler provided that voice and that rule.  Trump has provided that voice and affirmation for disaffected Americans,  who have been in a peevish snit over the fact that their country actually elected an African America president.  The racism which had lain dormant since the civil rights era boiled to the surface when a black man presided over the country.  Trump vowed to insult and defame Obama and undo everything Obama did.  And that is his agenda.  He has a loyal following of people.

World culture has an anti-democratic tradition of restricting freedom, equality, and justice as a privilege for those allied with authority figures.  As the idea of democracy in which people govern themselves circulated throughout the feudal system,  it met with resistance.   The overlords of the time, of course, opposed any idea that would make the serfs over whom they ruled equal to them.  But, while many serfs were heartened by the prospect of leading their own lives,  many others were fearful at not having an overlord on whom to depend and be ordered about.   Dependency to them seemed to fit the chain of being which ranked people on a social order that designated them from slaves to royal rulers.  To preserve their ranking over the lower orders,  people were gladly subservient to those above them.  They accepted inequality, restrictions on freedom, and arbitrary justice as a condition of their lives.  They saw opportunity as the chance to grovel before their superiors.  The idea of being able to standup and act as one's own person was frightening and repugnant to them.  They detested those who thought in such terms and advocated democracy.  America, however, was invented and built by by such advocates.

But even in America,  there are people who eschew equality,  and think and speak in terms of superiors and inferiors,  winners and losers,  privileged white folks and disenfranchised minorities.  They found a voice and an authority figure in Donald Trump.  He is the anti-dote to the American ideal of freedom, equality, and justice.  He has an unprecedented record of provable lies,  not just for a president,  but for any human being living on this earth.  He sees power as the exercise of abuse, insult, and defamation,  not respect.  He is a person without a positive trait of character,  a quintessential CEO whose profits come from how many people he can screw over and how much of the planet he can plunder.  He expresses the ideals and values of many Americans.  They do not want a president;  they want a fuehrer.  They got what they wanted.

A  high school student from a minority wrote an essay to qualify for advanced placement in college that impressed its evaluators.  As an occasional such evaluator,  my colleagues shared it with me as an example of the high level of thought and expression being engaged in by our young people.

The essay was on the subject of a book read by many high school students,  The Diary of Ann Frank.  The writer examined one of the mysteries with which the book left us as to who betrayed Ann Frank and her family to the Nazis.  He made the point that it did not matter so much as to what person tipped off the Gestapo to her family's hiding place as to  recognizing all the people who supported the regime that engaged in the Holocaust,  and there are many such regimes.  Detestable as the Hitlers and Nazi leadership may be, the people who enable them and in whose behalf they act are the real culprits responsible for such atrocities.  

After outlining all the words and actions that Trump put on the record during his campaign, the young writer said that the people who voted for Donald Trump are in the same classification as the betrayers of Ann Frank.  And the people who are adversely affected by Trump's words and actions need to recognize  that their enemy is not in the White House but in the houses of the people who put Trump there.  The political divide between Trump supporters and anti-Trump people is a good thing because it identifies the enemies of democracy and gives people the chance to consider if they really want democracy.

Sometimes the young are exceptionally wise.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States