Saturday, October 11, 2008
The recent shouts of "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" at recent McCain-Palin rallies worries me greatly, for several reasons. While one might presume that my slight alteration of the "Die Juden sind unser unglück" ("The Jews are our misfortune") slogan that appeared at the August 15, 1935 National Socialist-sponsored rally in Berlin is but Godwin's Law on steroids, I would like to posit that instead of stooping to the facile comparison of certain McCain supporters to Nazis/Fascists, that perhaps one ought to delve deeper into the sources of societal unrest and unease.
The vast majority of German citizens who voted National Socialist in the 1930 and 1932 (twice) did not vote for pograms, Kristalnacht, or the Final Solution. Neither are the vast majority of McCain-Palin supporters pushing for the assassination of Barack Obama or (if Obama wins) for armed rebellion/insurrection. However, there is a common thread that underlies each group, that of uncertainty and the desire for something to be made certain for them.
Whereas the Jewish people existed in a sort of quasi-boogeyman status for several centuries in much of Europe (Christ killers "naturally" leading to periodic accusations that Jews sacrified children in their diabolical plots to subvert Christianity, among other such ridiculous beliefs of the medieval to early modern eras) before being transformed into revolutionary would-be world controls of the Protocals of the Elders of Zion, Ostara, and Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century, for much of the last two decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, American liberalism has been painted as being just as immoral, just as diabolical, just as much of a threat to "traditional moral values." But while most people in previous eras and locales rejected such intolerant, hate-filled speech (just as most do today), there always were (and still are) a few who are suspectible to such accusations. Why hasn't much yet been said in the daily news programs about such people and their suspectibilities?
Perhaps because it would open up a huge, messy can of worms. Prejudice of any stripe is very difficult to overcome. Many members of my own family struggle with the notion of voting for a biracial man for President. Often I have heard my family say things such as "Is he really a Christian? I heard he was a Muslim..." or "I don't know if he won't be assassinated by someone soon, so how can I support him?" I suspect that's just a cover for the worries of what would change if/when someone who has some African ancestry were to be voted President of the United States.
Even more than that is the search for certainty in uncertain times. Usually either people unify despite their sometimes-profound social/political differences (as the U.S. largely did during the Great Depression and World War II) or they begin to search for scapegoats (as a great many Germans did in the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles). Are the people today wanting to work toward solutions or towards finding persons/groups to blame? I suspect it's more of a case of lip-service to the former while the latter becomes increasingly an attractive opiate that would calm the unsettled nerves.
Shall be interesting to see what the next few weeks will bring. It is worrisome in the meanwhile to hear of open discussion on several cable news outlets about things such as "the Bradley Effect" or the casting of blame for the global economic crisis on liberals/leftists, minority groups, gays (don't ask how, just know some believe this somehow), and occasionally conservatives, not to mention the passing nod to China, India, Mexico, all illegal/undocumented immigrants, and perhaps a stray speculator somewhere. I am just left feeling dizzy when I contemplate the possible ramifications of this; this virulent, vitriolic anger that is spilling out at Republican rallies (and to a lesser extent and without the personal namecalling at the Democratic ones) just scares and sickens me in a way that I haven't felt ever since I studied late Weimar/early Nazi era German cultural/religious history over a decade ago. Worried, scared people often do some irrational things and that is what I'm afraid will be the fruit of the generation of "culture wars" in my homeland. Anyone else feel anything like this?