Kristallnacht Reborn

George Santayana, a Spanish American philosoph...

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“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana

 Fascism grows surreptitiously in societies where discontent from economic disenfranchisement runs rampant. Anarchy provides the most fertile medium for its growth, and disillusionment, the best fertilizer. It tolerates neither intellectual discourse nor critical thinking. Diversity is never tolerated. Contempt for the weak is a familiar component in fascism’s development, where persons with disabilities, the aged, and foreigners are all targets. Variation from standardized, accepted religious practices is discouraged and intolerance is the rule. Anyone who differs from those who espouse the exclusionary ideology is victimised. Three recent events, though seemingly unrelated, and separated by thousands of miles, are connected, if by no other means than by a common ideology of hate, intolerance, and violence. This ideology is growing and must be stopped.

A peaceful gathering of fewer than twenty members of a local MoveOn.org group, mostly women older than 65, was interrupted by nearly forty TEA party activists at River Forks Park in Roseburg, Oregon. This occurred on a Sunday afternoon in July, 2011, as members of the ultra conservative TEA party invaded the MoveOn get-together. TEA party activists were waving American flags and holding signs, loudly accusing those gathered of being communists, Marxists, and socialists. Video footage of the episode recorded these remarks, and showed what appeared to be a handgun holstered on one man’s hip. Second Amendment rights notwithstanding, merely because one has the right to carry a weapon, doesn’t imply reason to brandish it. Was the wearer afraid that one of the old ladies might hit him with her walker?

Members of the smaller group said they were intimidated by the TEA partiers, who were denying them their First Amendment rights.  The liberal group was forced to leave the park and move their picnic into the nearby home of Dean and Sara Byers. They were followed by the members of the TEA party, with vitriol churning, who parked at the entrance of the private drive leading to the Byers’ home. Harassment continued. The property owners told TEA party members not to trespass on their private drive. The Byerses said that as they exited their car to stop vehicles from entering their driveway, one TEA party member nearly ran them down. Sara Byers said she was so shaken, she called 911. She informed reporters a Douglas County deputy called an hour and a half later, and said he had been unable to respond because of other incidents. TEA party members posted a video of the confrontation on YouTube and added captions celebrating their assault on what they considered dangerous subversion; a picnic of mostly old women in a public park. Rich Raynor, leader of Douglas County Americans for Prosperity, the TEA party group, stated his organization believes MoveOn.org is a communist front and said he would not stand for America becoming a fascist nation. It is necessary to point out his confusion of two disparate ideologies. Communism and Fascism are not the same, and they are mutually exclusive.

Americans for Prosperity is a product of Freedom Works, an organization founded by Dick Armey, created with moneys specifically provided by the billionaire Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are the sons of Fred C. Koch, petrochemical engineer, and co-founder, with Robert Welch, of the John Birch Society. JBS is a well known sponsor of McCarthyism and guilt by innuendo, and an originator of various right wing conspiracies. When Welch opined that Eisenhower was a communist, William F. Buckley laughed him out of the mainstream conservative movement. Birchers are well known for discovering communists hiding under every bed. After the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the dissolving of the Soviet Union, and the economic transformation of China, the ‘communist’ threat is rather passé. In spite of his pride in fighting communism in the park, the author of the aforementioned YouTube posting has, since, removed it. Perhaps it was a bit too revealing of Americans for Prosperity and TEA party methods. The mass of American citizenry needn’t link the TEA party with AFP and JBS. After all, it is supposed to be a ‘grass roots’ movement. If it were seen to be just another tool of the Koch brothers, the ‘grass roots’ label would be non sequitor. Memories of the sullied reputations of remarkable personages such as Aaron Copeland and Edward G Robinson remain too acute. In any event, the YouTube video provided startling evidence of a larger group denying the civil liberties of a smaller group, with a potential for violence ever present, as evidenced by the mounting badgering of the assailants. What ever happened to the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly? Have we come to embrace Second Amendment rights in their place? Roseburg resident Lillen Fifield, 70, called the group’s actions an “act of domestic terrorism.”

A similar occurrence happened in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 2010. At a public rally for Rand Paul’s senatorial bid, Lauren Valle, a diminutive, twenty three year old woman, was wrestled to the ground by Paul supporters, and kicked in the head for holding a sign critical of Rand Paul. Her attendance was for a piece of political theater, to give Paul an “award” for being in the pocket of corporations. Rand Paul won the Kentucky Republican primary on an extreme libertarian platform, stating he was not fully supportive of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a position not unlike that of assorted anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups. He labeled the Obama administration “un-American” for its strong criticism of British Petroleum during the huge Louisiana oil spill, favoring the rights of the corporation over those of the citizenry. Since the Supreme Court ‘Citizens United’ ruling, with corporations attaining ‘personhood’, this becomes the rights of the one out weighing the rights of the many. As a libertarian, favoring a smaller, more limited form of government, Paul would, no doubt, agree with Grover Norquist, who once opined that government should be small enough to afford its being drowned in a bath tub. Isn’t elimination of government the goal of the anarchist? Consequential absolute disorder and chaos would cause the population to beg for a return to order, irrespective of the cost, hence, the perfect growth medium for a fascist state.

As Valle was held down with her head to the curb, Paul volunteer Tim Profitt placed his foot just below her head and stomped down. The act was caught and recorded on video by CBS News. Proffitt was unskilled in a gruesome act known as ‘curbing’, one which results in the death of the victim from a severed spinal cord. Such a deed calls to mind behaviors of certain ‘volunteers’ in Germany seventy odd years ago. Valle later told reporters that the violence was “premeditated”, that her partner had heard Paul supporters say, “We’re here to do crowd control and we might have to take someone out.” Valle said, “What happened was when they realized that I was there, they actually formed a circle behind me and then, as the car pulled up – before Rand was even out of the car, they stepped in front of me, so I stepped off the curb and around them. And then they actually pursued me around the car. This was premeditated.”

Valle was wearing a wig and was dressed sarcastically as an employee of fictional ‘RepubliCorp’. “This was part of a MoveOn project to demonstrate ties between corporate money and the GOP”, she said. She wanted to present Paul with a ‘RepubliCorp’ employee of the month award. Valle told CBS News, “I think [Paul supporters] knew who I was from the past two weeks, me being in town. And they didn’t like my message, what I was there to say. And I was simply there to hold a sign but, that wasn’t, wasn’t okay with them. I believe strongly in non-violence. I believe in peaceful protests. I believe in my right to carry a sign. I am a 23-year-old woman with only the intention to hold a sign. I had no, no bad intentions; I only wanted to be there like everyone else with a sign.”

Rand Paul was named in honor of novelist Ayn Rand; originator of the theory of Objectivism, which establishes the concept of individual desires outweighing the needs of the community. Rand often stated that ‘selfishness’ was a misunderstood term, and was actually the motivating factor behind much human behavior. Migrating from Soviet Russia, Ayn Rand hated Stalin and communism, and clung to its antithesis. An elitist, enveloped in her Objectivist principles, she favored promoting the ideal of small, limited government, with few, if any social programs. Lassiez faire economics and the squelching any government involvement became her vision. Melding of business with government, and business in the driver’s seat, would become the ideology of Objectivist, libertarian thinkers. Like Ayn Rand, fascists are fervently against what they perceive to be communism, Marxism, and socialism. Fascists call for a surrender of the individual will to that of the state, which, ultimately, is defined by a revered leader; ergo, surrender of the lesser will to that of an elite.  The Randian Individual and the Nazi Uebermensch are fraternal twins. Development of Rand’s ideal individual is demonstrated in her 1938 novella, Anthem, wherein her protagonist, Equality 7-2521, morphs from a servile cog in the state machine, into a self sufficient, surviving isolate. This is a struggle which culminates from a triumph of the will. Hero worship, the authority figure who is the state, transcends society. As the leader of the fascist state is the subject of public adoration, so is the father, the employer, the instructor, in microcosm, expanding in focus, until the level of the state is reached. Though not identical, das Uebermensch and Rand’s supreme individual are infused with an arrogant disregard for humanity and a pathological narcissism. Selfish passion for personal advancement overtakes the needs of the community.

Ayn Rand’s Objectivist concepts correspond well to fascist ideals. An individual’s will to power is sanctified. Both Randians and fascists are passionately against progressive concepts. TEA partiers and libertarians view the progressive as favoring ‘big government’ and concomitant government spending, stealing their individual wealth, to squander it on social programs for the lazy and undeserving. Government should not be involved in fire suppression, public health, or education, for example. If the population were decimated by fire or disease, it would be a necessary ‘thinning of the herd’.  An unlearned working class and middle class are far easier for the elite to manage. Dividing the population with hatred and prejudice, and consolidating its numbers into smaller units, makes its mastery by the elite a simple, ordered process. Orwell painted a divisive society, in a state of eternal war, with a façade of socialism, where a tiny group of individuals played puppeteer. This is the desired end of the elite. Fascism is an opportunistic, extreme right wing ideology. Again, in the case of Ms. Valle, we see a violation of first amendment rights: this time, by an overt act of violence. We also see the suppression of the need for popular protest versus the want of the individual politician. The People must not be allowed to speak out against Rand Paul. It might sully his image.

The explosions in Oslo, and the brutal massacre of adolescents at a Labor Party youth camp on Utoeya Island, in Norway, are further manifestations of frustration and hate. According to the BBC, Anders Breivik, a conservative Christian nationalist, and the accused perpetrator of these horrifically catastrophic events, told police that he was acting from dissatisfaction with what he perceived as failure in Labor Party policies. Accordingly, posts he has made online support Breivik’s far-right ideologies. He calls for the formation of a “cultural Euro-Tea Party” referring to the right-wing organization supported by Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. Norwegian media reports domestic intelligence Chief Janne Kristiansen said no evidence had been found linking Anders Breivik with far-right extremists in Norway or elsewhere, but she stated the possibility of accomplices would still be investigated. The question remains, if he acted alone, how was he able to so convincingly present himself as a uniformed police officer, and where did he obtain the weapons? His eruption of hatred and intolerance came home to America to roost. Glenn Beck compared the massacred Labor Party campers to Hitler Youth, and right wing pundits have flooded the web with denials of Palin’s influence. They do protest too much, methinks!

It is imperative to never forget, Hitler blamed the burning of the Reichstag building on communists. The Reichstag was the seat of government, and an emotional anchor for the German people. Communists were among the first targets of Hitler’s planned elimination of undesirables. Communists were his main competitors for power, an impediment. The Catholic youth fellowship, which resisted his pogroms, because of the Church’s imperative on community responsibility, was included among his first victims. Labor unions were also targeted. Hitler wanted no blocking of his advancement to the seat of power. Once obstructions were removed, Hitler could concentrate more passionately on his preferred target, his scapegoat for Germany’s miseries.

Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, was a series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany. It was a pogrom, a planned event, carried out by civilian volunteer paramilitaries in the SA, or brown shirts. Many Jews were beaten to death, as others were forced to watch.  Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and villages. These ‘Jews’ were German citizens, many of them honorable veterans of the Great War, who shared in Germany’s post war humiliation. Kristallnacht was merely the targeting of a segment of the population because of its unique cultural and religious differences. Focused hatred galvanized public support for a political minority. Xenophobia is a potent tool of the fascist. Police were instructed not to interfere with the riots unless guidelines for the protection of non-Jewish businesses and property were violated. They were directed to seize Jewish archives from synagogues and community offices, and to arrest and detain “healthy male Jews, who are not too old,” for eventual transport to concentration camps. Ninety-one Jews were killed. A quarter of all Jewish men in Germany were taken to Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. They were tortured for months, some being finally released, after agreeing to leave Germany. Two thousand died. This marked the beginning of Hitler’s ‘final solution’.

As in Nazi Germany, seemingly unrelated events progress ever so slowly, until freedoms are eroded away. Martin Niemoller addressed this reality very well. It will soon be too late to stand up for our liberties. A picnic of mostly old ladies is invaded by militant provocateurs. An hour and a half passes before a deputy sheriff merely telephones, to explain his lack of timely response. A young female protestor is violently assaulted and almost brutally murdered for exercising her rights to peaceful assembly and free speech. After he kills nearly one hundred people with a car bomb, a crazed gunman massacres almost the same number of mostly adolescents in a youth camp. He asserts disillusion with, and contempt for Labor party policies, and inspiration from the American TEA party as his motive. In Germany, the SA seemed to grow out of control, and was allowed to run amok. The TEA party is doing much the same. Their behavior at political events borders on the bizarre. They rant about constitutional rights for themselves, yet, deny those same rights to others. Must Kristallnacht be reborn? It will be should we sit idly by while anarchy, disillusionment, and intolerance are nurtured by right wing extremists, and are provided with only violent suppression as the answer to the resulting chaos.

 

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About Stefan Jacke

MagicRobert presented me with a vellum document, composed in an insane script. We were in a well secured vault in the Michener Library. His face exploded into a broad smile, as he saw me recognize the words, "That government governs best which governs least." It was a copy of "On Civil Disobedience" in the author's own hand. The experience called to mind a conversation Henry David Thoreau had with Ralph Waldo Emerson, as Thoreau sat in a jail cell, incarcerated for protesting the Mexican War. Emerson asked, "David, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau responded, "The point is, Ralph, what are you doing out there?" Once, long ago, I jumped off of big red trucks, lifted weights, and cleaned toilets for a living. Then I wrestled drunks, ran around in circles, and got splattered with blood and all manner of body fluids for a living. Now I enjoy the stillness of early morning in my rocking chair on the porch, with a hot cup of coffee, trying in vain to forget the past. Thank you, Robert!
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