Sunday, June 25, 2006

6. DÉJÀ VU

This weekend I watched the Oscar-winning movie “The Pianist,” which tells of the story of the Polish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman and his survival of the German occupation of Warsaw and the horrific Jewish Ghetto. Three things struck me as remarkable:

First, the Germans did not immediately round up all Jews and ship them to Treblinka. The process was incremental. First they took away small rights—limiting the amount of money they could keep in the home, limiting where they could work, restricting the restaurants and stores they could go to. Then more basic rights—no sitting on public benches, no walking in public parks. Then they required them to be visibly marked with the Star of David. Then they prohibited them from living and working in all but a designated area. Then they walled in that area and let very little food in. Then all Jews were required to get a work permit, or else be removed to a labor camp. Then everybody was removed to the labor camp. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Second, it boggles the mind why Polish Jews submitted to this treatment, or better yet why everyone else in Poland did. Of course, so long as these laws did not adversely affect them, the average Pole—or German or other European nationality, for that matter—probably thought it was not their problem. Some, like the man who buys Szpilman’s piano for a pittance of its worth, doesn’t even acknowledge that he is exploiting their desperation. When one of Szpilman’s family members protests the low price, he replies, “What are you going to do, eat the piano? What’s the matter with you people—I’m doing you a favor.” Of course, eventually the plight of the Jews became the plight of everyone, and the Nazis went after anyone else who dared oppose them.

Third, I recall how the Nazis came to power anyway. Not everyone recognized them for the monsters they were. In fact, they were democratically elected to power. How were they elected? They were able to convince large parts of the public that some groups of people—mostly Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals and other non-Aryans—were to blame for Germany’s problems, not to mention the Communists. This was done by propagandizing lies and stereotypes about the Jews, and convincing people that “The Jewish Problem” was a critical priority: Jews were not loyal Germans. In fact they were a scourge upon that country and the Aryan race. They were taking advantage of Germany, they were dishonest, they were dirty and diseased. Jews and the others were to be feared and hated. History’s lesson is clear—Nazis did not take Germany over because of their lust for power. The Nazis took over because everyone else gave up their power and allowed it to happen.

Some of this is starting to sound a little too familiar. With regards to the Illegal Immigration Problem, that is. And Homosexuals for that matter too. Despite a very long list of questionable policies and decisions, a growing number of our elected officials, primarily Republicans, are increasingly turning to fear as their next play to stay in power. America’s problems are not the result of anything we’ve done. Muslims want to kill everybody. The homosexuals and activist judges are trying to destroy families and the institution of marriage. And illegal immigrants are pouring across the border and destroying our country. I am starting to understand how it happened in Germany and Poland. It happened in the name of nationalism, in the name of security, the rule of law, and cultural preservation. It happened legally, incrementally, and democratically. Will it happen again? Will the powers of fear be allowed to convince the American public to believe what they say about immigrants, gays and Muslims? Will the majority give our power away—with the Patriot Act and domestic spying—and allow it to happen? America has between now and November to decide.

4 Comments:

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Kethryvis said...

"I don't belong to an organized political party, I'm a Democrat."

I think this is our weakness come November when it comes to letting the bullies win. The Repubs aren't the majority per sey in the country. They're just the ones with their you-know-what together. They lockstep. They rally behind their issues (gay marriage bans, video game legislation, flag burning amendments, etc) and get people to the polls to vote for them.

Democrats... we're more laxidazical (or however you spell it. I still have two months before I go back to school and am demanded upon to use a spell checker!) in our platforms, and figure that 'if you're against that you'll come to us.' That is our biggest folly.

I worked the California Democratic Convention back in April and it really envigorated me to the party and wanting to defeat the Repubs (and namely, Ah-nuld the Terminator his own self) in November. But I don't think our message is strong enough to rally the not-quite-so-stridant Democrats. We need to find a way to get to all those other voters and make them understand that it's not about getting someone to win. It's about voicing your opinion and being part of the process.

I've always told my friends that if they didn't vote, they don't get to complain to me when they don't like what the government is doing. Someone commented in my LJ after our primary election that he didn't vote in the primary because he didn't think either Dem candidate had a snowball's chance in Sacramento in July of beating Ah-nuld because of the uninformed voters. I told him "yeah he will win, if enough of us stay home because we're convinced that he will. The only way to absolutely assure him a victory is if we stay home and don't vote. If we do go vote we can at least say 'At least I tried.' If you don't vote, you've simply handed him a victory."

It's not the best message to get people to the polls... but I think it's a start.

And well, there's always my other favourite line:

"Democrats are sexy. Who ever heard of a nice piece of elephant?"

(wow, that got long. oh, and by the way, you have email from like two weeks ago ;))

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Dannyboy said...

Wow! I had to look twice! Everyday I check this site with hopeful anticipation in my heart only to be dashed by disappointment. What a pleasant change!
This post is exactly why those that don't study history are doomed to repeat it. Our country is very much at a crossroads. We have so much potential. I really hope that better times are around the corner...

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger That Jolie Girl said...

OK, I'm here to jump off the deep end into conspiracy theory. Just blame it on my Baldwin blood. :) I don't think that the Republicans have their act together more than the democrats. I think that they have been able to remain in power (yes, we all know that Bush didn't REALLY win) because of the devious actions behind the scenes. They are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power. You really need to watch 'The Hunting of the President' It's truly amazingly scary what went on behind the Republican scenes during the Clinton administration. That movie makes me believe that we will never have another democrat in the White House again. I warned you I was going off the deep end.

As for November, I think that if we wait that long we will be stuck with another Republican. We have been shown twice now that a president can win without the majority of the votes. The time to act is now. We MUST impeach Bush. That is the only way to make sure that his reign of terror will end. (That reign began with Reagan. How quickly we forget and now Reagan is being remembered as a hero.) We have so much fodder to impeach him on that hopefully it's just a matter of time.

P.S. I, too, was amazed to find a new post. I check your blog about once a week and am usually sent away disappointed. I know you are crazy busy, but you should blog more. You're good at it.

 
At 4:39 AM, Blogger abogado-david said...

If you really want to get unnerved, go to http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=642
The anti-immigrant fervor is already being taken to its predictible extremes by hate groups.

 

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