History repeating in the USA
An excerpt from
They Thought They Were Free
The Germans, 1933-45
“What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.”
The Enabling Act, 1933. Hitler, Germany.
The 2012 NDAA, Obama, The United States of America.
CC: I’ve been thinking about the chilling effect of fear in societies where surveillance becomes pervasive and governments seize the power to harass and punish those who criticize the governments’ actions. I read a fascinating book, In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson, and he talks a lot about the effect on German society of the Nazi ascension to power:
“Germans grew reluctant to stay in communal ski lodges, fearing they might talk in their sleep. They postponed surgeries because of the lip-loosening effects of anesthetic. Dreams reflected the ambient anxiety. One German dreamed that an SA man came to his home and opened the door to his oven, which then repeated every negative remark the household had made against the government.”
― Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
Comment from EoC at Salon.com: “We know how this ends, don’t we? Death camps and mass graves.”