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​Toxic statues and lethal statutes

by Charlie Barber | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | August 23rd, 2017

“Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” – Edmund Burke

“The history of the twentieth century has taught us that people who are rendered permanently superfluous are eventually condemned to segregated precincts of the living dead or are exterminated outright.”

– Richard Rubenstein

“To the Nazi economists goes the credit for working out a system of living on their debts. They realized the implications of the well-known fact that a dishonest debtor has all the advantage over his creditor and that international trading is not enforced by the sanction of any court.”

– Douglas Miller

“Do not obey in advance! Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.”

- Timothy Snyder

“ In politics, being deceived is no excuse.” – Leszek Kolakowski

Statues to the slave tyranny of the American Confederacy are offensive, to be sure, and, as symbols, have proven deadly recently in Charlottesville.

Far more deadly to the American democracy, however, are statutes being proposed by Republican lawmakers in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and in Congress, as well as in the agendas of President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos.

These laws and executive orders target the humanity of women, the voting rights and basic health of American citizens, the equitable education of our children, and the very existence of large numbers of people categorized as “illegal immigrants.”

Heather Heyer gave her life in bearing witness to evils inherent in the Republican Party’s decision in 2009, for the sake of an “old fart” version of white male supremacy, to embrace the moral anarchy of the Tea Party, and the Presidential ambitions of the alt right/neo-Nazis’ darling, Donald Trump. “Alt” in German means “old.” Not “old” in the sense of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock‘n Roll,” but in the sense of “old fashioned, 20th century right winger,” ie. a Nazi.

Words, like statues, can be truly damaging when their purpose is to defend the indefensible, as Orwell has taught us. But Orwell is not enough.

British Conservative Edmund Burke (1729-1797), is well known for a paraphrase (“In order for evil to triumph, it is enough that good men do nothing”) of: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

To be fair, good people ARE organizing inside, as well as outside, the corridors of power. Our military leaders are not made of the abject stuff that characterized the Prussian Army which caved in to Hitler. With the exception of Michael Flynn, our commanders, with a civic courage that shames many Republican leaders of Congress, have taken their oath to the American Constitution seriously.

Our business leaders, unlike the Krupps and Thyssens of the Third Reich, have not continued to toady to “the president who would be king,” but have, in response to public pressure, if not to an inner conscience, rejected Donald Trump as “bad for business.” As such these men and women agree with Douglas Miller, U.S. Commercial Attaché at Berlin, 1925-1939, whose book, You Can’t do Business with Hitler [1941], was a rebuke to CEO’s back then who thought otherwise.

Richard Rubenstein, the author of “The Cunning of History: The Holocaust and the American Future” (1975), is a self-described conservative, but a far cry from Republicans in the House and Senate who would attach that term to their name.

Consider this: “…a genuine conservative would insist upon the responsibility of government to defend the public interest when it clearly conflicts with dominant private interests as well as impartially to reconcile the conflicting private interest within the body politic.”

Or these: “Above all, a genuinely conservative government would seek to protect every citizen willing and able to work from the threat of economic redundancy”…“There is no private right or privilege that ought to be permitted to subvert the right of every person to a place of dignity and social utility within his or her community.”

Timothy Snyder, author of “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” (2010), has detailed the horrors wrought by Nazi and Soviet gangsters alike in a large volume that is difficult to digest even by hardened historians. Recently, however, he has penned a little book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” (2017), which is must reading for those who would cope with the outbreak of indecency that has infected Republican Party leadership, amidst the lethargy, indifference, and cynicism of all too many of the American populace.

On the basis of actions, not words, only Republican Senators John McCain [AZ], Susan Collins [ME], and Lisa Murkowski [AK] have stood with a united Democratic minority to oppose the inhuman abolition of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Whether they will be joined by other Republican Senators and House members with a newly implanted spine really depends upon the rest of us looking in the mirror and asking: which side am I on?

Jefferson Davis’s or Abraham Lincoln’s?

Robert E. Lee’s or Ulysses S. Grant’s?

Adolf Hitler’s or Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s?

Vladimir Putin’s or Angela Merkel’s?

Donald Trump’s or John McCain’s?

In our struggle with the designated president of the current gangster version of Russia, Americans must relearn our own revolutionary history and the lessons of Polish Solidarity and Leszek Kolakowski in their fight against Soviet Russia.

While we still fight our civic battles mostly with words in 2017, we must recognize that fundamental divisions of the American Civil War and Industrial Revolution have not been resolved.

We must also note that Thomas Jefferson’s, Wendell Phillips’s, Susan B. Anthony’s, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that all be treated equally from birth will be causing us more nightmares before it is realized.

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