February 13, 2017
By Arthur Henry Gunther III
Some say all Americans should declare they are Muslims, so that the re-energized prejudice, meanness and even hatred of 2017 can be nipped before there is horror. If enough Germans had stood with fellow but Jewish citizens, millions would have lived. There is a time for extra courage, and it may be now.
The first step is to address ignorance. The second is to recognize legitimate hurting.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the ordinary German who felt ignored by a post-World War I government unable to halt inflation, who could no longer see pride in rich history under the weight and judgment of over-bearing Allied reparations, was ripe for a mesmerizing huckster who promised comfort and glory. Such salesmen need a hook, and for Hitler it was the Jew and sufficient but not majority historical anti-Semitism. With that, he captured about 43 percent of the 1933 national vote. Not enough, but Hitler further inflamed through orchestrated prejudice and nationalism and worked a governing deal with a second party. After that, claiming “national security,” he quickly secured passing of an Enabling Act that gave him dictatorial powers.
So, the people, with legitimate concern about their welfare, found themselves tied in destiny to a crazy person. They got more than they bargained for.
The lesson in this for citizens of any county this is that you must beware false messiahs. The lesson for government is that you cannot ignore people’s welfare. Truly principled leaders like the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, JFK and, to an extent Reagan, knew that.
This past American election revealed the ignored hardship of unemployed coal miners and factory workers, of a declining middle class, of the ever-richer 1 percent. Americans are hurting, and they have been cast aside by both major parties. As such, they are ripe for renewed bigotry, fueled by false leaders who will redirect blame onto scapecoats.
As with the Nazified Germans, good people will do wrong, be complicit in inhumanity. Unless there is commonsense, massive opposition. But has the German lesson been learned?
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at email@example.com