Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Thoughts on the 4th of July

This fall the band will be doing a European Tour.  We haven’t played in Europe for a few years, so I am very much looking forward to being back.  There is a different feel to playing in Europe and I like to go to new places, experience new things.  One of the gifts of being in this moderately successful rock band has been the ability to travel.  I have been able to go to places I never thought I would see, places I had only read about.

When I was a kid, I became consumed by World War II history.  I read every single book I could get my hands on, watched every movie.  The European Front was especially of interest to me.  The rise of the Nazi party and the madness an entire nation descended into was and still is fascinating.  It didn’t hurt that the German uniforms and weapons had great design.  Nazi Germany was responsible for unimaginable cruelty and ruthlessness, but you have to admit, they looked good while doing it.  While the British were getting shoved around in brown flannel uniforms, the Germans are flying around in Stukas while wearing crisp tailored black and gray uniforms with badass skulls on them.  I mean, c’mon…  What 12 year old isn’t interested in that?

When we tour in Germany and France, I can usually remember off the top of my head historical events from the Second World War that happened in each place we play.  Generally these events are centered on some type of vicious battle with terrible consequences.  From the books I consumed I saw the rise and then fall of the demonized Germans in black and white photos.  I remember standing on the exact spot where Hitler addressed his devoted storm troopers in Nuremberg.  I had seen the photo so many times of that Nazi Rally that to see the location in person seemed impossible.  It still felt like a story, not something that had really happened.

We played a club that was a short walk from the platform where Hitler had whipped his people into the froth that would allow so many atrocities to happen to millions of people across the entire planet.  Hitler had this odd combination of charisma, great public speaking ability, and the talent for knowing what the masses wanted to hear.  Looking back at it now it seems unbelievable that Germany bought in to what was obviously complete madness.  I remember being in history classes in school where fellow students would snort with derision.  That could never happen here.  What the hell was wrong with those people?  I was firmly in that camp.  The German people must have had some sort of defect or at their core wanted to kill the Jews and “undesirables”, follow a cult of nationalism and embrace a dictator.

The club we played in Nuremberg was part of a larger complex.  In the war years the building had been used to house German SS Troops, the elite thugs that carried out the worst of the worst.  After the American troops invaded, the Allies used the location to house their own troops until morphing it into a postwar base for a time.  Eventually it became a multi use space where in one room, drugged up twenty year olds danced to EDM and in another I would sing about dig track racing in West Virginia.  There would not be a greater contrast to the evil that crawled out of here 50 years ago and the utter normalcy of the present.  The people we met were nice and except for a language, just like us.

Something that always struck me in my World War II reading was how often American troops said they connected with the German people.  Despite all the propaganda they had been exposed to leading in to deployment, when they arrived on German soil they found the general population consisted mostly of people just like them.  There is something that never quite lines up with American sensibility with the French and Belgians.  It’s the French part we find so confusing.  The French are often oblique to us, while the Germans are very direct to the point of being blunt.  It’s easier to understand. 

While I was in Germany I would ask people about their family history during the war.  A joke in the van became the answer when you asked about someone’s grandfather in the Third Reich.  “He was a cook.”  All of Western Europe is invaded and yet everyone is a goddamn cook.  Only one guy I met said “Afrika Corps.  He got killed in shelling in Italy.”  Yet, that ratio is probably true.  For every gun-toting soldier, there are four guys driving trucks, filling out reports, and cooking meals.  Despite our willingness to lump everyone in Germany into being a diabolical Nazi like we have seen in cheap Hollywood movies, most were just people like you and me.

There weren’t that many actual Nazis.  Most people joined the political party as a way to gain advantages in business or social standing.  They jumped on when it became evident that it was the way to make more money and live more comfortably.  When Hitler first came into power with an election victory, he was looked at like a kook.  This was something that would blow over is what most reasonable people thought.  It was a temporary situation.  Then, little by little, things that were once crazy seemed normal.  Germany went from a democracy into a fascist state not by a swift seizure of power but by a series of concessions by the people, a failure to defend what had been their basic values.

Things in America today are eerily similar to when Hitler rose to power in Germany.  A charismatic public speaker tells his base what they want to hear and ignores basic facts.  The free press is demonized so the population is convinced only the leader is telling them the real facts.  Slowly the free press is replaced with media created by the state.  Minority groups are identified as threats to the public well being despite no evidence to the point.  The nation is urged to ramp up militarization all in the name of protecting the country and its values.  If you swap out the details, we are busy going down the same path to fascism that the Germans did.  Just like the Germans, we are pretending that it could never happen here.  We are allowing all these small concessions add up until there is no going back to what we had considered our ideals.

I spoke to a man yesterday.  He is what would be called a “working class guy”, a manager at a plumbing business.  He floated out some conversational trial balloons, perhaps to see where I sat on current events.  I don’t know him well, but well enough to know he is a decent guy.  He has two kids, coaches soccer, and roots for the local sports teams.  He is, by all accounts, totally average.  He said to me, “You know, I don’t even follow the news any more.  You can’t believe the media.  They are just trying to take down the President.  They are probably one of the biggest problems we have in this country.  I mean, I don’t agree with everything that Trump says, but I was so tired of the usual politicians.  I don’t even look anymore.  The media just distorts everything.”

Today in the Cleveland daily newspaper, the editorial board printed a guest editorial from a right wing radio program.  The headline read “If Trump Fans Are Called Nazis, You Can Expect More Violence”.  In what was once considered the most mainstream of all news outlets in the city, they printed an opinion piece stating such basic ideas as “facts” such as “the ever-descending moral and intellectual state of mainstream news media” and “if the American Left calls the president and his supporters Nazis…morality demands it takes violent action against Trump supporters”.  The writer then plucked examples of common people yelling out against Trump cabinet members in public places and can’t believe they have not had systematic retribution.  He suggests a Civil War is not only possible but also probable, and if violence happens then “just like Fort Sumter, it will be the Left that started it”.  To summarize, his idea is that to speak out about government action is to invite wholly justified military/police response.  This entire column from a right wing Trump radio host on the 4th of July is focused on forgiving as yet to come government carried out violence and incarceration against those that disagree with their elected officials.  This is in the daily newspaper of a major American city normalizing these ideas.  I find it chilling how similar this is to the 1930s in Germany.

While you enjoy the 4th of July celebrating the birth of our nation, reflect that we have a president that is having “rallies” with his supporters that are a Wal Mart version of Nuremberg, the highest courts are being stocked with “loyal” judges, we’re being told by our leader that “the free press is the greatest enemy of the American People”, a Fox News executive just became the president's head of communications, our military budget has just been raised to a level more than all other nations combined, systematic racism and vilification of non-whites is becoming so common that it is a non-discussion point, we have the highest incarceration rate of any nation on earth, the term “law and order” excuses any strong armed tactics, and religion is being used by government officials to justify their whims. All you need to do is swap out the details and this is the 1930s in Germany, with the exception that Hitler and his cronies were not being investigated for working with a foreign hostile adversary to take power.     

Happy 4th of July.  God bless America.  We need it.


At July 5, 2018 at 10:06:00 AM EDT , Blogger vfh159 said...

I hope internment has air conditioning.

At July 5, 2018 at 1:26:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Christian re-education centers


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