Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Dark Thoughts

After reading a little of Bernard Shaw on the years leading up to the Great War (and later, some of Don DeLillo's least popular novel, Ratner's Star, which posits--not for the first time--that the humanity we know now de-evolved from an earlier state of development)  I had these dark thoughts, these ugly analogies, to that arc of time...

Germany was an imperial power in the late 19th century, ruled by a plutocracy.  After a long and costly and futile war that everyone saw coming and everyone knew was going to be ruinous, there was a brief period of democracy and progressive government, bedeviled by economic Depression, an angry public looking for scapegoats.  There was a simultaneous atmosphere of giddy excess, modern civilization and political extremism, particularly on what we would now identify as the right.  The Nazi Party kept chipping away at the republic's legitimacy, with a set of ideas that might well be described as fundamentalist, racist and reactionary but promising moral certainty, and restoration of national glory--i.e. getting our country back.

Many Germans could not believe that their country would ever take the primitive Hitler seriously, until he was elected.  And then they couldn't believe the Nazis would actually do what they had claimed they would do, and a lot they had said of course they wouldn't ever do.  Then they did it all.

The dark thoughts were of course that after our plutocratic empire had its futile wars and crashed the economy, this might be our American Weimar.  That the Rabid Right likes to throw around the Hitler and fascism labels doesn't inoculate them from those analogies.  Whoever said "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross" (it apparently wasn't Sinclair Lewis) may have had it right.

Probably the most unsettling question about how the American public will respond in this election is how important the factual turns out to be.  On Tuesday, a number of new Etch-a-Sketch moments emerged.  In addition to claiming he would have gotten bin Laden too, Romney claimed credit for saving the U.S. auto industry.  On the economy, President Obama pointed out that in previous recessions--including those under GOPer Presidents Reagan, Bush I & II--government employment grew.  Only during his presidency has government employment fallen--because the GOP Congress won't allow this government to employ this now-traditional remedy to ending high unemployment. 

Will that fact matter?  Will it matter that under President Obama, the U.S. economy has recovered ALL the private sector jobs lost since he took office?   Or even that nearly 2/3 of the private sector job growth since 1960 has happened under Democratic Presidents?

Several pundits opined that the calculation of making false claims, obvious and not --along with the aggressive lies that those millions of dollars in unmarked bills can pay to repeat endlessly--is that just enough people will believe them (or one or two of them) in the swing states like Ohio to throw the election to the GOP.  Which as Tuesday's election results in Indiana and North Carolina show is emboldened in its increasingly extreme agenda, detached from reality in ways that will only cause pain, tragedy and chaos. 

Which was bad enough in the bloodbath called the 20th century.  But in this crowded and dangerous world, with this civilization apparently unaware of the fragility of its current existence,  and particularly with the Climate Crisis on the doorstep,  there does not appear to be time for another lost decade.    

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