On our various trips to research Steve's family's roots in Germany (and Luxembourg and the Bohemian and Moravian parts of the former Austrian Empire), one of the most chilling documents from World War II we've encountered was a picture in a photo album of a cousin of his in Baden. The cousin lives in the small village outside Karlsruhe from which some of Steve's ancestors emigrated to America after the revolution in Baden in the late 1840s.
The photograph showed two smiling young women from the village--from the all-Catholic village--posing in the 1930s under a banner that read, Die Juden sind unser Unglück. As we leafed through the photo album with its snapshots of children at first Communion or with their Confirmation presents, its pictures of Corpus Christi processions and May crownings of the Virgin Mary--and its photo of smiling village Mädel under a banner informing the world that the Jews are our misfortune--Steve's cousin told us that there are families still living in the village and thriving who smashed the windows of shops owned by their Jewish neighbors in the 1930s, stole their Jewish neighbors' possessions and sent them on trains to death camps.
In the all-Catholic village in southern Germany from which Steve's ancestors come . . . .
And, having seen and heard all of this on trips to visit Steve's cousins, I take seriously Alan McCornick's insistence that "[w]e’ve all got more than a little fascism in us, just under the surface"--and that,
Because this could take place in Germany, a country filled with philosophers and musicians and artists and skilled workmen and people who loved to dance and sing and eat well, people who made good wine and cars and cameras, I have wondered from early on if it could happen here.
I take seriously what Alan has to say about the more than a little fascism that resides just under the surface of the skin of each of us as I read Ann Davidow's observation that after the 2012 elections, "crazy voices are still heard in the land." Davidow writes,
One might have thought that after the election things would begin to settle down and something resembling calm would emerge, that the more radical elements in the political spectrum would back off and maybe even disappear. But that hasn’t happened; the crazies are still working their mythologies, as if they actually made sense.
I know that those crazy voices are still being heard in our land because I heard them with my own ears this past Friday afternoon. Steve had some banking business to do that afternoon, and as he banked, I sat in the car and fiddled with the radio dial, hoping to find something worth listening to besides schmaltzy Christmas music and plaintive yodeling songs demanding that I let Jesus Christ into my heart right now--now, I mean!
What I heard as I twisted the radio dial was an earful. I heard:
1. I will not relinquish my country to socialism and globalization.
2. They're killing babies in Liverpool, and this is what Obamacare intends to implement in the U.S.
3. I'm all for secession, as long as it's the states along both coasts that leave the rest of us and let us live according to God's laws again.
4. They're putting microfilm in televisions to spy on you, and if you don't cover the camera eye on your computer, you're a fool, since they're spying on you.
5. There's a world government now, and it's led by dumber and dumber people who don't understand anything about growing or making things, since they have never had to work and have always lived by handouts.
On and on and on it went, station after station. And these weren't off-the-wall stations beaming from some godforsaken wilderness untouched by law and civilization. They were stations right in the big cities of the American heartland, pumping a steady diet of crazy-mean into the ears of anyone willing to entertain crazy following a recent cycle of elections that have only stirred the crazy into new, heightened configurations of crazier--they have not alleviated it or tamped it down or dissolved its hold on many American citizens.
Mainstream radio stations from mainstream heartland places pumping a steady diet of malicious crazy into the ears of white men, since surely the white men providing this steady diet of crazy over the radio channels--only white men, over and over on each channel, ranting, screaming, threatening, disinformation-providing white males--are producing the crazy to keep other white men up in arms about the perceived loss of control of everything by white males. Literally up in arms: my right to bear guns and to have them pried from my fingers only when they're cold and dead was another constant theme of these rants, which encouraged citizens to form militias to resist "them" who are spying on us through our computers and television sets and who intend to kill our elderly and our babies through Obamacare.
Did I say a short while ago that we have "a serious Straight White Male Listening Problem in this nation"? I believe I did write that. And what I heard blaring from my car radio last Friday afternoon convinces me I was right on track in concluding this.
But here's the problem: the white men holding forth on one talk-radio channel after another; the straight white men who have repeatedly lighted on this blog throughout 2012 to read me lists of my sins and instruct me in my intellectual shortcomings--these straight white males aren't really interested in listening.
They're interested in doing the talking.
In being listened to. In telling the rest of us what to do.
In pumping up one another's paranoia and rage.
And more's the pity for the rest of us, and for the whole world, since if we don't get a handle on the out-of-control paranoia and rage very soon, we well might, as Alan McCornick wisely warns us, end up in just the kind of situation in which the "civilized" and "advanced"--and Christian--nation of Germany found itself in the 1930s.
The graphic is from Guenveur in Kent's Kent Kapers II blog.
The graphic is from Guenveur in Kent's Kent Kapers II blog.