Why Does It Feel Like 1930s Germany?
We aren’t recovering from a war; we aren’t living through a crippling inflation; while things could be better, our citizens are not experiencing widespread deprivation and suffering. So I take on this topic with some disquiet. Because, for many of us, there are unsettling similarities. We have as our president a political newcomer, one who espouses policies of nationalism, of thinly veiled racism, of hostilities toward intellectuals, and who regularly condemns those who question his philosophy or his competence. His expressions of isolationism, of “America First,” his own grandiosity, while he continues to feed the fears and resentment of his bristling base, bring an ever-deepening divide in world views of our citizens, anger festering on both sides. With no thought or action of reconciling us under a common ethos, the rhetoric of Make America Great Again calls on fantasies of a glorious past that never was, at no time shared by the majority of Americans whom he claims to represent.
With a Congress that does not appear to represent its constituents, with newly-gerrymandered voting districts that take away the power of the votes of the those who might disagree with those in power, it is tough not to be discouraged, outraged, tired. I am all three.
And then I think of Sophie Scholl. It is her picture that you see at the beginning of this post. Sophie and the story of The White Rose, a lesson in dissent, in courage, of principle, of honor.
In 1942, she and her colleagues put together a leaflet, The White Rose, at the University of Munich, calling for Germans to rise up against their tyrannical government. Everyday citizens began distributing these leaflets and they spread throughout the country.
Three leaders of the movement were arrested and charged with treason in February 1943. A trial followed within days, and all were found guilty. Sophie was executed by guillotine on February 22nd.
I do not worry that my work, my calls, my writing will have such dire consequences. This is, after all, America, where such things do not happen. This is not 1930s Germany.