Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Gathering Storm

I’m reading a marvellous book - Sean Carroll’s Brave Genius. It’s about the French Resistance movement during World War Two.

I’m not going to review this entire book. I just mention it because its first chapter evoked a frightening parallel in my mind: That first chapter is about the so-called “Phony War” which took place in Europe from September 1939 to May 1040, when the shooting war actually began:

Officially, World War Two began on September 1, 1039, when Hitler invaded Poland and the allies (France and Britain) declared war on Germany. However, what followed was what the French came to call the “Drole de Guerre,” or the “Phony War.” For over eight months, there was practically no fighting between the Germans and the allies. The major shoot-out began on May 10, 1040, when Hitler invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France. This phase lasted barely five weeks and ended with the defeat of France.
Reading about the eight-months long “Phony War,” - the calm before the storm - I saw a frightening similarity with the eight-months period that has lapsed since Trump’s election:

Then, as now, the resistance was extremely vocal, upbeat, active. The French government, media and top military brass were ceaselessly telling the public that “Hitler had totally overplayed his hand,” that “Hitler had finally done himself in by going to war against France and Britain,” that “Germany was bound to lose promptly,” that “Germany was no match for the French and British armies, ” that “it was good that the war had finally arrived,” that “it was about time that France would teach those barbarians a lesson,” ‘not to worry,” etc. The French public was being bombarded by idiotically optimistic pep talk, in an effort to prevent morale from sagging.

The “phony war” went on for eight months, all talk, no action. Then on May 10, Hitler finally attacked, and within five weeks, France was utterly defeated. On June 14, the German army occupied Paris and marched down the Champs-Élysées. What started on September 1, 1939 ended nine and a half months later in total catastrophe.

Now, look at what’s happened here recently: The current disaster began on November 6, 2016, when a minority of Americans elected the last man in the world who should be their president.

Over the past eight months, the resistance has behaved similarly to the French leadership during the phony war: Nice people like Dan Rather, Robert Reich, Michael Moore, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (“The Last word”) and Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Don Lemon, etc. are all in the same “rah-rah” mode, trying to buttress the resistance’s morale...

Case in point - the Republican campaign to repeal Obamacare: In the House, at first the effort failed, and the resistance celebrated victory...only to see the repeal vote succeed two weeks later. Now, Mitch McConnell has postponed the Senate vote, and the progressives are once again celebrating. This is totally premature. The cunning Republicans probably have enough tricks up their sleeves to reverse this temporary delay in the near future, and to prevail in the end.

Will history repeat itself? For six months, the resistance has marched, speechified, fought many verbal battles, ceaseless harassed Trump with the Russia scandal.

Meanwhile, the bad guys have continued to stack the deck. They now own ALL branches of the government, they have won ALL four special congressional elections, they own the vast majority of the State governments, they keep adding conservative judges to courts all over the country, they continue to pass laws to increase voter suppression, the US Supreme Court is allowing the travel ban to proceed, more laws are being passed to outlaw public demonstrations, making us look more and more like Russia, dozens of presidential executive orders are reversing Obama’s policies... 

Remember also that Hitler’s voter base was just about the same as Trump’s: Hitler came to power after the 1933 German federal election in which the Nazi Party won 44% of the vote. Trump got 46%. Is this scary or not?

Are we approaching a point where it is clear that the bad guys have won a total victory, as it became clear on June 14, 1940?

All the optimistic pep talk by the French leadership during the 8-months long phony war only served to obfuscate the fact that France was in no shape to beat back the barbarian onslaught. That France was all talk, while Hitler was all action - secretive, devilish, lethal and unbeatable action.

Obviously, there are many differences between America today and Europe in 1940. America is a free society, it is not Nazi Germany. There are far more options to combat evil than in those days. Today’s resistance movement is significant and it goes beyond the press. (See for example The Resistance). Neither am I predicting (civil) war or revolution, God forbid.

What worries me is Americans’ continued complacency, their lack of awareness of how much worse things are likely to get.

* * * * *
What, then, is to be done?

Like France in 1940, the resistance has no alternative but to keep resisting. As long as it takes. There is no time limit.

There is no super-America across the ocean to come to the rescue.

But there is something else, something that never vanishes:
In the 1940s, evil first triumphed spectacularly. Hitler was joined by Mussolini, Tojo, and many others. The barbarians marched, and they won.
Then, the inevitable dialectic of good vs. evil kicked in. There emerged the counter force. It included Russia. True, Russia was led by another monster - Stalin. Let us hope that to beat back the evil of the Trump-GOP-Tea Party alliance will not require a counter evil on the Left.

But the Left WILL re-merge powerfully. Of that I am certain. What form it will take is unclear. But it will take action, and that action will go beyond the pep talk of nice guys like Dan Rather and Rachel Maddow. It will consist of political organization, mass action in America’s streets and cities. Mass disobedience, mass protest. A fundamental change in voting behavior. It will resemble what we did in the 1960s to achieve civil rights, to put an end to the Vietnam war and to send Nixon packing.
© Tom Kando 2017;All Rights Reserved
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