Ten Steps & Counting

January 3rd, 2008 § 3 comments

“…Silence is un-American…”


It was perhaps a month ago that I was talking to my Dad, or listening rather, as he ranted about the latest book he had read on oil, global warming, torture, US supported dictators in South America, and into my mind popped memories of Germany. Images and words from that trip ran through my head as though they had something to do with the conversation on the other end of the line: the camps, the ovens, the museums, the monuments-standing on Hitler’s speakers stand at Zeppelin Field-the rally grounds in Nuremberg, the wasps at Sachsenhausen. I remembered the historians who came to speak with us, the Germans who tried to give us a sense of how they see their own history, and the things we muttered to ourselves. And, for whatever reason, as I came back to the conversation at hand, I thought this is why they didn’t leave. Movies, books, and Americans have often judged the Germans for not leaving their country in time, for “not seeing what was coming”, they ignored what seems to us in hindsight as obviously clear signs saying GO! As I listened to the unpleasant truths my Dad is just discovering that the Fossil comments upon everyday, I pictured Americans doing the same thing, not leaving because it seems impossible, because things will get better, the “pendulum will swing back”. We are “ignoring” just as obvious-possibly- signs that show many things that might be coming. Later that day, J sent me a link to an interview with Naomi Wolf about her new book on Democracy Now. She began the interview by mentioning the conversation that inspired her research, telling how one of her friends, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, kept saying to her, “this is what happened in Germany” which she thought at the time was, as she put it, “extreme language”, until she began investigating the “blueprint” she would illustrate in her recently published book.

Naomi Wolf is very interesting to listen to, she is an articulate speaker, and she speaks convincingly about her book which outlines the “ten steps” historically enacted and repeated that turn an “open” society into a closed, a democracy into a dictatorship. I was expecting The End of America to be a dense work full of historical detail and proof of current links, although the knowledge that it is a bestseller should have tipped me off to the fact that this book is a fast read, summarizing all that is horrific and disturbing about our current administration in a mere 155 words. I have no doubt she could have written a much stronger book, and fully understand why she wrote it in such a simplified manner, why she tried so hard to defend her argument with the “Founders”, using them patriotically to illustrate her points so as not to appear unpatriotic-it reminded me of Dylan’s With God on our Side ballad. Her points are good, her information valuable, her guts in writing the book are admirable (considering the “list”), but her extensive bibliography is far more interesting a read, even at a glance. What does it feel like to be spoken to like an “average” American, and not someone who lives with a very well informed Fossil? I was reminded most of the “young adult” books I remember reading in middle school, the ones about the revolutionary war and colonial America, My Brother Sam is Dead, Johnny Tramain and so on. When I thought this I realized the comprehension level of Americans is not that of teenagers reading classics, but of 10,11, and 12-year-olds reading Scott O’dell.

“You don’t need ovens to create a fascist reality. All you need is fear.”

§ 3 Responses to Ten Steps & Counting"

  • a guzman says:

    On the other hand I don’t really think people are stupid, life teaches a lot more than education sometimes, for example you don’t have to take expensive classes on feminism at SAIC to notice how women are portrayed/treated in our society, it simply takes being a woman, education provides a context and rational for the feelings and suspicions we already harbor, it brings them away from our own ‘singular’ wondering to a place of group attention. People, I find, often know more than they let on, and I think the difference is some pursue what they don’t like and others justify it or try not to think about it to save themselves from unpleasant quandaries. “What are you going to do about it” should really be “What are we going to do…”

    I was not suggesting that everyone should be fleeing the country for some other idyllic place, but it was the first time that I thought about it as a possible necessity and why one would not in the face of death or other nameless things. I was also thinking, however, that at a certain point resistance becomes a fantasy, in a closing society there seems to be a window where you can still have a voice and after that you don’t. In which case it does become important where you are, do you stay and work from the inside in a place that no longer allows you to, or do you go somewhere else in a hope to work from the outside? It seems an important question, although perhaps not as pressing yet as it might be in the future.

    ESB’s comment reminded me of new year’s in Carytown, where the streets were populated by many people having fun, eating, drinking, listening to the band and waiting for the ball to do what ever it was going to do at the Byrd, but also lining the streets were police and Christians with microphones, shouting out about the devil, the evils of ____, and that the only way to avoid hell was to become a “Born Again Christian”. It was also the only time I have ever seen these people get harassed, no one bothers them outside the womens clinic, and my guess was that a lot of “respectable” if somewhat drunk republicans were not really happy about being told they should go home and be born again. What hard working American does not deserve to get drunk on the new year? Everyone found them pretty annoying and yet the cops did nothing, and I was imagining what would happen if someone was out there talking about Bush and American dictation, I doubt very much if they would have been allowed to stay. I also thought about the protest in Washington we went to, we had a permit to be there, it was very peaceful, and yet the arranged “counter protest” was stronger, hostile, and allowed by the police to crowd and harass families. I guess my point is that, what little small acts of “acting out” are left to us, even at this point, are countered and with force. Dissent is not looked upon with approval.

  • occassia says:

    I share the conviction that this nation —indeed, the entire globe— is headed in a dark and dangerous direction. That’s not news, and I mean that literally because 1) no reasonably well-informed person could doubt it, and 2) it won’t be “covered” by mainstream media.

    Still, it isn’t as though living in fear is a novel and otherwise avoidable experience for humans. It isn’t as though leaving was the only (or even best option). Or as though there were someplace to go to avoid global warming, threats to personal freedoms, or multi-national corporate rapine and pillage.

    Here, today, it is as it always has been, everywhere: A majority of humans reassure themselves that everything is basically fine, that the most important questions are which HDTV to buy, why he hasn’t called, or whether one will survive grad school. A minority of humans recognize the perils which confront us all and do what they can to fend them off.

  • a guzman says:

    Well, I think we need to think of something really good and soon, otherwise our generation is going to have a very unpleasant time.

    But as you know, I am all for burning shit!!

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