There ARE a few downsides to my love and fascination for history. One of those is the "Aw CRAP!" moments when I get the overwhelming feeling that (at least in my opinion) we are heading down a path that we have gone down before.
This past weekend I got hit right between the eyes with one of those which left me shaking my head.
While sitting around tying some knots on a knife lanyard for my Civil War sailor's belt knife, I was watching the video "Cabaret" with Liza Minnelli. Not a video I would normally watch, but I had pretty much worked through my collection over the past week or so and was driven to desperate measures.
About halfway through the film, I was struck by how close America resembles the German Weimar Republic of the late 1920's / early 1930's. The majority of the people are so caught up in their own troubles and the hurting economy that they are willing to be led by anyone who will offer them a quick "painless" solution. People are more focused on their own narrow self interest and what makes them happy or feel good. The government is printing money that is being devalued almost as soon as it comes off the presses and is running the risk of inflation or even hyper-inflation. (I remember seeing pictures of Germans trying to buy loaves of bread with a wheelbarrow full of money as well as hearing about Germans rushing out to spend their pay as soon as they got it, before it's value was reduced even further due to hyper-inflation.) Granted, we don't have Brown Shirts running around beating up people, nor pitched battles in the street between the Nazi and Communist gangs. But there are enough similarities to make me feel very, very, uncomfortable.
Most folks forget that Hitler came to power by a more or less honest election. He promised the German people that he would rebuild both the country and the economy. He also told the people that he would restore their pride and honor. He said that he would protect them from all enemies and they could have wonderful lives if they just followed him without question. Well the German people accepted Herr Hitler's program hook, line and sinker. And once Hitler took power he gradually took what freedom and liberty the people did have away until he had created a true police state.
I was also reminded of how America also resembles Spain in the early 1930's. After years of a conservative government, a free election brought in a government that was extremely liberal, anti- religion, and pro-labor. There were a huge number of changes in the country in a very short time which caused a great deal of uncertainty and fear. The status quo was over turned and the people were left with nothing that they could hold on to. Again, there was someone sitting in the wings watching and waiting who promised the people stability and security that they were missing. This man was Francisco Franco, a officer in the Spanish Army. He led a military coup that promised to bring order and the rule of law back to Spain. After a bloody three year civil war he overthrew the elected government of Spain and took over the reins of power which led to a dictatorship that lasted until the 1970's. Did he give people the stability that they craved? Yes, but the cost was their individual liberty and freedom.
When a person is scared, worried or hungry, some times rational thought goes out the window. Again, quick and easy is what most people would rather have. Instant gratification is the universal desire of the modern man. Unfortunately I see a great deal of that going on today. I hope and pray that we have enough knowledge and wisdom to resist such "fuhrers or generalissimos" these days, but I have my serious doubts.