Good Americans

by lizard

I read an article by Sam Smith at Counterpunch today, titled America’s Silent Collapse, that’s really worth reading. Something that really jumped out, though, was a statement made by a German university professor to journalist Milton Mayer about what it was like to live through Germany’s dark transformation during the 1930’s:

To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted.’. . .

Believe me this is true. Each act, each occasion is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.. . .

Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we did nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

I’m afraid there will be no single rousing shock to jolt us good Americans from our stupor. But we are certainly taking impressive strides these days with legislation like NDAA and SOPA slowly moving toward becoming our new reality.

Other little examples of the noose tightening will come and go. David Seaman speculated a few days ago that his twitter account was taken down because he was tweeting too much about topics like #NDAA and #OWS. But who cares if some dude has his little tweets impeded?

Despite all the hiccups and stumbles that necessarily accompany any emerging popular movement, OWS continues to evolve and elude co-optation. Targeting Obama’s campaign office in Iowa is a smart move, IMHO, because it shifts a sliver of attention away from the crazy train running the GOP off the tracks to our sitting president who is doing his share to shred the constitution he was hired by the American people to uphold.

Going back to the Smith article, the conclusion echoes a sentiment I’ve tried articulating before; I like the way Smith says it though, so here it is:

Basically, our country is now divided between those who still believe in democracy and those who believe only in a culture of impunity to those with power and devoid of honor. With stunningly few exceptions, the latter includes not only Republican and Democratic politicians but our business leaders, media figures and a surprising number of academics. One need only to compare the role of today’s intellectuals with those of the 1960s to see how far our purported best and brightest have also fallen.

To do something about this, we do not have to forego our concerns for economic, ecological, and social issues, but we must understand and act on the fact that the biggest division in our country today is between those who still believe in democracy, decency and liberty and those who consider America just one big hedge fund that no one can, or cares to, regulate..

It might help, for example, if Greens and Libertarians came up with a joint plan to confront this crisis. Or if Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul jointly formed a movement to give it life. Or if the Occupiers and the Tea Party took a tip from their members in Memphis and Richmond and, despite all their other profound disagreements, worked together on the simply recovery of a constitutional society. As Tea Party member and Marine Corporal Stephen Mark Allen, put it, “Nothing would terrify the establishment more than a united Occupy Tea Party movement.

  1. Turner

    I’ve been in Occupy events (haven’t camped out yet) and Tea Party events. The messages coming from them, in my opinion, are irreconcilable. The Tea Partiers I’ve seen hate the government and love big corporations. The Occupiers I’ve been with were 100% focused on corrupt Wall Streeters. They want bigger government, more regulations.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      Overly simplistic def. of the Occupiers. Frontier digs deeper.

      “What did Frontier Lab discover? First, that many of the rank-and-file occupiers feel isolated in their lives, and appear to lack basic community ties such as are provided by participation in clubs, churches, and strong families. Indeed, much of the report could have come from the early chapters of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. They thus attach to their political causes with something like a religious fervor. For many, a commitment to “social justice” is “not the end, but rather a means to an inflated sense of self and purpose in their own lives.” Crucially, involvement with others who agree with them provides an “overwhelming feeling of being part of a family.” I noticed this on my first trip down to Zuccotti Park, when I saw a telling sign adorning the entrance to the tent city: “For the first time in my life, I feel at home.” On subsequent visits I was struck by the importance of the commune to the project. As much as anything else, vast swathes of occupiers were simply looking for a new club. This group, Frontier Lab dubs the “Communitarians.””

  2. Pete Talbot

    Some good stuff in this post, Liz, but Ron Paul? The guy’s as big a shill for corporations as any of the Republican presidential hack wannabes. Saw him speak at the U three years ago: free marketeer, anti-government (even good government) anti-choice, anti-regulation zealot. He’s not even in the same universe as Bernie Sanders.

    • lizard19

      I was watching Joe Scarborogh this morning mock Ron Paul. it was very interesting. obviously, because he has a real shot of winning Iowa, the GOP shills who despise Paul are bringing out the big guns against him. like Pogo does here with me, they were calling him a conspiracy theorist, laughing about new world orders and the bilderberg club and his wacky idea to “end the Fed” (which I agree with, by the way).

      there is plenty of legitimate criticism of Paul, like you mention, and his anti-government stance advocating for slashing entire federal departments is pretty out there, but there are some things that Paul has consistently stood for that over the years that have slowly gained him a very dedicated group of followers, and establishment figures trying to take him out will only entrench that following, and probably gain him more support.

      I’m considering voting for Ron Paul as a protest vote if he makes it on as an Independent, which would be a very nice gift to Obama, because that would basically ensure his reelection.

      • Pete Talbot

        I suppose a Ron Paul Independent ticket would be a gift to Obama (unless too many left-leaning individuals cast a protest vote, as you might). Probably wouldn’t happen but I, personally, wouldn’t take that chance.

        You have some very legitimate criticisms of Obama but I’ll leave you with just three words: Supreme Court justices.

        Can you imagine the kind of justices appointed by the likes of Gingrich or Romney? It would make Thomas and Scalia look like pikers.

      • Turner

        Liz, Are you concerned at all about Paul’s racist remarks, which he now supposedly disavows (while boasting about having always been consistent in his views)?

        Could it be that the “dedicated group of followers” you want to join are, like him, racists?

        Sometimes, in the midst of controversy, it’s a good idea to look around and see who’s on your side.

        • lizard19

          sure it’s concerning, and so is the way large groups of people are depicted. I don’t think all tea party folks are racists, and I don’t think everyone that despises international bankers are anti-semites, and I don’t think everyone who criticizes the Fed are conspiracy theorists, but in this divisive climate, it’s easier to write off people and focus on what differentiates them from you than looking for commonality.

          • Ron Paul wants to dismantle the America’s infrastructure. His first one – the Dept. of Education. Plus he’s a racist.

            He might be good on war, but there’s a whole hell of a lot of dangerous crazy talk in there that a protest vote is a pretty dangerous statement to make. IMO, of course.

            I think you’d make more of a statement to not vote at all in any given race than to vote for a racist who wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education and Social Security.

            • lizard19

              that I’m even entertaining the idea indicates a kind of desperation to punch something with my vote.

              • JC

                A better third party candidate will come along. Somebody’s got to be willing to scoop up all those millions of votes that Obama’s losing by signing horrendous bills like the NDAA.

      • Pogo Possum

        “. . . . like Pogo does here with me, they were calling him a conspiracy theorist . . . ”

        Just so I don’t hurt your feelings in the future Lizard, are you saying you ARE NOT a Conspiracy Theorist or are you saying you ARE a Conspiracy Theorist but take offense when people acknowledge your beliefs and call you a Conspiracy Theorist?

        • lizard19

          what I’m saying is the term is used by people like you to shut down speculation on topics deemed too fringe for serious consideration.

          but those topics interest me, and I don’t shy away from thinking or discussing them, even though it opens me up to the kind of ridicule you are so fond of dishing out.

          • Pogo Possum

            Got it…’s option B – you are a Conspiracy Theorist but take offense when people acknowledge your beliefs and call you a Conspiracy Theorist.

            And if you haven’t noticed Lizard , you throw tons of ridicule at others on a daily basis on this blog with no remorse. You love to dish it out but cry foul everytime someone responds in kind to you.

            • lizard19

              if labels are that important to you, then, emphatically, yes I am. and entertaining such ideas is certainly no more ridiculous than all the silly things religious folk believe. I’ll take aliens over man/god Jesus any day of the week, even SUNday.

  3. JC

    Milton Mayer’s book, “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45” is next up on my reading list. There’s some great history to be studied and applied to what we see going on in america today. I’ve been spending a lot of time with a german lately, so I needs to get up to speed!

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