Monday, January 23, 2017

This Is Only the Beginning

As of Jan. 20, 2017, when the new guy was sworn in, the right of assembly, the right to protest, no longer exists in the nation’s capital.  It has become a felony offense.

In North Dakota, demonstrators who block a road can be run down — legally — by motorists.

International agencies that help poor women end unwanted pregnancies, often the result of wartime rape, will no longer get foreign aid funds from the USA.

Federal agencies cannot hire new employees; existing employees will not get pay rises they have earned.

Without even consulting Congress (not that those idiots would object), the new guy has disavowed a treaty legitimately negotiated by his predecessor. (The TPP is a lousy treaty, as we who have examined it well know, but still, there used to be a thing called due process.) Also, the heads of state in Canada and Mexico have been told that the North American Treaty Alliance with the United States, under which they have been operating for more than a decade, will soon be deconstructed as well.

And his first “business day” in office is not even half over.

This is just the beginning.

Medicaid — the program that enables most of our poorest people to get some form of medicine and treatment when they’re sick — is being turned upside down.  States will get either “block grants” or “per capita subsidies” to enable them to care for their sick poor folks.  Even Republican governors are saying this will be a travesty.

Medicare and the Affordable Care Act are in the crosshairs.  Nonpartisan number-crunchers with appropriate expertise say the forthcoming actions will cost the country a trillion  dollars, leave millions of people without medical care.  Aside:  Polls show that a majority of voting age Americans don’t like Obamacare, but virtually the same majority likes the Affordable Care Act!  These are the people whose votes put us where we are.

The Dakota Access Pipeline soon will be forced upon the indigenous people, poisoning their water.

We are in decline.  Already the First Amendment has begun to melt away, with the felony charges against those who demonstrated on inauguration day.  Remember what happened after the terrorist attacks of 9/11?  The day before, we were a free people.  The day after we lived under the onus of something called the USA Patriot Act.  This legal abomination was rushed into law by a shocked and numbed Congress, and will be the foundation of the new police state that is already in the works.

Wise men have warned us that if we ignore history we are doomed to repeat it.  What kind of history might that be?  Noam Chomsky, scholar, writer and public conscience, remembers:

The Weimar Republic was the peak of western civilization in the sciences and the arts, also regarded as a model of democracy. Through the 1920s, the traditional liberal and conservative parties entered into inexorable decline, well before the process was intensified by the Great Depression. The coalition that elected General Hindenburg in 1925 was not very different from the mass base that swept Hitler into office eight years later, compelling the aristocratic Hindenburg to select as chancellor the "little corporal" he despised. As late as 1928, the Nazis had less than 3 percent of the vote. 

Two years later, the most respectable Berlin press was lamenting the sight of the many millions in this "highly civilized country" who had "given their vote to the commonest, hollowest and crudest charlatanism." The public was becoming disgusted with the incessant wrangling of Weimar politics, the service of the traditional parties to powerful interests and their failure to deal with popular grievances. They were drawn to forces dedicated to upholding the greatness of the nation and defending it against invented threats in a revitalized, armed and unified state, marching to a glorious future, led by the charismatic figure who was carrying out "the will of eternal Providence, the Creator of the universe," as he orated to the mesmerized masses. By May 1933, the Nazis had largely destroyed not only the traditional ruling parties, but even the huge working-class parties, the Social Democrats and Communists, along with their very powerful associations. The Nazis declared May Day 1933 to be a workers holiday, something the left parties had never been able to achieve. Many working people took part in the enormous patriotic demonstrations, with more than a million people at the heart of Red Berlin, joining farmers, artisans, shopkeepers, paramilitary forces, Christian organizations, athletic and riflery clubs, and the rest of the coalition that was taking shape as the center collapsed. By the onset of the war, perhaps 90 percent of Germans were marching with the brown shirts.

I am just old enough to remember those chilling and ominous days of Germany's descent from decency to Nazi barbarism, to borrow the words of the distinguished scholar of German history Fritz Stern. He tells us that he has the future of the United States in mind when he reviews "a historic process in which resentment against a disenchanted secular world found deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason."

Chomsky, when recalling these things, remarked that today, the world is too complex for this history to repeat.

Or is it?

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