WITT: We shouldn’t ignore the lessons of history
It is always dangerous to resort to hyperbole when trying to extrapolate occurrences.
At the same time, it is absolutely necessary to utilize the lessons of history to illustrate how the eventualities contained in them may come to affect current circumstances.
Alexander Hamilton wrote, in his “Objections and Answers respecting the Administration,” Aug. 18, 1792, “When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits – despotic in his ordinary demeanour – known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty – when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity – to join in the cry of danger to liberty – to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government and bringing it under suspicion – to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day – It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”
With the exception of “advantages of military habits,” could this not be a more apt description of our president?
Lee J. Carter, 50th District representative in the Virginia House of Delegates recently wrote, “The history of Nazis holding rallies in left-wing areas of Weimar, Germany, instigating street fights and then telling the press that only they could save Germany from the ‘violent communists’ seems like an important thing for people to be studying right now.”
James Waterman Wise, Jr., a mid-20th century author and editor, said in 1936, “If fascism comes … it will not be identified with any ‘shirt’ movement, nor with an ‘insignia’, but it will probably be ‘wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for the liberty and preservation of the constitution.’”
And Halford E. Luccock, American Methodist minister and professor at Yale Divinity School, wrote in 1938, “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany;’ it will not be marked with a swastika, it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, Americanism.”
In the 1930s and 1940s, Fascism and Nazism were frequently co-mingled as the same philosophies, which sought to wrest control from the populace and place it in the hands of a select few, a few who preyed on the worst fears of the people and consistently agitated against the highest principles of democracy.
Those years, prior to World War II were rife with the vilification of a free press, the denigration of the opposition and the generous and repetitive use of slogans and symbols in lieu of reason and compassion.
The recent videos of belligerents in pickup trucks on the streets of Portland, Oregon — trucks carrying the American flag and ‘Trump 2020’ flags – smack too eerily of the movies of brown-shirted thugs riding through the streets of German cities sporting swastika banners and armbands.
Even though Thomas Jefferson excoriated the days’ papers for questioning some of his presidential actions, he had also said, “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Today, our president demeans the media and press at almost every turn – except for Fox News and Brietbart.
There are too many similarities between much of what is happening in American today and what has been warned about and what has transpired in the all-too-recent past, and ignoring the lessons of history works to the detriment of a free society and imperils the continuation of a democratic Republic.
Hyperbole? Perhaps. History? Definitely.
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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