Just Above Sunset
September 12, 2004 - Low-Rent Crystalnacht (...it continues)

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This is a continuation of what started with the "Low-Rent Crystalnacht" idea on the daily web log here and cleaned up and published in Just Above Sunset last weekend here.

I don't like what is in the air, but I want to avoid being one more lefty yelling Nazi and fascist like so many others.  Bush is not Hitler.  And Karl Rove is not Hermann Goering.  Yes, Rove's grandfather was Karl Heinz Roverer, the Gauleiter of Oldenburg.  Roverer was Reich-Statthalter - Nazi State Party Chairman - for his region.  He was also a partner and senior engineer in the Roverer Sud-Deutche Ingenieurburo AG engineering firm, which built the Birkenau camp – according to this research.  But so what?  The father of Arnold Shwarzenegger was a Nazi officer, but Arnold is our governor out here now.  That’s all in the past.

Lots of folks like to point out the seizures in late 1942 of five enterprises Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the president, managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen.  Prescott Bush got caught red-handed and a whole bunch of assets were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act.  Yeah, there were these Nazi financial transactions, from 1924 on, and maybe through 1951 actually, involving Prescott Bush and the private bank, Brown Brothers Harriman.  Yep, Averell Harriman seems to have been involved. (Read all about this stuff here.)

But really, George Bush is not his grandfather.  Arnold Shwarzenegger is not his Austrian father.  And I taught the grandchildren of Averell Harriman back in the seventies at that fancy prep school in upstate New York.  Nice kids, and not Nazis as far as I could tell.  But the family did run the oldest fox hunt in America, yearly, on their big estate down in Geneseo.

The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters.
- William Shenstone, Works in verse and prose (1764).

Everyone has his or her faults.

But is there something fascist and Nazi-like in the air?  The idea that Andrew Sullivan floated - the cult of the Great Leader - fascinates me, particularly in how it makes certain attitudes and behaviors (like the minor Crystalnacht-lite vandalism noted previously) almost inevitable.  But I don't know. 

But just to keep the issue alive, here you can watch an ABC news video from last week’s Republican National Convention – a clip from the floor of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.  You will see a young Republican supporter kicking a female protester inside the Garden as she is lying on the ground being held by three secret service agents.  The protesters were arrested.  The young Republican was not.  A search is on for his identity – and here and here you can announce you know this young fellow, if you do.

The question that comes to mind for me is simple.  When a political leader becomes something like a cult leader, in the sense that his decisions and actions cannot be doubted or even questioned – as that would be unpatriotic and an attack to the personality of the leader – is such behavior to be expected, or even glorified?  Or put it another way.  When you base your campaign on your attitude - and not on your ideas or your actions or your decisions or your accomplishments - does such behavior in your followers, well, just follow naturally? 


Even more simply?  If all you have to run on is swagger and sneers, then, when people buy into that, what else did you expect?

There will be more of this.

As for the young Bush enthusiast, my young prep school students back in the seventies looked much like this.  Do you know him?

Click here for separate image...

Our friend Joseph, the American who gave up work out here in the film industry to live in France, sends this along.


This strikes me as the most important issue of the election cycle.  It's not the economy, or the war (or that other war) or whether the Bush family is more loyal to the Saudis than Kerry is to the French; it's about Kerry’s ability to take over not as president, but as "national cult leader."


Many are dissatisfied with ole "W." Incumbents with lower numbers predate modern polling.  I rarely hear Kerry attacked on a specific issue.  Many middle class Republicans I speak to readily admit that for them, the Bush tax cut was a scam, and that they would personally fare better under Kerry’s plan.  But they always end the same way, however: a slight tilt of the head, the sour face, shrug of the shoulders, and a resigned, "I dunno..." 


They are no doubt experiencing the identical pangs of doubt that Democrats had after Iowa: the doubt that Kerry can fulfill the role as national cult leader.  Myself, I don't see it.  Can he lead?  Sure.  Can he lead us out of this mess?  Only if we want to be led out of this mess!


And we probably don't.  It is normally a good indicator of how badly things are going (won't mention that "H" guy!) when a nation needs a cult leader to keep them from coming apart.  But perhaps, in the spirit of "creative destruction" they should come apart.  Maybe it's time the red and blue states went our separate ways, if we hate each other so much.


I have nothing against cult leaders per se; it's just that they usually have nothing to offer beyond a talent for manipulating people's issues of fear and security.  Oh - and the fact that they do tend to end with a bang.


Indeed they do.


And Dick up in Rochester, New York add this in response to Joseph –


I would really like to think you are wrong – oversimplification and all that.  But viscerally, I think you might be closer to right than I am comfortable with.


Rick the News Guy in Atlanta chimes in –


You say that when you base your campaign on your attitude - and not on your ideas or your actions or your decisions or your accomplishments - such behavior in your followers just follow naturally?  That if all you have to run on is swagger and sneers, then, when people buy into that, what else do you expect?


Swagger and sneers, or better yet, the lack thereof, in my case.


The main problem, I think, is not basing your campaign on attitude, but basing it on bad attitude.  I have to admit that what I myself look for in a candidate is not so much the specifics of what they will do about any specific "issue" but an attitude that says he or she is the kind of person who will try to do the kinds of things I want done.


Just as all the swaggering and sneering of these Bush people tell me that they have neither the intention nor the brains to do what needs to be done, it seems to be a signal to their own followers that they don't value thinking and ideas, much less lifelong proof of character and service, nearly as highly as they value blind decisive action, and therefore are thought to be just what this country needs right now.


My response? 


Exactly.  Here is the if-then.


Now, if 1.) about half the country has a deep emotional problem with this "thinking and ideas" business - characterized by the attitude that, well, my man in the White House (a man of "Character") may be wrong on lots of things, and may not know much, and may have made some really bone-headed decisions that get people I know killed and will probably ruin the economy for decades, making us all poorer from now on, and may be a narrow, mean and rather stupid son-of-bitch, at least he sticks to his guns, he doesn't back down, and he's no coward (and the corollary "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?") - and if 2.) about half the country is appalled by that list of characteristics (pun) and values an attitude of thoughtfulness, and maybe even caution, and thinks planning is not at all dumb, and listening matters, and so on and so forth... then, is Joseph right?  Do we do what the Czechs and Slovaks did and have a pleasant, bloodless split into two countries?  I think they called it the Velvet Divorce.  We get our bad knock-off of Vaclav Havel (without the literary talent), this Kerry fellow, and the coastal states.  And they get Bush and the rest of the states in between? 


Works for me.  I'll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too....


I don't see the two sides agreeing on much of anything.  One side is saying Bush is just like me - angry, inarticulate (spotty education and not much interest in the world), petty and uninterested in what anyone else thinks, and ready to strike out proudly at any smart-ass who tries to show me up - thus he's my man!  The other side is saying Bush is like certain people who always horrified me, and Kerry is the sort of guy I like to have around - like me, trying to figure things out and do the right thing and not always just assuming I'm right - thus he's my man. 


This isn't going to work.  Half the country is going to be appalled in mid-November, and no one knows which half.  At that point things may actually get worse.  The split in values will only intensify.  Kerry wins and faces immediate impeachment.  That's certain.  Bush wins and every Democratic leader seeks political asylum in France - as we get the Night of the Long Knives, kind of like 30 June 1934 if you recall.  Ernst Roehm and his guys discovered you don't stand up to the people's leader.


Oh well.


Rick shot this back…


Didn't some our states already try that some 150 years ago?  As I remember, some of them didn't like the idea of some country they belonged to telling them what they could and could not do, so they spun off, with a result that was anything but velvet.  (They failed, I think, because the states that didn't like the idea of being a country had a hard time standing up to the ones that did.  So whatever happens, the two countries would be sitting ducks, security-wise.)


But then you will have the problem of individual states wanting to do the same thing the country did.  I was living in New York City in the early seventies when a number of its citizens, thinking themselves mistreated by upstate, came up with the idea of becoming the 51st state, a pretty dumb idea as we learned the more we looked into it.  Every few years, Northern and Southern California look into going it their own way.


Also, the attitudes of states change over time, and thank goodness they do.  Imagine the nation splitting after the Mondale election?


But to me, the most obvious problem with the red-blue split is that, as a Georgia resident, I'd end up living in the United States of Bushiana!  You might not see the problem with that, but I think I might.


Yeah, I forget.  As my mother's side of the family was Czech and my father's side Slovak, I just assumed everyone would be pleasant and work things out – but that is a narrow ethnocentric assumption.  My genes betrayed me.  Folks over here aren't like that. 


We did have a bit of a war in the 1860s, didn't we?  We'd have another one now.


I forgot that NYC had wanted to be the 51st state, or 52nd - after Israel.  And the Puerto Ricans always think about being the 53rd state - or used to.  And DC statehood comes up now and then - the 54th state?  What a mess.


But South Carolina may actually secede.  Along the lines suggested above.  See this from World Net Daily on May 24, 2004 – on the plans for states succeeding to form a Christian traditional-values nation of their own.  And we see who is first -  "… after originally considering Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina due to their relatively small populations, coastal access, and the Christian nature of the electorate, Burnell says South Carolina has been selected as the target location."


Bushiana would be a few miles north of Rick.  A trend?  Cool.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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