Reflections on Valkyrie

In light of that movie, many like to act like as if nothing resembling the Nazi regime could establish itself here, or that the United States would never commit such atrocities. The ones who think that are not only wrong, but also naive – and they should work toward the essential goal of encouraging the growth of an informed citizenry that remembers and inculcates future generations with the knowledge of history instead of uttering such tenuous platitudes.

It is convenient, when thinking to oneself how immune this country is to performing anything like the Holocaust, to forget the entirety of American colonial and nineteenth century history, which marked by the bloody, genocidal Westward expansion from the coast of Virginia to the forests of Washington and the deserts of Arizona (and later to Hawaii, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines). It is also convenient to forget FDR’s executive order to lock up Japanese-Americans in internment camps. In this case, the U.S. government put its own citizens into concentration camps while the Nazis were doing the same (with the significant difference being that the Nazi camps were for killing, torturing, and experimenting). Let us not also forget that the U.S. was one of the last developed countries to abolish slavery only to struggle for another century with segregation and lynchings. And finally, remember Reagan’s arming of the Indonesian military as it raped and pillaged the people of Timor during its horrifying occupation. There are so many other examples I will not name because listing them would be exhausting.

However, the government has not been fully totalitarian or authoritarian. Sometimes it did exhibit these tendencies under Adams (alien and sedition laws), Lincoln (who suspended habeas corpus), Wilson, FDR, and Nixon (who said if a president does something, it is not illegal – I wonder: when did the United States turn into an absolute monarchy?). Also, half of the Bill of Rights was made null and void by George W. Bush, including habeas corpus and the need for a warrant issued by a judge (the only people who currently think that is spin should remove their blinders before they elect another disastrous president).

The terrors of the past make us feel we are immune to them. I think that is because they are in the past in the first place. We become complacent as they come back to us in new guises. We thought we learned from the witch trials and the Inquisitions of medieval Europe, but then McCarthy set up his HUAC in the 1950s – and in this decade the USA PATRIOT Act and the 2006 Military Commissions Act were passed. An important thing to learn from these examples is that people tend to not learn from history. This does not mean we not at least try to inform ourselves about how we can recognize the new guises of terror and unreason so that we may inhabit a more sane and peaceful planet.


~ by jsacc001 on January 18, 2009.

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