Tear Gas and Totalitarianism

November 28, 2018

It is apparent to many thoughtful and engaged citizens of this country that we are on a slippery slope, sliding ever closer to the fatal precipice known as  totalitarianism.  Where might makes right.  And even more frightening, where might makes TRUTH.  


The rabid cries of "fake news," the harrying of journalists, the deliberate lies spoken with all the conviction of Gospel, the unconscionable stonewalling and denial when an American resident journalist is horrifically murdered by a foreign dictator,  all bear faint, ominous echoes of "War is Peace", "Freedom is Slavery," "Ignorance is Strength."  Doubleplusungood! 1


The recent rash of hate crimes many blame on Republican rhetoric demonstrate a fundamental breakdown in the moral fiber of our society, destroying the strong nuclear forces which bind us together and freeing men's worst, most atavistic selves.  "Things fall apart; The centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."2


This "falling apart" was shockingly demonstrated over the holiday weekend when US government officials took the unprecedented and horrifying step of spraying unarmed, non-violent asylum seekers outside our borders with tear gas.  https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/26/americas/migrants-border-questions/index.html


These defenseless people have been traveling for months from their homes in countries where they faced unspeakable violence, poverty and despair, hoping to find a better life in this country.  And as an election stunt, our President called in the military to stop this "invasion."


Somehow, when it's White Supremacists and Nazis protesting in Charlottesville, who kill an innocent young woman, they're "very good people."  But when it is poor unarmed foreigners with brown skin seeking a better life, who haven't hurt anybody, they're "an invasion."  


There may be some who don't understand how these actions relate to totalitarianism.  After all, these actions are not being taken against American citizens or residents.  To those people the only thing I can say is, "Not YET!"  


History shows that demonizing an unpopular class of people, such as immigrants, is one of the classic "divide and conquer" tactics of dictatorship.  In Nazi Germany, it was the Jews.  In Italy, it was socialists.   A would-be dictator uses fake enemies to unite the people against a common "threat," so that in their paranoia they don't notice (or don't care) that their rights and freedoms are slowly--or quickly for that matter--being decimated.  


In this case, it's foreigners--whether immigrants who are "taking over our country," or foreign business interests who are trying to ruin our economy, and whom we must repel by heavy, economically-disastrous tariffs.  


Some may still fail to see, however, how these actions affect US, proud and constitutionally-protected citizens of the United States of America.  They affect us because this "enemy-ism" is not static.  It is a creeping insatiable monster, never satisfied with devouring merely a single group.  In Germany it started with the Communists and Jewish people, then spread to non-conformist Christians, homosexuals, intellectuals, the disabled...


So how does tear gas sprayed on the caravan "invasion" affect us?  And why should we care? The cautionary words of the German pastor Martin Niemoller, writing about the Third Reich, have deafening resonance now:


"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."


If you need a better reason than that, there's always:


"Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these My brothers and sisters, you have done it to Me."  Matt. 25:40


1. Orwell, George. 1984. London: Secker and Warburg, 1949.

2. W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming," 1919.

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