I recently finished a fantastic book by Lewis H. Lapham. GAG RULE: On the Supression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy
. In it, Lapham quotes another book by a man named Milton Mayer, titled They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945
. The retrospective account of a German grappling with how quickly democracy became totalitarianism is both shocking and frightening, especially given our current circumstances.
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret, to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security...
more below the fold...
From Mayer's book:
To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it--please try to believe me--unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his fields sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
So as this administration grows more secretive, as many on the left scream and shout for the world to hear that we do not trust this man in the White House, is it possible that we, too, in small steps barely noticeable to the average citizen, are progressing toward totalitarianism? Either one of those paragraphs above could pass for a description of America in 2005. Are the "little measures" being passed now (the ones Republicans claim no patriotic American can resent) enough to push us over the edge?
I like to think not. It doesn't seem possible. And, to many, worrying about it may seem laughable or absurd. But to the Germans in 1933 it seemed equally absurd. And as a point of reference: a majority of citizens voted against Adolf Hitler. He was appointed Chancellor by German authorities, just as George W. Bush was appointed President by the U.S. Supreme Court.
I'm not suggesting George W. Bush is looking to exterminate entire races. Even I don't think he's that bad. But he is certainly after power, as are his closest political allies. And one need not look far back into history to understand how dangerous those who crave power can be.
Anyway, read Gag Rule. It's a fabulous call to arms.