Why Is This So Personally Hurtful?
Do you know what I would never do? Tell my brother how to fix a car. Or tell my other brother how to maintain the electrical system of a grain elevator. Or tell my yet other brother how to manage a lumberyard. I don’t know how to do those things. I never developed any expertise in them.
I respect each of my brothers’ professions. I have listened to endless stories of their work exploits. I bow to their skills and I have always respected them. I have never gotten the same respect in return.
I spent time studying authoritarianism. In fact, my undergraduate thesis focused on moral aspects of it. I was interested in moral development, political orientation, and something called the Defining Issues Test. I tested to see if liberals could think like conservatives and vice versa about moral issues. As I predicted, authoritarians could not empathize about liberal morality but liberals could do the reverse on a morality test. But my thesis is neither here nor there.
I moved on to study social work so my expertise became social policy. I studied social welfare policy and mental health policy in particular. Those are the topics I taught graduate students at a university. My family knows that the only reason I am no longer teaching at a top university is that I turned in two senior researchers who were fudging results in our data.
Unfortunately, the school just covered up their “work.” Then, I was bullied by several colleagues until I left the school. In fact, they triggered bipolar disorder in me. It was in my genes, but hadn’t been a problem until what they did to me. I lost my career. I finally just broke down. My family knows this.
They know where I was employed. They know the prestige of that university. Therefore, they should have perhaps a tiny modicum of respect for my opinion about social policy. Do they? Absolutely not. Who gets the respect and top-notch policy billing?
Donald Trump and Fox News or Youtube or any random Internet source
Yes, that’s right. Instead of the person who spent years and years of her life studying policy, instead of the person with a scientific, evidence-base for her opinions, instead of the person they know has learned the best methods for digging up information, instead of that person, my family turns to
Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump for their news
And this person with policy expertise should dare to question their “news,” then it becomes “You are filled with hate and anger.”
I am definitely filled with rage. I cannot believe that they are still listening to these ridiculous sources when I have asked them to trust me. Instead of trusting me, they have said,
“Wait, listen to us. Despite the fact this is your area of expertise, we want to tell you all about it. We’re entitled to our opinion.”
So we are back to where we started. We are totally disrespecting my area of expertise. I don’t do it to my family regarding their area of expertise. They are doing it to me. It is very hurtful. It just erases everything I have left of my life. I don’t have my career. I have only my expertise. I have only my knowledge. Instead of hearing me. Instead of listening to me literally beg to be heard. I am tuned out.
So I will write it here:
My Time In Germany
Picture a man who looks like a stereotypical sea captain. Scruffy white hair with a beard to match. As a professor, he brings nine students with him to Germany in 1990 for six months as part of his annual mission to teach Americans how the Nazis rose to power.
On day one, he starts back at Jesus Christ. He tells the story of Christians people have never even heard of like the Waldensians, who emulated Christ by living nomadic lives. These early Christians were quite anti-Semitic as well. They spoke of a blood atonement or a debt owed by the Jewish people for Christ’s death.
They also considered Jews sinners for handling money, in particular. Charging interest at all on loans, whatsoever, was called usury, and only Jews did it. No doubt this can be pinpointed to the parts of the Bible condemning money changers as well.
It didn’t take long for the Catholic Church to consolidate power and lots of these early Christian churches disappeared. The attitudes toward Jews were adopted as well.
On day two, the sea captain tells the students about how Martin Luther dominated Germany in many ways with the spread of Lutheranism when he challenged the Catholic Church, but still the church members were anti-Semitic, blaming famines and epidemics on Jewish people.
On day three, he tells the students about Darwin’s influence on Herbert Spencer, the British man who coined the term, survival of the fittest. Spencer believed in Social Darwinism or Eugenics. He practically invented the concept. I say practically, because he gave words to ideas that were millennia old — that some races and classes of people are inferior.
A young, resentful Adolf who couldn’t make it in the art scene in Vienna, Austria was moving to Bavaria in the 1920s, and reading Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic Dearborn, Michigan newspaper. Henry Ford, like the maker of Ford cars and automated assembly lines. Dearborn, where a huge popularity of Muslim Americans live now.
Adolf was also reading Walt Disney’s propaganda. Sweet, child loving Walt Disney was pumping out the anti-Semitic and Eugenicist materials. Right about now, Adolf wrote his own poorly written manifesto, “Mein Kampf” or my struggle.
By now, we are into week two, and Herr Liermann is becoming more urgent and more anxious. We are coming to the part he wants us to understand the most clearly. How did a man who killed 6 million people in less than 10 years come to power? What caught fire?
Here Liermann turned red and he was deadly serious. “It could happen in the United States at any time.” He didn’t have us read. “A People’s History of the United States,” in that moment to hear about a cataloging of how it already had.
But what our white-haired sea captain said next was the most powerful. He described how Adolf stood in bars and beer halls, and he just created rallies of people angered and riled up towards Jewish people. Next, his rallies started to get violent. The violence spread out from there into street violence where hate crimes occurred constantly.
Everybody thought it was a phase. Most Germans expected the hate crimes to go away when the economic improved. Looking over his spectacles, Herr Liermann, described how Adolf formed a political party, but it wasn’t that popular. In fact, most people don’t realize, most Germans never voted for Nazis. Ever. They were just a minority political party that knew socialism was very popular at the time, so they pasted the name in their title, and then wrote anti-Semitic, white supremacist-oriented legislation.
Herr Liermann’s parents never voted for Nazis. They were Social Democrats. All throughout the 1920s those National Socialists, they were just a violent, loudmouthed minority of the population.
So in the 1930s, they used a bad voting system similar to the one Republicans used to select Donald Trump, where most Republicans didn’t actually vote for him in the primaries, but he still won.
This is also key. Trump actually won because progressives were attempting a protest vote because of what happened with the DNC being biased towards Hillary. Normally, not only would Hillary have won the popular vote, she would have won the electoral vote. Places like Wisconsin and Michigan that went heavily for Sanders are where I expect this protest vote was most evident. Ari Berman has written recently about how more people were turned away from voting than the margin of loss.
So, like in 1930s Germany, Trump should not have come to power. The majority did not want it.
Then to secure their unearned majority, the Nazis created a fake bombing. They declared emergency law and suspended elections. The rest is history.
Herr Liermann became very wide-eyed as if he was remembering the experiences first hand. “Every night, I had to pray for Hitler. For what a mighty and magnificent leader he was. My parents were afraid if I wasn’t indoctrinated, I might give them away as opposition and we’d all be killed. Even on the KristalNacht or Crystal Night, when hundreds of thousands of Germans took to the streets to destroy Jewish property, they said nothing.” He teared up more than once trying to tell us about growing up under the dictator.
Herr Liermann then turned a shade of green. “You don’t want to live under an autocrat. You never want your government to be held hostage like this. You never want to have to pray for evil.”
Now, fast forward 25 years, as Herr Liermann’s student, I watch Trump rise to power on scapegoating immigrants, Muslims, and with a dog whistle, all minorities. When he said he intended to enforce law and order, and initiate national stop-and-frisk, this was a subtle signal to white people he plans to use law enforcement to crack down on black people in particular, especially those Black Lives Matter protesters. I mean Richard Nixon was the last President to promise law and order in the same way, and he was planning a crackdown on “the blacks.” He then created the Drug War.
Trump has promised policies that are authoritarian in nature such as punishing the press for writing about him and creating a registry of Muslim people. He hired a white supremacist as his right hand man. He has encouraged people who attended his rallies to be violent. They have been, and his call to end it is, “Stop it.” Ouch. Hit me again with that sock.
I don’t think Donald Trump plans concentration camps. I don’t think he plans genocide. I’m not as sure about his advisors, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller. But putting them aside, I guess what I am wondering is how many Americans are like me? Taught that there is a slippery slope greased with a starting line of heated, hate rallies, followed by spikes in hate crime, followed by changes in government policy, which lead to an uglier environment for minorities.
The United States has been and continues to be an authoritarian nation in so many ways. So when I personally compare the Trump phenomena to 1920s Germany, I am honoring Herr Liermann, and the promise I made to him to sound the alarm when our country is on a slippery slope. Not too far gone. But moving backwards swiftly from a place where good people can make a difference.