“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke.
Along with Edmund Burke, George Santayana and Winston Churchill have been associated with similar sayings, which may have been altered or paraphrased differently to suit their individual taste. Another version was, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
An avid student and teacher of history, my father was fond of using the above quote while emphasizing the need to know and understand events that shaped our world, from the founding of our nation through the turbulent times of the civil war to today. Failure to understand the past in a historically accurate context can lead to serious consequences in the future.
It was hardly a surprise to me than when a reader responded with a letter to the editor to make a point. The reader’s argument falls off the rails in mid-rebuttal due to a lack of vetting the story and verifying the chaotic events in Portland, which could have been easily done these days.
To do so, one must verify and corroborate video from not only credentialed news media who were on the scene and in person but also from a host of watchers who recorded everything; all of it contains the body of evidence that requires astute observation before drawing conclusions.
By the way, good journalism is not dead. It is alive and well. To recognize good journalism, it requires a citizen with the ability for critical thinking, which is sorely lacking these days.
The greater story remains largely ignored by the letter writer; totalitarianism remains the greatest current threat to this democratic republic since the Civil War. Based on Arendt’s historical writing, Hitler succeeded by these tactics:
- Paramilitary gangs terrorizing the opposition.
- Incompetence and opportunism of German conservatives.
- The Reichstag fire, believed by historians to have been set to accuse the opposition of insurrection. In response, a leader, Marinus van der Lubbe was executed, civil liberties were suspended and Nazi control of the government was firmly entrenched.
- Deliberate misinformation was used to sway mass opinion and support for future actions against the opposition.
- Joseph Goebbels’ purge of Jewish and left-wing artists and writers began.
- Goebbels’ creation of a massive media infrastructure to control information to the public and feed them whatever propaganda was necessary for the regime to succeed.
- Truth is whatever the top leadership wants it to be, even when it contradicts what has spoken one day, one hour or one minute been before. This is the greatest crime of all; the citizen will finally give up trying to know the truth and is willing to believe whatever is said is the truth.
Can we draw any parallels? Yes. In some cases, one might draw different conclusions, but they may be equally or more alarming.
n Why doesn’t President Trump condemn paramilitary actions of the Boogalo Boys, or Qanon? If BLM arrived in a distant city with more than six hundred vehicles filled with gun-toting radicals, do you think he would do nothing?
But this, it works for him. Instead, he is encouraging them and others to engage with violence, without fear of legal punishment.
- As to incompetence and opportunism of conservatives, there are a few who might qualify. A former candidate from Kansas for the vacant Senate seat, Kris Kobach, comes to mind. There are others as well.
- There’s no credible threat to destroy a federal building, yet. Then again, we have Mr. Trump trying to isolate cities who have elected leaders who belong to the Democrat party and are threatening to impose a unilateral (and uninvited) crackdown on them.
And, there’s the Portland fiasco with unidentified hired guns taking citizens off the streets without due cause to undisclosed locations
Maybe there’s no need for a “fire.” Just release para-military firepower and use of potentially deadly force on American citizens, and throw in threatened prosecution of the opposition. All of these tactics were used successfully by Adolf Hitler. So, should we not be concerned?
Plus, Trump’s threat about suspension of civil liberties, slowing down the mail and limiting access to polling places is just talk, right?
- Deliberate use of misinformation is prolific via the loudspeaker of Rush, Jones, Hannity, Tucker and the White House media group. The truth is completely irrelevant. It is what they want you to think it is.
- The term, “Commie loving” is now chic, except when it isn’t. It is chic when Russian President Putin is a close “friend” with Mr. Trump. It isn’t when Mr. Trump says BLM activists are Marxist.