Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
A bit earlier we watched, and I re-watched the German film Look Who’s Back (Er ist Wieder Da) which is about Hitler rising from his bunker in 2014. It is a very dark comedy where the actors mingle with regular people, and the actor playing Hitler mingles with them, but no-one really believes that he is really Hitler, but many are willing to make public support of Hitler’s policies. Finally, the amateur filmmaker who discovered Hitler realizes that the man he thought was an actor is really Hitler, and the following conversation ensues:
Hitler: I was wondering when you would show up.
Sawatski: It’s you. You’re him.
Hitler: I never claimed to be anything else. History repeats itself. I guess it’s my fate to have to part with my dearest companions.
Sawatski: That way. Yes, history repeats itself. You’re fooling people with your propaganda.
Hitler: Oh, Sawatski. You don’t understand. In 1933, people were not fooled by propaganda. They elected a leader, one who openly disclosed his plans with great clarity. The Germans elected me.[At gunpoint, Hitler takes the elevator to the top of the building and walks out on the rooftop, standing close to the edge.]
Sawatski: You’re a monster.
Hitler: Am I? Then you have to condemn those who elected this monster. Were they all monsters? No. They were ordinary people, who chose to elect an extraordinary man, and entrust the fate of the country to him. What do you want to do, Sawatski? Ban elections?
Sawatski: No. But I’m going to stop you.
Hitler: Have you never asked yourself… why people follow me? Because at their core, they are just like me. They have the same values. And that’s why you won’t shoot.
[Sawatski shoots, and Hitler falls backward off the rooftop. Sawatski looks over the edge and sees no body.]
Hitler: You can’t get rid of me. I’m a part of you. A part of all of you. And look; it wasn’t all bad.
The film should be required viewing, not just in Germany but in Trump’s America.
Being an ideologue of any kind is easy, you adopt an ideology and then use it to interpret the world. That is why there are so many of them of so many different varieties: right wing, left wing, religious and so many more. In fact if you take a look at the most strident supporters of any ideology, politician, or religious leader you can see that they are little different from one another. But in terms of the ideologies they espouse the most enduring of them, and the only to have ever been the foundation of state power or those dealing with economics such as the Soviet Union; or race such as Nazi Germany or the American Southern Confederacy. Hannah Arendt wrote:
“For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.”
The fact is that there is a difference between people who lean a certain way politically or religiously, and the people Eric Hoffer called, the “true believers,” the people who chose a side and never wrestle with the hard choices of life. They simply declare all who oppose their ideology or theology to be unworthy of life. If one is honest one has to admit that all kinds of ideologues of various persuasions, right wing, left wing, religious, atheistic, or racist have committed crimes which are incomprehensible and abhorrent. History shows that this is truth, but then when a regime decides to censor the past, as the Trump Administration is currently doing, and many other regimes have done, all bets are off. Likewise, when a government decides to admit to what its predecessors have done, as has Germany has done with World War II and the Holocaust, there will always be people who wish for a fictional better time, and either deny the truth, or seek to bring back the horrors of the past.
I am a liberal and a progressive, but I often find left-wing ideologues to be as off putting as militant right wingers. I guess that is because despite everything I am a realist. I wake up every day to try to do the hard thing of deciding what is right and what to believe.
My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing. I see examples of this every day, especially in my Twitter feed and on Facebook.
While I’m sure that many, if not most of these people are good and well meaning people, they seldom display any originality of thought or true character. A while back I had one left wing Twitter follower attack repeatedly me because to her I was supposedly a sellout. I have had right wing religious friends and followers on social media do the same, as well as making actual death threats.
While they attack me and each other from different ends of the political spectrum, the intellectual commonality they share is the fact that they are ideologues and zealots; and while they espouse different beliefs they are almost indistinguishable from each other in their inability to think critically and that wears me out, but I refuse to stand down.
I guess that is one of the things that bothers me the most about so much of what I see going on in the United States today. Too many ideologues, not enough critical thinkers. Too many people who value absolute consistently of thought without asking if what they preach is still true today, or if it might be tomorrow, and far too many more who are unwilling to by more than apathetic bystanders waiting to see which way the wind blows before deciding on a position.
Of course there are also the people who would be the victims of ideologues of any type, and the ideologues will be the perpetrators. At this time, after the Senate voted to acquit Trump, the President has mounted a campaign of revenge against his opponents. My money is on the Trump ideologues to take the first shot.
From the beginning of his campaign he never hid what he believed or who or what he is. In the process he has built a cult following around himself, taken over the Republican Party, used all media, but especially that of the Right Wing media to propagate his hateful ideology. He has bulldozed the Constitution, the law, and the institutional guardrails that protected our Republic for over two centuries; and must of his cult like supporters, just like Hitler’s won’t abandon him, but will become more violent in their actions toward his opponents. Likewise, he will use the organs of the State to implement his policies, as he is doing with the Border Patrol, INS, and every other part of the executive branch that his Cult controls. Against this I don’t think that left wing ideologues, who often are a mirror image of their right wing cousins have a chance; but men and women of conscience must make a stand.
One thing that I have learned over the past decade or so is that I have to ask what is right today, and make a choice of when to stand up, or to stand down. Sometimes, I don’t like those choices, but I make them. As Sophie Scholl said:
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
I guess that is why I like reading about the lives of complicated and often conflicted people; men like T.E. Lawrence, William Tecumseh Sherman, Henning Von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, and the fictional Raymond Reddington so fascinating. I find much to admire and to criticize in all of them even as I empathize and understand each one of them. Interestingly, each of my heroes all have feet of clay. As Reddington said, “We become who we are. We can’t judge a book by its cover… But you can by its first few chapters, and most certainly by its last.”
But in such a perilous time, how can we not see what Trump has openly proclaimed he would do when he became a presidential candidate, and since his election. However, we cannot blame it all on Trump. He was clear in what he would do as President, and as the fictional Hitler asked “Have you never asked yourself… why people follow me? Because at their core, they are just like me. They have the same values.”
Have a great day, until tomorrow.
4 responses to “Look Who’s Back: A Film Far too Pertinent in Europe and the USA “At Their Core they are Just Like Me” The Trump and Hitler Cults”
He was surely clear about what he was going to do.
Just like trump
I want to sound a bit of a warning note: I feel you have let yourself get too distracted by the Clown bumbling around in the Centre Ring:
…taken over the Republican Party, used all media, but especially that of the Right Wing media to propagate his hateful ideology. He has bulldozed the Constitution, the law, and the institutional guardrails that protected our Republic for over two centuries; and must of his cult like supporters, just like Hitler’s won’t abandon him, but will become more violent in their actions toward his opponents. Likewise, he will use the organs of the State to implement his policies, as he is doing with the Border Patrol, INS, and every other part of the executive branch that his Cult controls.
Trump didn’t do any of this by himself; I am not at all certain he has the organisational capacity to tie his shoes on a day-to-day basis. When he actually sets out to DO something, he almost invariably fails.
What he HAS done is step into a situation WE THE PEOPLE created. We do NOT re-elect politicians who make tough choices, who take positions, and who present us with our responsibilities as citizens; we elect organisations fronted by presentable Personalities, either “well-known”, or “Anonymous”.
We clamour for “leadership” but will not ourselves lead. We elect nothing but moral weaklings and outright cowards to Congress (both House and Senate), and then are astounded when they wring their hands or speak out of both sides of their mouths, as Trump blunders through yet another of his abject failures (in this case, the Presidency).
If you stop casting Trump as Hitler, and actually look at what he’s attempted, you’ll find he has failed far more often than succeeded. What makes him dangerous is not his ability, but the lack of responsibility in our Republic, which is the fault of We The People, and no one else. Basically, Trump “feels” an impulse—probably suggested by someone’s flattery-laced suggestion—and then he Proclaims it. It isn’t a carefully-planned campaign—it’s a whim. And his whims just don’t last.
What is more dangerous is his facile crudity and coarseness; the “man make-up” he wears in place of genuine masculinity; because we gutted Congress, the Executive has become—as you have often noted—much more powerful in the last 40 years. That gives Trump, an impulsive narcissist, enough power to actually do lasting damage without even understanding what it is he’s done. Look at the Kurdish debacle, or the Israeli embassy move, or the mangling of our vital interests in Europe and Asia for the colourful ribbon waved by the nearest dictator.
His greed, and the graft and corruption that it breeds among his Cabinet and staff, are no more than the Founders expected. They took adequate precaution against it. It is We The People who failed our Republic, not Trump and the opportunistic pigs at his trough.
Look at what happens when just one person of integrity is removed—the loss of Senator John McCain gutted the moderate elements of the Republican Party; those who basked in his reflected light—Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, among them—quickly returned to the form we expect from our politicians; weaklings who’s only concerns are being re-elected. Only Murkowski shows any of the moral strength and political savvy that John McCain lent the old-line Republican Party.
We The People are the rot in our Republic, Padre. Until We begin to pay attention and hold accountable those We elect; and so long as we continue to be drawn to “outsiders” for Chief Executive—George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Jimmy Carter spring immediately to mind—in lieu of experienced politicians—John S. McCain III, George H.W. Bush, and Hilary Clinton, all suggest; that long we will be vulnerable to amateurs unable to grip the Executive and bag men focused on enriching themselves in the Congress.
Trump is a moron. Any competent Congress could easily manage him. That they do not want to has nothing to do with “his base/cult”, and everything to do with their natures. So long as they get re-elected and make their millions, they really do not care. In fact, it is probably to men like Mitch McConnell’s and Chuck Schumer’s benefit that Trump causes so much flash and noise.
The real danger to our Republic in this situation is not Donald “Kaiser Wilhelm II” Trump, but some other, as-yet-unknown, “outsider” who actually HAS a working intellect, and a plan, and the discipline to execute it; as you have noted before, the threats to our way of life are already extent—the re-named Patriot Act, being the most ominous.
Not that I’m in favour of four more years of the Turnip. If I have to, I will vote for the Marxist. At least the Democratic Party still has a centre and some one to lead it (Nancy Pelosi), so the stupidity of “Class War” dressed up as “Income Inequality” wouldn’t really make any progress. Though the Marxist is just as much a misogynist and a hater as the Turnip, just not as foolish and stupid.
Just my nickel, Padre.
I realize that. The rot set in decades ago in both parties, and it is the fault of WE THE PEOPLE. For the most part we have failed to elect men and women of true courage, honor, and commitment to the Constitution and law, and who put country over party and their political career. Instead we elect those with the deepest pockets and those who echo what we like to hear. Sadly, that cuts across both party lines, though it is most pronounced in the GOP which now bears all the marks of a theocratic, racist, authoritarian police state party. They elected a man with no moral center and little actual competence, who channels their anger and desires into policies designed to implement their desires. Thus, the have found their Fuhrer, and where his often inane tweets lead, they follow, and their Congressional, party, and RW media supporters like Rush, Hannity, and Fox and Friends, encourage him by claiming that he is the smartest, hardest working, and brilliant President who ever lived. Their fawning adulation only encourages Trump to appoint more, sycophants, and yes men to implement the policies that he is fed by the RW media and GOP Congress, as he campaigns nonstop.
He fills a Hitler like roll for his followers without having Hitler‘s charisma or initial brilliance, which deteriorated the longer he remained in office, just as Trump seems to be deteriorating. That is why I focus on him, he has become their leader despite his obvious bumbling, they are working overtime to ensure his continued rule. I really don’t think that they have anyone in their stables, that can fill the role they created for him, unless they dip into the RW media and draft Hannity. Thus he and what I call his cult have to be the focus of criticism at the national level, while Democrats at state and local level have to target the people who make him possible. The Democrats did that with the House races in 2018 and they need to build on that this year.
As always I appreciate your comments because they do make me think and better organize my arguments. The GOP´s strength lies in the Evangelical Christian political machine, but it is also their greatest weakness because as they continue to cast their pearls before swine, they bleed members, and fail to recruit replacements. This is verified by scientific polling by Barna and Pew, which shows that young people are turning their backs on organized Christianity and its political and social goals. The older members are dying off, within a decade, the heart of the modern GOP will be too small to win elections, thus the rush to implement their authoritarian policies and police state through Trump by the GOP Congress, and RW media.