Tag Archives: Weimar

Living in Weimar 10: On the Next Eve of Destruction

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Living in Weimar 1: On the Brink

Living in Weimar 2: Creative Ferment

Living in Weimar 3: How Bad Can It Get?

Living in Weimar 4: Ideal Bodies

Living in Weimar 5: On the Eve of Destruction

Living in Weimar 6: This Cannot Stand

Living in Weimar 7: Persecution of the Unfit

Living in Weimar 8: Stark Days

Living in Weimar 9: Shadow on Your Doorstep

I wrote this post exactly two years ago, when most of us believed that Hillary Clinton was about to become the first woman president of the United States, and most of us knew that she was a flawed and disturbing choice who would be a thousand times better than the alternative. Then we got the alternative.

Comments on my two-year-old post below in italics.

Debbie says:

I haven’t spoken to a single soul today who isn’t in some degree of concern, anxiety, fear, or panic about tomorrow’s U.S. election results. Me, I’m calmer than most. I’d say I’m more optimistic than most, except I’m not willing to jinx anything.

I’m less optimistic now, especially in the short term. I am pretty confident we’ll have some victories, maybe even a lot of victories, but they won’t give us the White House, they won’t save the Supreme Court, and they won’t stem the tide. What I hope they will do is show the world, and show us here at home, what the people want.

And here’s what I think, very personally. (I’d rather write this with Laurie, but she’s not available; we’re in this together but right now you get just me.)

Basically, tomorrow can go two ways in the United States (and let’s face it, what happens here will affect the entire world):

If it goes one way, we’re in the same fine mess we’re in now, living in the 2016 analog of Weimar, facing an emboldened white-nationalist segment which will have to be contained and dealt with. There will be much to hope for and look forward to, much to fear. As always, the more marginalized you are, the more you have to fear. Much work will remain to be done.

Oh, how I long for that set of problems. But we didn’t get them.

If it goes the other way, it will probably be cataclysmic. The emboldened white nationalists will have the government’s blessing. The reins of power will be handed over to the alt-right, to people with indefensible political, economic, and social beliefs and plans. Everything we rely on will be undermined, destabilized, put at risk.

Well, I hit that nail on the head, not that it was a hard or clever prediction.

Even the cataclysm (may it not come to pass!) will not be the end of the world, or even the end of the United States. We can expect for some very dark times. I categorically reject the concept that “heightening the contradictions,” a high-falutin way of saying “making people more miserable” is a defensible or smart way to bring about change.

I don’t have to believe in “heightening the contradictions” to embrace the belief that it is our task to take care of one other. In cataclysm, in despair, in hell, that job becomes far more intense, far more demanding. More of us will have to take it on. No number of us will be enough to protect anywhere near everyone, but each of us can do our part. While 2016 U.S. is not 1930s Weimar, and while no current U.S. presidential candidate is Adolf Hitler, nonetheless the American people may well be called upon to show ourselves on the historical stage, as the German people were in the mid-20th century. Another thing I don’t believe is that the outcome of that test was inevitable.

Although the two paths are so vastly divergent, so starkly in contrast, the task on November 9, when the votes are counted, is the same. We will each have to find our part, do our part, take care of one another, and be gentle with those who need care and unrelenting with those who need to be stopped.

And here we are. It is our task to take care of one another, and in the face of extreme opposition, I think we have shown up pretty well. Let me be clear that “we” is a vast group of people with various levels of commitment and passion, and that very specific individuals and groups have led the changes I note below. We have gathered in airports, at borders around children in cages, at mass-shooting victim memorials, at Supreme Court hearings, and as close to the halls of power as the cowards will let us get.

We (where we is women of all races and economic levels) have changed the face of acceptable gender behavior with the #metoo movement which, backlash or no, failures or no, does appear to be here to stay. And we will not let us stop. When the conversation is about powerful men being frightened or daunted, then you know something has changed.

We (where we is Black people and their allies) were making our opposition to police violence felt long before Trump took office, but we haven’t stopped. Everyone in government knows that the unprovoked death of a civilian at the hands of a cop will be publicized, and serious attempts at accountability will be made. Everyone knows those civilians are mostly Black and brown, often children, often completely harmless. We haven’t made much visible headway in this one, but we have changed the conversation.

We have continued to make it clear (where we is everyone) that we care about our climate and our environment, that we know the heat and the storms are not coincidence, or “God’s will.” North Carolina has joined the Paris accords on its own, since our country has reneged on that agreement.

Eve of destruction? Or not? Here’s what to do. Vote. Volunteer. Do something in your community today; it will make you feel better. And breathe.

Me, I’m on my way to staff the Election Protection hotlines (1-866-OURVOTE).

This year, I didn’t get a chance to do that work, but that number will help you out tomorrow if you need it. I’m voting, talking, blogging, and breaking my back to see economic change in my community, most notably in the form of a local public bank. That’s something I wasn’t doing before November 2016. And it helps.

Take care of yourself. However tomorrow goes, the road ahead is rough and rocky.

Good luck!

Follow me on Twitter @spicejardebbie.

Living in Weimar 9: Shadow on Your Doorstep

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Laurie and Debbie say:

In May, we publishing Living in Weimar 8, about the Trump administration’s threat to separate families at the U.S./Mexico border, and the Israeli government’s slaughter in Gaza.

In June, the threat transmuted into fact. As most of the world knows, the United States government separated thousands of children from their parents at the border, and kept no records. The children were put in cages (“those aren’t really cages, they’re just rooms made of chicken-wire fencing”), and guards were forbidden to touch them. The parents were, frequently, turned back. A baby was ripped from a breast-feeding mother.

Let’s be clear: the United States has separated children from their parents before: slave children, Native American children, and (in smaller numbers) immigrant children.¬† If the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice, it has a long way to go.

Public outcry was immediate, loud, and lasting. The administration “walked back” the policy in less than two weeks, replacing it with “family detention,” an almost equally vile practice. Money poured in to organizations on the ground. Hundreds of Spanish-speaking lawyers and support staff are working at the border now, bringing families together while they can.

Meanwhile, the attack on immigrants continues on many other fronts. The Justice Department is hiring lawyers to “catch citizenship cheaters,” whether or not they have committed any crimes or been brought to the attention of law enforcement since they got their citizenship. Green-card (legal immigration before citizenship) holders are under attack if they receive any government benefits. Asylum seekers are being returned to the imminent dangers they were trying to escape. And the U.S. military is discharging immigrants who were promised a path to citizenship.

Immigrants to the U.S., especially if they are from the global south, are under immediate threat, not just of being deported, but also of being targets of hate crimes. Undocumented immigrants, of course, have been under immediate threat for decades if not forever. Many U.S. citizens have first-hand visceral experience of unsafe lives, especially black and brown U.S. citizens. Homeless people never even experience the minimal safety of a locked door between themselves and the world. People like the two of us, who grew up internalizing the Jewish genocide of World War II never quite settle into feeling safe.

The family separation policy, and the news about it, is widening the circle of people who don’t feel safe. As more and more people are directly threatened, and more and more news shows direct threats, people who have historically felt safe in a country stop feeling safe. The U.S. has historically been very safe, especially for middle-class white folks, fear levels rise, and lots of Americans don’t know what to do with these feelings. The Republican Party, of course, thrives on white people feeling unsafe; they’ve been feeding this frenzy forever, and they ramped up on September 11, 2001. That’s one of the factors that helped¬†build Trump’s base.

Note that this is really different from Weimar, because in Weimar, the entire country had just been through an extreme economic depression–the famous wheelbarrows full of money to buy a loaf of bread depression–and was living with big, frequent, armed clashes between Nazis and Communists in the streets. We are living in a (manufactured) economic boom, and armed street violence is rare indeed in middle-class white neighborhoods.

But the anxiety is still real. If you are a reasonably progressive, reasonably safe white person, right now in America, what can you do with your fears? We don’t have answers, but we do have a few suggestions.

1) Acknowledge your fear, to yourselves and the people around you.

2) Never acknowledge your fear without simultaneously acknowledging that it’s a privilege to have gotten this far before experiencing it; many people in your community and in the world have never known what it was like not to live with those fears.

3) Watch yourself. It’s very human to move away from fear and towards safety, and that frequently means making compromises, finding yourself willing to say and do things that go against your sense of right and wrong. Too many people will find themselves sucked into the dark side, because it’s safer there.

4) Do something constructive for a group with more reason to fear than you have. Do this by finding out what that group wants and needs from you, and following their lead. Find the courage to make change where you can. Working towards change matters, even if you can’t see how the change can happen, or don’t believe it’s possible.

5) Repeat 4, until and unless things get better.