A guest post from my best friend.
There was a persuasive, smart candidate who arose on the political stage. The people knew next to nothing about him. He edged his way on to the political stage through great oratory, pomp and pageantry, and no small amount of political foolery. He smiled and frowned and waved.
With eloquence and passion he blamed the current government for everyone’s difficulty. He tapped the resonance of the people’s discontent and promised them everything they wanted. With slight of hand and tremendous confidence, he convinced people to disregard his earlier involvement with groups that intimidated people who disagreed with him. His impassioned speeches promised change and hope.
The people, and particularly their newspapers, chose not to speak out against him. He was championed, after all, as the one to lead them from their despair to the light – so the press feared they would lose access. The people wanted to believe that he would deliver on his promises. With few voices of opposition and warnings of danger ignored, he was elected to office with a little help from minions who were willing to bully or beat dissidents into acceptance.
Slowly but surely, person by person, department by department, bureaucracy by bureaucracy, the controls of governmental power were seized by him. He issued unchallenged proclamations ignoring his country’s constitution. He bypassed his congress and consolidated his stranglehold on everything. He broke treaties and agreed to others without consent. He confused, cajoled, intimidated and convinced his allies to allow him to do what he wanted in the name of pacification.
So the world stood by and waited to find out what his country stood for and who his country stood with.
How did he get the people on his side? Those promises. He promised jobs to the jobless, money to the poor and rewards to labor unions for their allegiance. He advocated better wages and better jobs. He did it with a compliant media and a hopeful populace. And he did it all in the name of “change” as he stirred discontentment and pitted one against the other.
During those days, people of conscience warned of his threat but they were shouted down, called names, and ridiculed. When a popular public figure, someone extremely familiar with history’s lessons, pointed out the obvious, he was booed, marginalized and called a liar and a troublemaker.
In less than four years, scapegoats were identified, large segments of the economy were regulated into submission and government rule, laws were abrogated, children were turned against parents, and neighbors turned against neighbors. All this was in the name of “change” and moving “forward”.
The people stood by and allowed it to happen. When they finally woke up, they found out that they had abrogated their responsibility to their democracy and it was too late to do anything about it.
Let me guess. You were thinking this was another right-wing racist tirade about Barack Obama. I must admit the similarities are striking, but the truth is, I was writing about Adolf Hitler.
I only hope that in the coming weeks, as we consider who we are and what we stand for, we remember this story and are guided, not by what we have the right to do, but by what is right to do.