Everyone likes to say, "Hitler did this,” and "Hitler did that.” But the truth is: Hitler did very little. He was a world class tyrant, but the evil actually done by the Third Reich, from the death camps to WWII, was all done by German citizens who were afraid to question if what they were told by their government was the truth or not, and who, because they did not want to admit to themselves that they were afraid to question the government, refused to see the truth behind the Reichstag Fire, refused to see the invasion by Poland was a staged fake, and followed Hitler into national disaster.
The German people of the late 1930s imagined themselves to be brave. They saw themselves as the heroic Germans depicted by the Wagnerian Operas, the descendants of the fierce Germanic warriors who had hunted wild boar with nothing but spears and who had defeated three of Rome's mightiest legions in the Tuetenberg Forest.
But in truth, by the 1930s, the German people had become civilized and tamed, culturally obsessed with fine details in both science and society. Their self-image of bravery was both salve and slavery. Germans were required to behave as if they were brave, even when they were not. It's easy to look back and realize what a jerk Hitler was. But at the time, Hitler looked pretty good to the German people, with the help of the media. He was TIME Magazine's Man of the Year in 1938. The German people assumed they were safe from a tyrant. They lived in a Republic, after all, with strict laws regarding what the government could, and more importantly, could not do. Their leader was a devoutly religious man, and had even sung with the boy's choir of a monastery in his youth.
The reality was that the German people, as individuals, had lost their courage. The German government preferred it that way as a fearful people are easier to rule than a courageous one. But the German people didn't wish to lose their self-image of courage. So, when confronted with a situation demanding individual courage in the form of a government gone wrong, the German people simply pretended that the situation did not exist. And in that simple self-deception lay the ruin of an entire nation and the coming of the Second World War.
When the Reichstag burned down, most Germans simply refused to believe suggestions that the fire had been staged by Hitler himself. They were afraid to. But so trapped were the Germans by their belief in their own bravery that they willed themselves to be blind to the evidence before their eyes so that they could nod in agreement with Der Fuhrer while still imagining themselves to have courage, even as they avoided the one situation which most required real courage; to stand up to Hitler's lies and deceptions.
When Hitler requested temporary extraordinary powers, powers specifically banned under German law, but powers Hitler claimed he needed to have to deal with the "terrorists", the German people, having already sold their souls to their self-delusions, agreed. The temporary powers were conferred, and once conferred lasted until Germany itself was destroyed.
When Hitler staged a phony invasion from Poland, the vast majority of the German people, their own self-image dependant on continuing blindness to Hitler's deceptions, did not question why Poland would have done something so stupid, and found themselves in a war.
But Hitler knew he ruled a nation of cowards, and knew he had to spend the money to make the new war something cowards could fight and win. He decorated his troops with regalia to make them proud of themselves, further trapping them in their self-image. Hitler copied the parade regalia of ancient Rome to remind the Germans of the defeat of the legions at the Tuetenberg Forest. Talismans were added from orthodox religions and the occult to fill the soldiers with delusions of mystical strengths and an afterlife if they fell in battle. Finally, knowing that it takes courage to kill the enemy face to face, Hitler spent vast sums of money on his wonder weapons, airplanes, submarines, ultra-long range artillery, the world's first cruise missile and the world's first guided missile, weapons that could be used to kill at a distance so that those doing the killing need not have to face the reality of what they were doing.
The German people were lured into WWII not because they were brave, but because they were cowards who wanted to be seen as brave, and found that shooting long range weapons at people they could not see took less courage than standing up to Hitler. Sent into battle by that false image of courage, the Germans were dependent on their wonder-weapons. When the wonder-weapons stopped working, the Germans lost the war.
I remember as a child listening to the stories of WWII from my grandfather and my uncles who had served in Europe. I wondered how the German people could have been so stupid as to have ever elected Hitler dog catcher, let alone leader of the nation. Such is the clarity of historical hindsight. And with that clarity, I see the exact same mechanism that Hitler used at work here in this nation.
The American people imagine themselves to be brave. They see themselves as the heroic Americans depicted by Western movies, the descendants of the fierce patriot warriors who had tamed the frontier and defeated the might of the British Empire.
But in truth, by the dawn of the third millennium, the American people have become civilized and tamed, culturally obsessed with fine details in both science and society. Their self-image of bravery is both salve and slavery. Americans are required to behave as if they are brave, even when they are not. The American people assume they are safe. They live in a Republic, after all, with strict laws regarding what the government can, and more importantly, cannot do. Their leader is a devoutly religious man.
The reality is that the American people, as individuals, have lost their courage. The government prefers it that way, as a fearful people are easier to rule than a courageous one. But Americans don't wish to lose their self-image of courage. So, when confronted with a situation demanding courage in the form of a government gone wrong, the American people simply pretend that the situation does not exist.
When the World Trade Towers collapsed, most Americans simply refused to believe suggestions that the attacks had been staged by parties working for the U.S. Government itself. Americans were afraid to, even as news reports surfaced proving that the U.S. Government had announced plans for the invasion of Afghanistan early in the year, plans into which the attacks on the World Trade Towers which angered the American people into support of the already-planned war fit entirely too conveniently. But so trapped are Americans by their belief in their own bravery that they will themselves to be blind to the evidence before their eyes so that they can nod in agreement with the government while still imagining themselves to have courage, even as they avoid the one situation which most requires real courage; to stand up to the government's lies and deceptions. The vast majority of the American people, their own self-image dependant on continuing blindness to the government's deceptions, never question why Afghanistan would have done something so stupid as to attack the United States, and as a result, Americans find themselves in a war.
Now the U.S. Government has requested temporary extraordinary powers, powers specifically banned under Constitutional law, but powers the government is claiming they need to have to deal with the "terrorists". The American people, having already sold their souls to their self-delusions, are agreeing. The temporary powers recently conferred will be no more temporary in America than they were in Germany.
The U.S. Government knows they rule a nation of cowards. The government has had to spend the money to make the new war something cowards can fight. The government has decorated the troops with regalia to make them proud of themselves, further trapping them in their self-image. Talismans are added from orthodox religions and the occult to fill the soldiers with delusions of mystical strengths and an afterlife if they fall in battle. Finally, knowing that it takes courage to kill the enemy face to face, the United States government has spent vast sums of money on wonder weapons, airplanes, submarines, ultra-long range artillery, cruise missiles, and guided missiles, weapons that kill at a distance so that those doing the killing need not have to face the reality of what they are doing.
As I mentioned above, Hitler was TIME Magazine's Man of the Year in 1938. Stalin was TIME Magazine's Man of the Year for 1939 and 1942. Both of these men, and many others also celebrated by the media, were unimaginable monsters. The lesson from these facts is that it isn't easy to spot a genocidal tyrant when you live with one, especially one whom the press supports and promotes. Tyrants become obvious only when looking back - after what they have done becomes known. The German people did not stand up to Hitler because their media betrayed them, just as the American media is betraying the American people by willingly, voluntarily, even proudly, abandoning its traditional role as watchdog against government abuse.
It is the very nature of power that it attracts the sort of people who should not have it. The United States, as the world's last superpower, is a prize that attracts men and women willing to do absolutely anything to win that power, and hence are also willing to do absolutely anything with that power once they have it. If one thinks about it long enough, one will realize that all tyrants, past and most especially present, MUST use deception on their population to initiate a war. No citizen of a modern industrialized nation will send their children off to die in a war to grab another nation's resources and assets, yet resources and assets are what all wars are fought over. The nation that wishes to initiate a war of conquest must create the illusion of an attack or a threat to start a war, and must always give their population of cowards an excuse never to question that carefully crafted illusion.
It is naive, not to mention racist, to assume that tyrants appear only in other nations and that somehow America is immune simply because we're Americans. America has escaped the clutches of a dictatorship thus far only through the efforts of those citizens who, unlike the Germans of the 1930s, have the moral courage to stand up and point out where the government is lying to the people. And unless more Americans are willing to have that kind of individual courage, then future generations may well look back on the American people with the same harshness of judgment with which we look back on the 1930s Germans.