Friday, April 23, 2010

The Ridiculous to Keep You from What Matters

I enjoy a good joke and news of the weird as much as anyone, but lately I've had the feeling that provocatively ridiculous behaviour in politics or the news is meant as distraction, a shock doctrine, to steer all conversation toward the absurd and angry. In public discourse there is this tendency toward "Hitlerism," that is the ultimate provocation by comparison to the tiny, evil Austrian. Having lived in Germany, I can say fairly confidently that almost everyone throwing that out there in the middle of an arguement has about as much understanding of what happened in Germany during the 20th Century as knowing how to make gold from lead. The sad irony is that this country could well end up where German society found itself in the middle of the last century. The idea that evil is restricted to those guys over there from way back when is strange enough, but the real lessons of that awful era are not well understood in the US despite a constant chant of 'Never Forget.' Let's also never forget that until 1941 many many Americans supported the German war machine and hardly gave Jews shelter in that storm. Our concept of Exceptionalism is our Achille's Heel.

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