Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Old ABC's

Amidst a thousand depressing things about the current political climate, our extraordinary failure to educate our citizens rises to the top for me. Schools have long been the breeding grounds of obedience, mindless competition, willful ignorance of our own history and apathy and it’s frightening how masterfully they’ve done their job recently. I’m doing my best to listen to the “other side,” but all I’m finding from the Trump apologists is misinformation as the basis for decision-making, misplaced fear and willingness to give over independent thought to whoever most convincingly makes promises they never intend to keep. And because they’ve been trained in the old ABC’s, they are the dupes for the rich and powerful who have no intention to care for the very people who voted for them (except their fellow rich and powerful people). The old ABC’s that still are being taught?

 Acquiescence—“That’s just the way life is. Can’t do anything about it.”
 Brainwashing— “If you say it’s true, I’ll believe it without fact-checking.”
 Compliance—“I’ll do whatever you say.”

I’m reading George Fredrickson’s important book A Short History of Racism. (Is this required reading in all schools? In all workplaces? A prerequisite for voting? Why not?) The central theme is a look at the governments that have taken our natural initial distrust of the other and turned into a social program of winners, those who deserve to inhabit the planet and receive basic rights and human dignity, and the losers, those who don’t. The top three winners are the American South (both in slavery and Jim Crow times), Nazi Germany and South Africa during apartheid. Each had different levels and means of intolerance, but they all shared similar points of view and mostly used similar methods.

The one that we white folks have agreed to be most outraged about is the Holocaust and we would do well to pay attention to these passages from the book (pp. 122-123). Substitute Hitler for you-know-who and the warning is clear:

“More amazing than the fact that a paranoid and delusional heterophobe like Hitler could find others who were prone to see the world in the same way was his success in making himself the absolute dictator of a modern and seemingly enlightened Western nation…Hitler’s appeal was broad and varied in that he offered solutions to problems afflicting various sectors of German society…he professed sympathy for workers being exploited by ruthless capitalists and promised to address their grievances…what Hitler and the Nazi leadership required from most Germans was acquiescence rather than direct involvement.”

To the horror of six million human beings, it worked perfectly. So here we are in the U.S.A., 2017, and the campaign to dismantle democracy and roll back the progress of human rights and dignity has already begun before the guy has even entered the Oval Office. He and his cronies will be able to accomplish everything they set out to do if we remain faithful accomplices by being acquiescent, brainwashed to believe without back-up facts and compliant.

Perhaps 50 years from now, they’ll be making movies about all the "Good Americans" who let it happen and the Oscars will go to the inspiring stories of the scant few who responded with Activism, Beauty and Compassion. It will make for good drama, but at the expense of a land laid to waste and the suffering of countless people. Let’s not go there. We need massive resistance, clear thinking that refuses to be brainwashed, non-compliance and deep compassion, active participation defending the dream our flawed, but visionary, forefathers crafted: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” The new ABC’s, people!

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