Is There a Fascist in America's Future?
Fortunately, the human casualties suffered during the assault on Capitol Hill were far fewer than at Pearl Harbor. But nevertheless, January 6, 2021 is another day of infamy, especially because those losses were inflicted on Americans by Americans.
Democracy did triumph -- for now. But there are no guarantees this won’t happen again, even though many of the rioters have been arrested and Donald Trump is out of office now, probably forever. We need to think about what caused this shocking insurrection, and as a student of history, I have to admit it reminds me of something:
Adolf Hitler’s attempted “Beer Hall Putsch” of nearly a century ago, when he and his group of loyal thugs attempted to overthrow the elected government of Bavaria. He, like many of those who stormed the Capitol this month, felt he was on a self-appointed mission to save his country. He denounced what he saw as a criminal and weak government and minority groups -- in his case, mostly Jews.
The putsch was a miserable failure, and was soon put down by the police. Hitler
was sentenced to prison, but that merely made him a martyr, and enabled the 34-year-old demagogue to dictate Mein Kampf from jail.
Ten years later, he seized total power in Germany, and you know what happened after that. I am not saying that is likely to happen here.
Germany was in a very different situation from the one we are in now. The
economy was in shambles, inflation was out of control and people were starving.
The government was seen as ineffectual, and millions were willing to pledge their allegiance to anyone capable of providing something better. They bet on Hitler, and as a result, civilization was nearly destroyed.
No, America now is not Germany then. But there are some worrisome parallels.
History doesn’t repeat itself – but it does offer lessons that need to be learned.
As a scientist who has also studied these times, I have these suggestions:
We have to take charge of our own destiny.
Our government needs to spend money, yes -- not on stimulus checks and
unemployment payments, but on creating corps to do what America needs done.
America did not fall victim to fascism or communism in the 1930s, largely
because we were lucky enough to have an activist president -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --who put together programs that put Americans back to work using their skills. Then as now, people wanted work, not just a free lunch.
So the New Deal created temporary institutions like the WPA (Works Progress
Administration) the CCC, (Civilian Conservation Corps) and gave people dignity and useful work again. Today, we have been suffering from failures in both our political and health delivery systems.
Less than a year ago, a pandemic hit the world which has so far left nearly
400,000 Americans dead and millions sickened. Our President responded by
downplaying the crisis. Now that vaccines have been developed, we are witnessing an archaic health delivery system failing to deliver vaccines efficiently to the states, which in turn have failed to come up with a plan to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
We may solve that, but it isn’t enough. I’ve been arguing for a new permanent
institute to target viral diseases. That would help contain new pandemics in the future.
But our society will still be ailing once the coronavirus is contained. We have a
large and growing failure of our education system, with millions unemployed because they don’t have the skills to work in the jobs America needs. We must fix that.
Our governments, federal and state, should start three new major New Deal-like
work force development projects: 1) A national teachers corps to make sure our young people all get the best primary and early secondary educations we can give them.
We should also build 2) a national health delivery corps, and 3) we need a corps
of infrastructure builders. All should be funded by the federal and perhaps also state governments and should last as long as they are effective and phased out when not.
Young people of college age with sufficient intellectual abilities and interests
should be directed into the teacher corps to be guided by great teachers to take their positions helping the next generation of Americans learn basic skills.
We, the citizens, should pay for this. The leadership of the teacher corps must be teachers of highest achievement -- not political appointees. Some young people who are social and caring could be directed into the national health delivery corps, and be taught how to help provide health care from the babies of the next generation to centenarians.
America dearly needs quality, affordable health care for senior citizens. Hospice
leaders do a lot more than prepare the older generation for death. They teach others how to care for them. We need a health corps that is a hospice for every living American, because sooner or later, we are all likely to need them.
Finally, our infrastructure. For this we need find heavy lifters among our young
people, who can handle jobs building bridges, roads and sewers. The private sector should be heavily involved in this; we all need to help fix America.
I’m sure readers will have many other ideas. I learned from the examples set by
the trials of the top Nazis that those who put profit before life pay a personal price for their sins against humanity.
Our nation is at a crossroads. Will it survive, or will it go down in flames?
Preventing that is up to every good American, regardless of politics.
Where will you stand?
Douglas Neckers is both an organic chemist and the retired chairman of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, N.Y., ( www.roberthjackson.org ) which is devoted to the U.S. Supreme Court justice who served as lead prosecutor at the first Nuremberg trial.