Racism … Nazism … Trumpism … the Historical Role of Myths

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CORRUPTION WATCH-As one of my favorite actors-celebrities, the former Marky Mark, says, “Food, water, Internet, we need it to live.” Ah, yes, the Internet. In addition to streaming porn, it constantly feeds us our national myths. Indeed, man does not live by bread alone. More fundamental to society are its self-defining myths. 

Myths are a concoction of facts, lies and wishes which serve to weld together a people by stories of their supposed collective virtues. Homer’s Iliad established a sense of identity for not only the ancient Greeks but for much of Western Civilization. The veracity of the story that Helen of Troy had a face that launched a thousand ships is unimportant. The literal truth of whether angels visited Lott and his family in Sodom is irrelevant. Both lessons teach that injustice brings ruin to a society.  

Some myths provide the useful function of allowing a society to remain together and move forward.  After the U.S. Civil War, for example, Americans in the South and in the North adopted the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War, wherein the South was no longer thought to have fought to preserve the institution of slavery, but rather it had been defending the noble cause of States’ Rights.  

Prior to the early 1900s, the North acquiesced in the false narrative of the Lost Cause as it facilitated the country’s reunification, but in the early part of the 20th Century, this myth was used to bolster the segregationists’ inhuman treatment of Blacks. This era saw the erection of statues to Southern heroes such as Robert E. Lee. Donald Trump still believes in the accuracy of the Lost Cause narrative which is why he said young men marching with torches shouting, “Blood and Soil” are fine, decent people and the statues commemorating the Lost Cause myth represented “the history and culture of our great country.”  

The Cultural Shock of Charlottesville Is Not over  

Charlottesville’s torch-lit march with its Nazi chants reverted the nation to its pre-World War II myths, where the predatory enslavement of an entire race was held out as a noble cause, and the Civil War had been re-cast in the minds of many as the War of Northern Aggression.  

Americans forget that in the lead up to WW II both Hitler and Nazism had quite a strong following in the United States. Anti-Semitism was sky high with the likes of Father Charles Coughlin. Jews, Blacks, Asians, etc. were legally prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods. Lynching of Blacks was common, and in much of the nation, such behavior was sanctioned by the noble State governments. The principles of Declaration of Independence -- that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights including Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- had been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) 163 U.S. 537. 

We Americans did not voluntarily end our love affair with racism, religious bigotry, and fascism. If Hitler's ally Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbor early Sunday morning on December 7, 1941, the pro-Nazi forces within our country would most likely have prevented the U.S. from entering the war in Europe. Why? Because millions of Americans supported Nazism and its associated evils to such an extent that we erased them from our collective memory after the Holocaust. 

After WW II, most Americans retired the darker side our national mythology. When Senator Joe McCarthy briefly revived the worse impulses within our soul, he was defeated. In the 1960's, William F. Buckley waged a successful campaign to exclude the nativist John Birch Society from the Republican Party. Fifty years ago, America thought it had re-asserted its founding mythology, that is, the inalienable rights of each person were once again primary in our collective mind. Legislative advances like the Voting Rights Act confirmed the idea that America was on the right track. and for decades, the government was a vacillating amalgam of centrists – sometimes a little more to the right, while at other times, a little more to the left. With the ascendancy of Trumpism, those days are gone. America’s authoritarian racist heartland has awakened. 

Today, we cannot blame Hitler or any outsider for our gigantic leaps towards Nazism -- where an Administration finds that Nazis are “fine, decent and good” folk but people who want America to live up to its ideals are “son of bitches.” This time the fascism is home grown and we now have American Jews like Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, who during the High Holiday season cannot condemn Nazis’ marching and chanting "Blood and Soil" and "Jews Shall Not Replace us." Yet, Mnuchin, who made millions of dollars from foreclosing on widows, wants NFL owners to pass a rule to fire players who protest racism. As German Nazis made it illegal to speak up on behalf of Jews, Donald Trump and Steve Mnuchin attack Americans who speak up on behalf of Blacks. 

Trumpism Poses a Danger to the World 

Trump assembled as his White House team a clan of racists, white supremacists and economic villains. It appears, however, that the military understands the dire danger which Trumpism holds for the Union. It cannot function when white supremacists will attack Hispanic soldiers, or when any member of a unit may overnight become a non-person because he or she is Transgender, Gay or whatever.   

The new White House chief of staff, General Kelly, however, has removed some of most divisive miscreants from the White House, yet Donald Trump remains. The world is watching and it knows that Trump is a vicious, ill-tempered, racist thug. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Under Trump, America is becoming fascist. Will Americans behave as we did prior to WWII and allow fascism to thrive?

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

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