Thoughts on "The End of America"

In earlier posts, I discussed an interested idea that draws parallels between the current political forces in the United States and those that lead to the closing of other societies.  There are so many commonalities between Hitler’s Nazi Germany, tactics used by Mussolini, and the approach used by Stalin to overtake their nations.  The Bush Administration is clearly following this same formula.  Naomi Wolf describes the details in The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot.  I wrote about the topics in two posts: Fascism in the United States? and Naomi Wolf on Colbert.

At first, the title might seem alarmist.  However, after reading the entire book, I think the title and the overall content are dead-on.  Without rehashing the details I discussed in earlier posts, I wanted to share some observations and thoughts I gained from reading the book. 

  • Advertising Torture: The Bush Administration has been extremely successful in manufacturing fear.  By creating an invisible and never-ending threats (terrorism), he has mirrored the moves of leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and their South American counterparts.  Americans never knew of “waterboarding” and I’ll wager that most had never even heard of the Geneva Conventions which outlawed torture.  Bush, Cheney, and the gang have brazenly defended the use of hostile and futile interrogation techniques.  They have almost nothing of value to show for it, other than harassing and even killing large numbers of innocent people.  But, we’re so desensitized to it that we have to go along. 
  • New enemies and no oversight:  The “War on Terror” is absolutely ridiculous.  You might as well start a “War on Violence” (we could kill everyone, so they couldn’t kill anyone else), or a “War on Bad People”.  Apart from the definitions being vague and subjective, terrorism will always be present.  Like Hitler, in his vilification of Jews, Bush has created an invisible enemy on which we must declare war.  “Evil-doers” are afoot, and we can’t let them win.  Now, Dubya and his pals can declare anyone in the United States an enemy combatant.  It’s a relatively new term, but it could apply to a journalist that advocates ending the destruction of Iraq.  There’s no legislative oversight whatsoever.  That alone is enough to shut us up and pretend we love what’s happening to our country.
  • Social Issues: In talking with friends, I have often felt like a complete outsider when I mention details about new legislation or the current outrages created by the Bush Administration.  Invariably, people will assume that it just can’t be true.  Yet, when I ask, they say that they don’t think I’m misinformed or that I’m purposely lying.  They have reasons to believe what I say and no reason not to.  But still they don’t do anything.  In a work environment, I would clearly be discriminated against for raising the issues, and it could easily damage by career.  Both are reasons that, for the most part, I am trying to keep this blog anonymous.  Sadly, that’s hardly possible these days with government wire-tapping and e-mail surveillance.
  • Apathy and Acceptance:  While I try to avoid this as much as possible, I’ll occasionally mention some current political issue when talking with friends.  The vast majority of them choose to be apathetic.  They prefer ignorance over thinking about a problem.  Or, they simply state that they don’t believe it (even when evidence is clearly presented).  That’s bad, but it’s somewhat worse with others: They’ll admit that there’s a serious problem, but they think “society” or some other invisible force will cause the pendulum to swing back in the other direction.  History has shown that that doesn’t happen magically.  Rather, people have to fight and lives must be lost before transgressions of the magnitude we’re seeing today are reversed.  Clearly, our Founding Fathers didn’t sit around and think that problems would work themselves out.  We’re now ignoring their work and refusing to do any of our own to preserve hard-won freedom.
  • Suppression of Media: There have been numerous, well-documented cases of where journalists, bloggers, and other writers have been jailed or even killed for expressing their views against the Bush Administration.  Their respective media outlets tend to shut up, as they’re scared of making things worse or of themselves being implicated and targeted.
  • Impeachment: How is it that Bush and Cheney have avoided impeachment?  There’s clearly far more evidence against these guys than there was for impeaching Presidents Nixon and Clinton.  And unlike those two people, Bush’s lies are founded in national security.  He should be seen as a traitor to the American people and as a war criminal.  Yet, no one – least of all, it seems, a Democratic Congress – is even asking him for an explanation.  The reason?  I suggest that everyone is already too scared to speak up.  Congress see that, through the use of signing statements, Dubya and his cronies are completely ignoring any authority of our legislative branch.  So who wants to stick their neck out and risk a smear campaign, humiliation, or the loss of their jobs in a futile attempt to take back the nation?  The answer is simple: Not enough.
  • Parallel Tactics: The actions of the Bush Administration are eerily similar to that of other dictators that have overthrown their own governments.  Amazingly, Hitler’s rise to power was based on legal actions.  He basically changed the laws to his favor through fear and intimidation.  Bush takes it one step further: Many of his actions are clearly against the highest law of our country – The Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Even publicity stunts like Dubya’s landing on an aircraft carrier to proudly state his message of, “Mission Accomplished” are nearly identical to propaganda that was used to make Hitler look like a hero.

I could certainly go on with many more thoughts, but I’ll leave that to future posts.

A lot of this made me think back to what really scared me shortly after George Bush was elected.  Using the September 11th attacks as a catalyst, we started to hear the leader of a First World nation talking about “evil-doers”.  He was out to rid the world of “terror” (more accurately, terrorism).  It was America’s responsibility to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, not because of Dubya’s personal grudge, but to “liberate” them.  No logic, evidence, or reason was necessary.  After all, our goals were to “smoke them out of their holes” and “shock and awe” them.  And the American people, as a whole, bought it.  We didn’t have any significant debate.  Congress signed the PATRIOT Act – legislation that would have been so offensive to any democracy that it should have been struck down immediately (indeed, many members of Congress have apologized to their constituents saying that they never read or understood it).  However, our laws have become increasingly restrictive.  We have a President how barely acknowledges any responsibility to the country (and much less to Congress).  And we have a population that sits idly by as they watch the latest escapades of Britney Spears.

Overall, I’m glad to see that the book is a New York Times Bestseller and I truly hope it can provoke more Americans into defending their country and their freedom from real threats: apathy, acceptance, and fear.

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