As we look back on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, year after year, we're confronted with our past in a very uncomfortable way. The vicious dogs, the fire hoses, the lynchings, the angry white faces frozen in hate as they scream into black faces. They're all there for us to see, dutifully documented by newspapers and photographers. Everywhere, we see pictures of who we were, and it reminds us of who we could become again if we aren't vigilant.
Unfortunately, the general attitude now is that something like that could never happen again in this country, at least, not without a fight. Recent events, however, are showing how easily we are willing to give up the rights that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans have fought and died for. The Acts of Sedition and The Patriot Act alone have made our entire revolution moot, and now we're beginning to see the real psychology of the American people. We tend to fight hard FOR rights and then turn around and allow them to be taken right back again without hardly a whimper. All it takes is a little fear.
It's a story as old as history itself, really. The most violent antisemitism, homophobia, and racism, in general, happens after a major economic downturn. In Germany, it was after their defeat in WWI that the Treaty of Versailles was signed and the value of the German currency tanked. This laid the path for the National Socialist German Worker's Party to take power. Even today, in Greece, there is an actual Nazi party called "Golden Dawn" that took over 30% of their parliament seats after that country's recent economic crisis. Their symbolism couldn't be closer to the swastika, and their platform is similar to early 1930s Nazi propaganda. And us? We've just had a major housing crisis, which wrecked our economy for years, and now, here come the racists and fear mongers, right on schedule.
It is common practice for the ruling class of a society to create an oppressed and downtrodden class to have a target for their aggression and a quick scapegoat to blame for their social ills. Further, it has been this way for millennia. They wouldn't want the people to begin blaming THEM for their problems, so in comes a bit of misdirection. Who's spreading the plague across Europe? The Jews! Who's threatening the safety of our pilgrims? The Muslims! Who's slowing our progress westward? The Indians! Who's taking our jobs? The Irish! There's always a group to point to that the general public, given enough hardship and desperation, will blame and punish. All they need is a nudge in the right direction. Machiavelli outlined this tactic in his book "The Prince" in 1532, and recently, we have this example:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials
Once it starts, the people are almost always powerless to stop it. The rush of anger and fear from a swelling mass of people following a charismatic person, who knows EXACTLY who is threatening their safety, their property, and their daughters, is as quick as it is powerful. Think of a mob of pitchfork wielding peasants with torches, and then, imagine an entire nation up in arms. Simply not wanting to be a part of such a movement, becomes a silent fear of that movement all too quickly, as the window where you could actually fight it comes and goes before most people even realize what's happening.
Today, similarly, we have a man running for president, Donald Trump, who says that he knows exactly who our enemies are. Who's taking our jobs? The Mexicans. Who's threatening our safety? The Muslims. His open racism, sexism, fascism, and a slew of other -isms would've been unheard of in politics not 10 years ago. Back then, the smallest indiscretion or mistake could do great harm to a campaign. Just consider the fact that Rick Perry lost all of his support when he drew a blank on a word, and how Howard Dean suffered the same fate after he got a little too excited at a rally.
Nobody knows why, but it could be eight years of an African American being president. Perhaps, this has allowed old ideas to pop up in the minds of the the people who oppose him politically and just can't seem to beat him. They lose debate after debate with him, and eventually, they run out of talking points, which is when they resort to hurling insults at him. In an era where everyone has a certain bit of anonymity online that shelters them from real social judgement for the things they say, especially when ridicule of the president (the oldest of American pastimes) is acceptable, their attacks may not be entirely political, if at all. Compounded over 8 years time, and you see unapologetic racism because it's never been checked. The normal methods of shaming are no longer working because you can't shame a person who doesn't care what you think, at all. This is so because they've never had to worry about what you think.
The "left," liberals, democrats, whatever you want to call Trump's only real political enemies seem powerless to do much of anything. For the last few years they've had this compulsion to single out individuals and destroy them over "microagressions" and publicly humiliate people who use a wrong word or have a momentary lapse in their political correctness. This is how the left fights political battles in the modern world. They'll take their attacks to the extreme of getting someone fired and ruining their lives, but the sad thing is, most of the people this happens to are good people who AREN'T racist, homophobic, or misogynist. They're just easy targets and taking them down makes people feel righteous and like they're enacting change.
When faced with the real deal, however, the left's "public shaming" has no teeth. The only people who care about being shamed, are people who care what you think about them. We've been eating ourselves and crying about being victims of words, thoughts, "rape culture" and all manner of things like that, all the while, a man like Trump is unaffected by what destroys the innocent. You see, your real enemy doesn't care that you don't like him, and when you call everyone "racist," "homophobic," "misogynist," and "sexist" over minor transgressions, the words lose the punch they once had. That scientist who wore a shirt adorned with women in bikinis was "sexist," and so is Donald Trump, and so the title no longer matters.
So what are we to do? It could be too late already. The window to halt this movement, like others before it, is closing rapidly, and maybe THIS is what it felt like in 1938 as the people plotted "Kristallnacht."