Must History Always Repeat Itself?

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Some comparisons
are just too tough to stomach, but the time has come to stomach
one of them just the same. The United States has become the opposite
of what was intended by our Founding Fathers. It is now not free,
but rather sunk in dictatorial morass. What has become of us Americans?
Why are we so weak as a people? Why do we not stand up for justice,
right, and freedom, and against big, omnipotent government? And
why do we allow our freedom and liberty to be systematically taken
from us?

I
recently read a spellbinding movie review written by Wendy McElroy
of Sophie
Scholl: The Last Days
. It was in the May 2007 issue of the
Future of Freedom Foundation’s Freedom Daily and was
titled “Sophie Scholl: A Life of Moral Courage.” Moral
courage is something sadly lacking in our own society these days.
Sophie Scholl was a member of the White Rose, a nonviolent resistance
group in Nazi Germany who actively opposed Hitler’s regime,
and because of this Scholl was put to death.

As I read that
article, my body began to respond, just as it had when I watched
the movie based on her life. I felt myself cringing and shaking,
chills coming over me. What was happening to me was an awful awareness
awakened by this powerful story. What courage she showed when faced
with gargantuan risk! But her drive to change minds meant more to
her than life itself.

Many today
have lost faith in the power and force of ideas. Instead, like ostriches,
they bury their heads in the sand, hoping someone else will take
the lead. This sheeplike behavior has taken over this country, spreading
like the plague and, if it continues, could be just as deadly. Americans
are traveling on a very dangerous road, and the time for action
is upon us if we want to salvage and preserve our freedom.

As I once again
thought about Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and others involved
with the White Rose, and the courage they showed, I began to compare
things happening in Germany then with some of the things happening
in the United States now. Although I hesitate to make this comparison,
especially given the anti-Semitism that was inherent in the Nazi
system, I nonetheless think it necessary. I’m sure there will
be those who suggest that this comparison stems from hatred of my
country, but quite the opposite is true, especially since I believe
that the policies of the federal government are extremely harmful
to my country.

To make this
comparison is to face realities that are painful and that go against
everything Americans are taught or indoctrinated with throughout
their lives. But nevertheless, those of us who believe in true freedom
must speak out and muster the courage to change the minds of others,
or the United States may well be doomed to a societal meltdown.
It goes without saying, of course, that we’re not at the level
of Germany in 1943, but the country is definitely headed in a very
bad and ominous direction. It is a journey that will become more
difficult to slow down or reverse the longer we permit it to go
on.

In Hitler’s
Germany, publicly supporting the troops was mandatory. Imprisonment
or execution was the consequence of noncompliance. In America today,
even though some politicians now say they don’t support the
war, supporting the troops has been and still is expected by those
in positions of power. Although noncompliance does not now merit
imprisonment, as it did during World War One, thanks to the passage
of the Espionage Act, the consequences can be harsh. At the very
minimum, those who oppose the war or the troops are publicly labeled
as unpatriotic – as people whose hatred for their country is
manifested by their opposition to governmental policy. What will
be the next step to stifle criticism and dissent?

As noted by
Wendy McElroy in her review, Germany’s minister for public
enlightenment during World War Two, Joseph Goebbels, said, “Total
war is the demand of the hour…. The homeland must stay pure and
intact in its entirety. Nothing may disturb the picture…. Everyone
must learn to pay heed to war morale, and pay attention to the just
demands of working and fighting people.” Similarly, President
Bush said on September 20, 2001, “Either you are with us or
you are with the terrorists.” From this ideology grew the “support
the troops” mantra, a tone that has swept the country and,
if not adhered to, brings guilt, shame and, in some cases, threats.
Although Americans are not yet being thrown in prison for dissent,
over the past few years the cry for false patriotism (i.e., nationalism)
has been loud.

During Hitler’s
rise to prominence after becoming chancellor of Germany, he used
a terrorist act to extend state power. It’s also no secret
that the German state had watchful eyes over its citizenry during
Hitler’s entire reign. Coercion, spying, torture, kangaroo
courts, terrified criminal defense attorneys, and executions were
the rule of the day. For a good example, watch the DVD of Sophie
Scholl: The Final Days.

Let’s
take a look, however, at what has changed here in the United States
just since September 11, 2001. Immediately following the 9/11 attacks,
investigations of citizens and noncitizens began at all levels of
government based on thousands of tips. Hundreds were detained, questioned,
or arrested, and special registration procedures for certain male
noncitizens were put into place.

On September
20, 2001, President Bush announced the creation of the Office of
Homeland Security. Eventually, the name was changed to Department
of Homeland Security, and it became the third-largest cabinet department
in the federal government.

In October
2001, President Bush signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act. This all-encompassing
act extended federal government powers to the executive branch and
law enforcement beyond any in our history, infringing heavily on
many civil liberties. Then in 2006, the worst provisions of this
monstrous piece of legislation were extended, as fear continued
to grip the country.

In early 2002,
the Information Awareness Office was created as a means to survey
the populace, and although it was defunded by Congress in 2003,
many provisions were continued under different funding.

While many
other attacks on our liberty have taken place over the past few
years, including phone-tapping, warrantless searches, financial-record
invasions, and extensive database collections on American citizens,
far and away the worst and most dangerous assault on our freedom
has been the passage of the Military Commissions Act. This effectively
gave the president and the Pentagon the authority to arrest anyone
they named an enemy combatant, American or foreigner, and then to
imprison, torture, or execute them without a proper trial. There
is little difference between Germany’s kangaroo courts during
World War Two, including the one that tried and sentenced Hans and
Sophie Scholl to death, and the Pentagon’s own military tribunals
today.

So what does
all this mean? The United States obviously hasn’t sunk to the
level of Nazi Germany, but how far are we going to allow this government
to go, given that we have already lost many of our most precious
rights? This essay is not meant to compare Bush to Hitler but it
is meant to expose the dangers of the course that our nation is
on – a course the government is taking – a course that,
if not altered, will inexorably lead to more centralization of power,
more subservience to the state, and more loss of liberty. Throughout
history, early signs of tyranny have often been ignored until it
was too late. We must pay specific attention to the signs this time,
as we can hardly afford to be complacent much longer.

While I have
become more optimistic lately, simply because so many are speaking
out against the war in Iraq, I remain skeptical about the future.
Although the numbers against the war have grown, very few are talking
about eliminating the powers that have grown exponentially during
Bush’s administration. To pass these powers on would be a tragic
mistake, and the longer they are in place, the more placid and acquiescent
will become the citizenry. This is nothing less than a recipe for
disaster.

The United
States is currently fighting two occupations, one in Afghanistan
and one in Iraq. The federal government is threatening to wage a
third war, against Iran. If Americans allow that to take place,
the abuses we have seen so far will pale in comparison with what
we will see in the future. The tools are in place, but they haven’t
yet been used to their full potential. The USA PATRIOT Act, along
with the Military Commissions Act, grants massive power to the executive
branch over the states and over the people. Should this president
or any to follow him, choose to use these powers against us in response
to an act of terrorism, natural disaster, or some other big “emergency”
or “crisis,” how will we respond?

Adolf Hitler
once praised President Franklin Roosevelt for his approach to the
economic emergency known as to the Great Depression. He said, “I
have sympathy for Mr. Roosevelt because he marches straight toward
his objectives over Congress, lobbies, and bureaucracy.” If
Hitler were alive today, what would he say about President Bush’s
march over Congress and the courts? If history is any judge, he
would also smile favorably upon the actions of this administration.
We had better take heed, or the next words we hear may be, Show
me your papers!

June
7, 2007

Gary
D. Barnett is president of Barnett Financial Services, Inc., in
Missoula, Montana.

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