From A Night At the Garden
With Trump's latest crime against the poor, the brown, the other - wherein immigrants may have to choose between food or housing and a green card - it's a good time to consider a new book detailing the threat of a "21st-century master of divisive rhetoric" whose toxic mix of fear, lies, greed and racism uncannily echos an earlier monster, and whose virulent skillset could prevail over a deeply flawed political system. In When at Times the Mob Is Swayed: A Citizen’s Guide to Defending Our Republic, civil liberties attorney Burt Neuborne argues America's allegedly invincible checks and balances - weakened by today's unrepresentative Congress, skewered Electoral College and right-wing Supreme Court majority - may not be able to withstand Trump's abuses of power. Using 20 points of comparison, Neuborne outlines how Trump parrots not just longtime policies of authoritarian dictators - fake news/invasions/grievances - but the rhetoric of Hitler's early playbook, which he famously studied. Above all, he describes the "demagogic spells" cast by a dangerous narcissist who increasingly can't control the hate and havoc he's unleashed: "The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It fell into their hands thanks to Hitler’s satanic ability to mesmerize enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism."
For those clinging to the belief it can't happen here, watch "A Night At the Garden," a short chilling film by Marshall Curry and Field of Vision documenting the night in 1939 when 20,000 New Yorkers came to Madison Square Garden to cheer on Fritz Kuhn, head of the Nazi German-American Bund, as he urged them to join "fellow American patriots" in demanding "our government (be) returned to the American people who founded it” to preserve a "white, Gentile-ruled United States." "The point is less an indictment of bad things Americans have done in the past than it is a cautionary tale about the bad things we might do in the future," Curry notes. "These were 20,000 New Yorkers who loved their kids and were probably nice to their neighbors, came home from work that day, dressed up in suits and skirts, and went out to cheer and laugh and sing as a speaker dehumanized people who would be murdered by the millions in the next few years" - and as he sold "an ideology that hundreds of thousands of Americans would die fighting against." The film's power lies in its sights and sounds - the huge swastikas flanking George Washington and the U.S. flag, the marching thugs, the roar of the crowd as a young Jewish protester is savagely beaten. "We'd like to believe that there are sharp lines between good people and bad people," says Curry. "But I think most humans have dark passions inside us, waiting to be stirred up" - by, say, a monstrous buffoon who taunts a mob into chanting, "Send Her Back."
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