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Local Editorials

It’s OK to turn the politics off once in a while

There’s a television show on Amazon called “Man in the High Castle.” It’s a drama with some action and espionage thrown in, and some fantasy, as well. The premise is that the Axis Powers, specifically Germany and Japan – it’s unclear what happened to Italy, Bulgaria, et al – won World War II and have occupied most of the United States.

Seeing New York City awash in swastikas and Americans dressed up as high-ranking SS officers is jarring enough, but there are things that aren’t mentioned specifically that are equally as disturbing.

For example, there are no minorities in the Greater Reich. The Final Solution was carried out to perfection, and only those considered racially pure are left. The wholesale clearing of Africa is mentioned.

Something else that is disturbing is what little changed. It’s no secret that America has always had a will-they-won’t-they, Ross-and-Rachel kind of flirtation with fascism, especially before the horrors of the Holocaust were known. National heroes had connections to Nazi Germany.

Charles Lindbergh, while never an outright Nazi, supported the America First Committee that argued for non-intervention in the European conflict and, in 1938, received an award from Hermann Goring.

Henry Ford was the only American to receive a shout-out in “Mein Kampf,” and owned a newspaper that published anti-Semitic articles, including the fraudulent protocols of Zion.

There was a congressional committee that investigated “un-American” activities from 1938 until 1975.

And in case we dismiss those instances to the dustbin of history, in November, just up the road in the Illinois 3rd Congressional District, a former head of the American Nazi Party and Holocaust-denier got more than 57,000 votes for Congress.

The idea that a Nazi America would require little more than a wardrobe change and rewriting the words to the Pledge of Allegiance is not all that far-fetched. Sometimes, you find yourself rooting on the American SS chief, even though he is a quisling in the purest sense of the word.

But this is all fantasy for a science fiction television show. We won the war and we can watch the horror on screen as entertainment.

There is another element, however, that should serve as a very real warning to our real world. In Nazi America, politics are everything. Religion has been replaced by votives to the Fuhrer, icons with the swastika. Every suit must include a swastika lapel pin. Even the flowers for funeral arrangements include the party symbols.

That kind of tribalism is very familiar to us today. Think of the photos from Donald Trump rallies in 2016, declaring they’d rather be Russians than Democrats. Or the way, at Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Democrats were completely silent as Republicans cheered.

Even the image of Nancy Pelosi applauding at the conclusion can be interpreted as sarcastic, mimicking the way a parent would reward a child.

Politics are influential, but there’s more to life than politics. I would hate to wake up to a world where people work at the Church of Fewer Government Regulations, or go to baseball games to cheer on the Chicago Bail Reforms. There already is an infiltration of religion into politics. How many civic meetings begin with a benediction? How often do candidates speak at churches during a campaign, even if they can’t officially campaign there?

But, as we become more polarized and entrenched, the middle of the Venn diagram where people can agree on things gets smaller and smaller. We get squeezed into our little corners and keep others in theirs. If we keep identifying with political parties, and putting that identity above all others, eventually, we will have those dystopians writers warned us about the last 100 years.

Personally, I think we should take anything that looks like the creeping cults of personality and throw them out the window. I don’t need to know who the governor is when I have to pay a toll on the interstate that I already pay taxes for anyway. I don’t need to see the secretary of state’s face every time I go get my driver’s license updated.

We don’t need a concert’s worth of patriotic songs before every sporting event. The “Star-Spangled Banner” and a fighter jet flyover is more than enough.

Will the Nazis take over? Probably not. But we need to spend more time finding common ground among ourselves, being more inclusive with our neighbors, so that there isn’t a way in for the totalitarians. Because, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, the weak are the one most enamoured with having power.

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