Social Justice

Will We Learn From, or Repeat, History?

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy

A report on NPR this morning noted that there have been less protesters at the Republican National Convention than had been expected. A person being interviewed speculated that perhaps the open carry laws of Ohio and the strong show of force by citizens carrying long guns and hand guns openly may have kept protesters home.

This is not enforcement of peaceful revolution; it is peaceful revolution denied.

Fast forward to November 8, 2016. Forty five states now allow open carry of guns. In how many of those will citizens show up near polling places with open carry long guns and hand guns to keep peace and order? To what extent will this disenfranchise some from voting who have historically, and currently, experienced a disproportionately high number of shooting deaths, such as people of color?

Rewind to the 1930’s. Hitler was made chancellor of Germany with the belief that he could be controlled. But from the late 1920’s on the Brownshirts, “various roughneck elements that had attached themselves to the fledgling Nazi movement“, where an essential part of the rise of the Nazi party and Hitler. Their use of intimidation initially, and then violent application of emergency rule following what was likely a staged event, the burning of the Reichstag, cemented Hitler as absolute ruler.

I am NOT comparing all of the gun-carrying citizens in Cleveland to the Nazi Brownshirts, although a small fringe likely have sympathies (consider the reports this past February about White Supremacist support of Trump). But the potential of intimidating voters from going to their polling places November 8 is the same regardless. It may very well be the deciding factor that brings in the election of Trump.

Conditions are very different now than in 1920’s and 30’s Germany. As such, the reasons for citizen anger with the government and their fear of others differ greatly. But the anger and fear is strong today, and perhaps as strong, as in history then. In our favor, if such is a favor, is that those who could become violent Trump supporters are better fed and overall more comfortable than the Hitler supporters who faced severe economic depression. And the opposition Democratic party is much stronger. But the urgently needed balancing forces within the Republican party are in disarray right now.

I urgently hope that my Republican friends, and the party nationally, can succeed in their efforts to restore a solid, reasoned Republican party to serve as a counter to this fringe that is now taking control of their party. In the meantime, hurrah to Ted Cruz who refused to endorse Trump but rather encouraged people to vote their conscience.

But I urgently hope, too, that greater control by the people of both parties at all levels can be ceded from moneyed interests so that more people can have confidence that government is a place for peaceful revolution, a place for once again building a more just society that equitably cares for all its citizens.

But this is a perilous time. We stand at a crossroad. Will we learn from history and thereby avoid repeating it? Or will we slip down the path destined to repeat history in our own, unique way?

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