Monday, March 14, 2016

Have a Conversation with a Trump Supporter Today

Peter Ross Range,
1924: The Year That Made Hitler
Völkisch is very hard to define and almost untranslatable into English. The word has been rendered as popular, populist, people's, racial, racist, ethnic-chauvinist, nationalistic, communitarian (for Germans only), conservative, traditional, Nordic, romantic -- and it means, in fact, all of those. The völkisch political ideology ranged from a sense of German superiority to a spiritual resistance to "the evils of industrialization and the atomization of modern man," wrote scholar David Jablonsky. But its central component, as Harold J. Gordon, Jr., noted, was always racism. (Peter Ross Range, 1924: The Year That Made Hitler, note p. 27)

I decided I was going to sit down today and tell people about the book I'm currently reading: 1924: The Year That Made Hitler.

I thought it would be helpful to share some of the quotes I have found so chilling as I've encountered them in the book, quotes like:

"It makes no difference whatever whether they laugh at us or revile us," he wrote later. "The main thing is that they mention us." (p. 27)

I thought people should be encouraged to look at this book and notice the similarities between the personality that came out of nowhere in Germany in 1923-1924, and the personality that has grabbed the spotlight in the US in 2015-2016.

Action was his aphrodisiac, his catnip, his default. His impetuosity often overwhelmed all other considerations, as the world would later learn . . . .  (p. 63)

Events in the past 72 hours have only served to further stimulate that idea. Rallies and counter-rallies and shouts and threats and more all seemed to work in favor of that 1923-1924 demagogue.

"Every German should have the right to stand up for the ideals he believes in and to use his fists to strike down others who use their fists to block him or prevent the truth from getting through." (p. 139)

I worry that they are working in the same way for today's demagogue, too.

But I woke up this morning thinking, "It's not his personality that's really at issue; it's actually not really about the fringe views he espouses, either.  It's not even the outward behavior of the supporters of different points of view. What's at stake is: There are a lot of people who are so enormously disillusioned and frustrated and fearful that they are actually finding relief in identifying with all this. What have we got to offer them?"

If people decide they can no longer talk to each other, Trump has won. If, on the other hand, we can find a way to talk with each other, there is hope.

Therefore, I have altered my original plan. Originally I planned to use this space to share aspects of 1924: The Year That Made Hitler that bear an eerie resemblance to Donald Trump and his campaign. Instead, I will try to talk about this question: "What were ordinary Germans experiencing in 1923-1924 that can help us form the basis of conversations with fellow US people in 2016?"

Perhaps that is the most important comparison of all . . . . 

Related posts

I wondered at how we could have covered all that in just a minute or two -- the time it takes to go a few stops.  After all, when I walked onto that bus we were strangers.

(See Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter))

How might an uprising against inequality and dismantling the military-industrial complex dovetail?

(See WHERE'S MINE? Inequality in the US and the Military-Industrial Complex )

I believe when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and said "Remember me this way," he was much more interested in encouraging us to keep having conversations -- conversations that really matter -- with others . . . and finding ways to be in relationship with our neighbors . . . all the while reminding us "never underestimate the power of food" . . .

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))