I once wondered how a modern, 20th century country like Germany morphed into an amoral, industrial-style genocide factory during Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich. At the time, conditions in Europe were politically unstable; the aftermath of World War One left economies in shambles, and politics polarized between right and left. Germany in particular was beset with rampant inflation and street demonstrations. At the same time, however, Germany had Europe’s finest medical system, cosmopolitan and sophisticated cities, a rich cultural life and a leading intellectual role in the world.
It’s clear that sophistication, science, education and art were not enough to inoculate German society from the poison of race-hatred, but how that hatred became official state policy, able to mobilize government’s instruments of power and control, always fazed me. At that time, government relied on people to carry out its programs, just as governments do today; Nazi Germany required a functioning bureaucracy to carry out its genocide, and therein the answer’s found. Germany accomplished its horrific feats of genocide by filling government with a rogue’s gallery of race-hating bureaucrats.
We’re familiar with the names, at least those of us born in the middle of the 20th Century: Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann, Hess and the inner circle of Hitler’s henchmen. These were but the top echelon of a pyramid of evil; at all levels of the German government, Nazi Party members were appointed to replace seasoned civil servants and officials. Within only a few years in office, Nazis replaced educators, scientists, military leaders and medical professionals at the top of all existing institutions while eliminating press freedom and democratic elections and consolidating political authority. Fascism in Germany arrived at the ballot box with the election of Adolph Hitler.
Sadly, I see a very similar process taking place right now in America. With the election of Donald Trump, the Republicans in congress are now in the process of enabling the takeover of America’s governmental institutions – its agencies, courts and regional governments – with dangerously right-wing zealots, many of whom have explicit ties and connections to extremist anti-Islam hate groups and Neo-Nazi white-power organizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the non-profit anti-hate organization, has been tracking and documenting the rise of America’s Alt Right for decades, warning of its dangers and bringing legal actions to financially cripple right-wing hate groups (www.splcenter.org). Their latest warnings, however, are about the people filling the Trump Administration and the rogue’s gallery of appointees beginning to populate the workings of government. Remember the names – Bannon, Flynn, Miller, Gorka, Anton, Kirschner, Conway and Hahn, among others – when history is written theirs will be the names our grandchildren learn when this sorry chapter of history is taught, just as I learned about Hitler’s henchmen.
The latest outrage is the appointment of climate-change denier Sam Clovis to the top scientific post in the Agriculture Department. He has no scientific background, just a PhD in public administration, twenty-five years in the military and time as a conservative radio host. His only qualification for the post is his embrace of Trumpism. His is the type of ideologically-based, purely political appointment that corrodes the effectiveness and purpose of government agencies themselves, a clear pattern taking place with the help of a congress more than happy to enable such corruption.
I always knew such things were possible; naively, I never thought it could happen in America.