Months ago, when I picked out this video, a clip from the movie version of Cabaret, I had quite fresh in my mind all the ghastly conversation that led to unfriending more than a dozen people I knew in person and on Facebook, many of whom fell squarely in the Tea Party’s political camp.
I thought then and I still think today that these might be good people except that they are driven by an ideology which could easily bring about the same sort of violence in the name of Nationalism and supremacy that makes our political conversations today virtually impossible.
Take this challenge. Put the word Nazi into Google. You won’t get the Wikipedia article about the Germans as the first entry in the list. No, you will see a link to the American Nazi Party. No, I will not provide a link. You can do the search yourself.
Every time I hear someone refer to our president and his advisors as fascists, every time I hear someone call for exterminating a group of people for views that differ, I think back. Don’t think for one moment that these are isolated pockets. The Germans had concentration camps and mass graves in far, far more places than just the camps we thought we knew about, throughout occupied territories like Poland as well as in Germany. And the United States was not immune – we held innocent Japanese Americans in our own camps, out of fear that they would somehow reject their country’s values and join those in Japan, acting against those who were not Japanese in the United States.
To be sure, we managed to make those camps more humane, but really? I have heard talk that women who choose abortion should be locked away. That gays should be rounded up. We already do this with people whose families come from across the Mexican border. Have a look at what’s going on in Arizona and you’ll understand just what I mean.
I lost family in Germany in the 1940s and in England as well (soldiers fallen to battle, or family rounded up into the camps). My heritage lies squarely in Europe, though I am third generation. With one quarter’s exception, my family was the target of the Nazi movement.
Almost 30 years ago, I graduated with a newly minted tech theatre degree, inspired in part by this musical. I discovered a way to express important information through a medium that encompassed all of my artistic abilities. Two and a half years earlier, I heard this song sung in our New Paltz production of the show, after spending over a hundred hours working on the show (to the exclusion of my other classes).
If you have the stomach for it, this is a beautiful, chilling song. It is sung by an intensely proud people. A people who have not yet moved to mass incarceration and murder but whose views on the superiority of their race would soon rip their world apart.
On November 9 and 10, 1938 in Austria and throughout Europe, began Kristallnacht, the systematic rounding up and pulverization of a group of people considered outside the Aryan race. Jews, gays, Roma, in fact anyone who failed the National purity test became targets for extermination. In spite of the Schindlers and their like, the insanity was sufficient to imprison or murder an estimated 15 to 20 million people.
That’s the entire population of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Antonio combined.
On this, the 75th anniversary of that terrible event, I take this opportunity to remind you that in some areas of the United States we are a hair’s breadth of this same sort of terror. The Neo Confederacy wants our world back the way it was, all comfy with slaves.
I suggest remembering and listening to the song and paying attention to its singers.