With each passing day we are confronted with the reality that sizable numbers of the world’s population prefer to live in the past. At one time it was easy for Westerners to strut their elitism by mocking the Taliban’s rejection of modern ethos, by being abhorred at the fundamentalism of a movement that blew up statues and schools that taught girls, often with youngsters inside.
But Western airs of superiority have been blown away by events decades old and as fresh as today’s news.
When one wonders how a civilized, educated society such as Germany of the 1920s and 1930s could have fallen so rapidly, so completely, into the barbarism and depravity of the Third Reich, one need only contemplate the transformation of the Republican Party that once stood up for human rights, international relations, free markets and the rule of law.
Despite yeoman efforts to repulse any resurgence of fascism, Germany, as well as other European countries, have been confronted with anti-Semitism and strong leader extremism.
The United States has not been shielded from the same ethical scourge.
Each news cycle brings additional evidence we have definitively passed into the realm of the absurd, the criminally negligent, the Dark Ages.
An expensive Florida private school has decreed it would not employ any teachers who have been vaccinated with anti-COVID-19 serums. Without any authoritative, scientific evidence, it fears coming into contact with the vaccinated could actually spread the disease.
An ultra Orthodox Jewish group has proposed a summer camp with similar COVID vaccination restrictions on its staff and campers.
Even as many universities and businesses are requiring their students and employees, respectively, to be vaccinated before returning to school and work, and vaccines are now being made available to those 12 and older, the anti-vaxxer movement remains strong, as antagonistic as Middle Age clerics were to scientific advances that transcended religious doctrine.
Many of the anti-mask and anti-vaccine crowd are Donald Trump supporters. Yet, Trump brags that he husbanded development of the COVID-19 vaccines and while he has been inoculated, he did so in private, not publicly to serve as an example as all living ex-presidents have.
Still, one wonders why if Trump is a god-like figure to so many, why has he not been able to influence them to take the shot? No doubt, it is partly because he cultivated an atmosphere of suspicion in federal policy and office holders, except in him, of course.
Devotion to a political or social leader is not a new phenomenon in America. Presidents from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could do no wrong in the eyes of their believers. But each of them was restrained by devotion to the rule of law and by their respective party’s legislative leaders who swore allegiance not to them but rather to the Constitution.
Perhaps even more troubling is the crumbling of the wall between the military and civilian control of it. More than 120 retired generals and admirals are questioning Joe Biden’s mental and physical condition, his fitness to be commander in chief and president. They are echoing Trump’s claims the 2020 election was not legitimate (https://mol.im/a/9572723).
Trump has upended the dynamic between politicians and the military. He has upended the dynamic between politicians and the judiciary, between politicians and career civil service employees.
Because he has acknowledged vote-getting power, Republican politicians fear that dismissing him from their national stage would undermine efforts to regain control of the House, Senate and the White House. Keep in mind, the first job of any politician is to get elected. The second job is to get re-elected.
Across the country Republican controlled legislatures are rewriting election laws to not only make it more difficult for minorities to vote but also for the results to be certified only if they favor GOP candidates and to alter them if they don’t. Republicans fear repeats of 2020 Democratic wins in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan. To them it’s a democratic/Democratic virus more virulent and toxic than COVID-19.
The Republican Party professes to be a party of ideas, with a tent large enough to accommodate divergent views. But the saga of Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming has exposed Republicans as short-sighted, cult-worshipping opportunists interested only in power and themselves.
Take a few minutes to read the remarks Cheney delivered on the floor of the House Tuesday night, the eve before her removal Wednesday as part of the House Republican Leadership:
“Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.
“I have been privileged to see first-hand how powerful and how fragile freedom is. 28 years ago, I stood outside a polling place, a schoolhouse in western Kenya. Soldiers had chased away people lined up to vote. A few hours later, the people began streaming back in, risking further attack, undaunted in their determination to exercise their right to vote.
“In 1992, I sat across a table from a young mayor in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and listened to him talk of his dream of liberating his nation from communism. Years later, for his dedication to the cause of freedom, Boris Nemtsov would be assassinated by Vladimir Putin’s thugs.
“In Warsaw, in 1990, I listened to a young Polish woman tell me that her greatest fear was that people would forget what it was like to live under communist domination, that they would forget the price of freedom.
“Three men -- an immigrant who escaped Castro’s totalitarian regime; a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country’s minister of defense; and a dissident who spent years in the Soviet gulag have all told me it was the miracle of America captured in the words of President Ronald Reagan that inspired them to seek freedom.
“I have seen the power of faith and freedom. I listened to Pope John Paul II speak to thousands in Nairobi in 1985, and 19 years later I watched that same pope take my father’s hand, look in his eyes, and say, ‘God Bless America.’
“God has blessed America, but our freedom only survives if we protect it, if we honor our oath, taken before God in this chamber, to support and defend the Constitution, if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.
“Millions of Americans have been misled by the former President. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.
“I am a conservative Republican and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted. More than sixty state and federal courts, including multiple judges he appointed, have rejected the former president’s claims. The Department of Justice in his administration investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them. The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.
“Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.
“Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.
“I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.
“As the party of Reagan, Republicans championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet Communists. As we speak, America is on the cusp of another Cold War -- this time with communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed Communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure. We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.
“I received a message last week from a Gold Star father who said, ‘Standing up for the truth honors all who gave all.’ We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom. They are the patriots Katherine Lee Bates described in the words of America the Beautiful: ‘Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life.’
“Ultimately, this is at the heart of what our oath requires -- that we love our country more. That we love her so much we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our Constitution and our freedom -- paid for by the blood of so many.
“We must love her so much we will never yield in her defense.
“That is our duty. Thank you.”