ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

Stop Saying Trump Is Hitler

This topic has been written about much more eloquently than I can; people who do political reporting are better at this, I suppose. I’ve been seeing an awful lot of this on Facebook and other places around the web, so one more voice won’t hurt, I suppose.

It’s probably an occupational hazard. I have always been uncomfortable with anyone at all being compared to Hitler or Nazis (and DO NOT get me started on the horrifying “feminazi” term–although, to be fair, Rush Limbaugh started that. Karma’s a big old feminist bitch, isn’t it, Rush?). I suppose I can kind of see people who don’t have an in-depth understanding of 1930s Germany could think there were similarities, but we’re getting into Jade Helm territory here. America is not suffering 30% unemployment; it doesn’t already have a non-functioning coalition government. Here’s a secret: the U.S. government functions exactly like it was designed to. The system of checks and balances is supposed to make it difficult to make changes. The country’s founders knew what they were doing; compromise was essential to the government they made.

And think of that. A few years ago I finally went to Philadelphia, and I was RIGHT THERE in the actual place where a bunch of contentious jackasses got together in the 100 degree heat and argued and fought and drank and went out chasing women and owned slaves and ordered their wives around like servants and thought they owned their children and called each other names and disagreed and then…

Then they made a compromise. And they named it America.

Yes, my children thought I was nuts because I was crying. I was in the place where they made America. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

And I trust those guys. Even if they had feet of clay, they had brains of…okay, I’ve got nothing. They had determination. Grit. They didn’t want to see the country they’d just won devolve into anarchy and eventually be re-conquered and occupied.

Do you really think Trump is Hitler? No, you don’t. You don’t think Trump will build hundreds or even thousands of camps all over America and start executing people without due process. And don’t get me wrong; the system isn’t perfect. But do you really think such a thing could happen? Please remember that this government can hardly sharpen a pencil without four meetings, a memo, a few classified e-mails, and a million dollars in insurance in case something goes wrong and the intern sharpens his finger instead.

There was only one Hitler, though admittedly he had a lot of fanatical followers. His rise to power was brought about by economic and social forces we just don’t have in America. His atrocities were brought about by the sudden successes of his military and a lot of people who were personally devoted to him, all trying to outdo each other in serving him. But the catalog of atrocities is long: Babi Yar, Pawiak Prison, Hadamar, Vilnius, Lvov, Treblinka, and it continues. Do you really think Trump being president would result in this?

Do not honor Hitler and his henchmen by comparing them to Trump. This is a complete trivialization of Hitler’s rule. Trump is a showman; if he reminds me of anyone it’s George W. Bush, who was all excited to run for President and then shocked to find out governing is work. Trump is just the latest in a long line of faces: Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, who will really have someone else running the show. He’s no scarier than the rest of them.

Trump isn’t Hitler because America isn’t Germany. And eventually, maybe that’s all we need to know.

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Were the Nazis Socialists?

So, something a little funny happened today. And as happens so often, it tied into the Polish Boy Scouts.

Well, sort of. I’m kind of getting ahead of myself.

This extremely old friend of mine…scratch that, he’s younger than me. Anyway, this is a friend I’ve known for a long time. We don’t agree politically and we never have, but when we were young we didn’t consider that to be an impediment to being friends. In any case, he sometimes posts things that I consider either thought-provoking or complete nonsense.  Today’s offering was nonsense. It looked like this:

bernie

(Don’t worry. I promise I’ll get to it. First you have to listen to my little story.)

So, I just posted, “THE NAZIS WERE NOT SOCIALISTS.” And I left it at that because 1) Errant nonsense, particularly in the form of a shared picture, is not worth dealing with; 2) I didn’t let it go unchallenged; and 3) likening Bernie Sanders to Nazis is even more nonsensical.

And then another friend, someone I was closer to in those days, posted back. Politically I don’t know where he stood; I’m not sure he even was political then. But, well, it’s America, and everybody has to be political now. In any case I’ve always had sincere respect for this friend’s intelligence, ability to read people, and sense of humor. This friend posted about the Nazis’ 25 point program (you can read all about it here: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/25points.htm

Thought-provoking, no? I had not run across it in all twenty-two books I’ve read and who knows how many online sources, original documents, movies, research I’ve done for the Polish Scouts. So I took a look and discovered that at best this is propaganda; it defined the Nazi “brand” with a whole lot of promises that were never carried out. And I posted some of that–but I was supposed to be reading on Canaris today so I jumped back into that.

A little while later, friend who posted the original meme said, “It’s right there in the name,” illustrating either a profound desire to annoy me, or a profound misunderstanding of what words are. I mean, they made everybody call Kim Jung Il “Dear Leader.” It didn’t mean he was actually dear or even necessarily the leader. And then the second friend replied, explaining to me that the designations “communist” and “socialist” were perhaps meaningless in the discussion at hand and listed some specific economic examples of how Nazism was socialist.

Fair enough.

I’m not strong on economics (though words and how they change through time? I’m pretty good on that), and the focus of the research has been social history and personal narrative and ideological background. And, whether or not it was true, I wanted to really know it for myself. It’s a pretty significant hole, not just in the research, but in the meaning of the Third Reich and ultimately the meaning of the Warsaw Uprising, child soldiers, and all those themes I’m dealing with.

So, here’s the TL/DR response: No. Nazis were not socialists. Socialists are not Nazis.

And here’s the researched, well-considered, thoughtful response I wrote that was so long I thought, “That would make a great blog post!” Or possibly, a doctoral dissertation.

“I considered just searching this question on-line, but that’s not really what I want to do. I don’t believe in pre-fab research; I wanted to consider the question on its merits and on my own. So if I’m quoting someone, I don’t mean to be.

“I’m hung up on the idea that a totalitarian state could ever be a socialist one. Going back to Enlightenment principles, government depends on the consent of the governed. In a totalitarian state like the Third Reich, it depended on the consent of the 32% of the people who voted for Hitler in the second (and last) free elections held by Weimar Germany. A coalition government was formed and Hitler seized power. There were numerous attempts to unseat him; one of these was on the eve of the Sudetenland crisis, but the generals were betrayed by Chamberlin. In any case, socialism is more than just government ownership of the means of production, resources, etc.; at its core it requires a democratic or collective ownership. In a totalitarian state, by definition that can’t be the case; the ownership is driven by the person or group at the top, not by the people as a cooperating entity.

“Leaving the ideology aside (which is difficult when discussing Nazis), we could go on to who the Nazis considered their enemies to be. The SA (Brown Shirts), the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, used to go out and disrupt meetings of Communists and Social Democrats. The SA was well known for street fights with Communists. Hitler had dismantled all the other political parties by 1934, partly by putting their leaders into Dachau, which left the SA at loose ends and causing fights with passers-by and sometimes with foreign diplomats. The SA was also the left wing of the party; its ranks had been swelled by the unemployed, who were eager for Hitler to begin breaking up the estates of German aristocrats and take other radical economic action. This didn’t happen in 1933 or 1934, but army criticism of the SA as a “rabble” did. Hitler needed the army; more, he needed the support of non-Nazis in the army, so during the Night of the Long Knives he purged the Nazi party of its left wing. By murdering it. Hitler also used the opportunity to get rid of conservatives he thought were unreliable. As a result, most of Chancellor von Papen’s immediate circle were murdered. Some old enemies, such as the former Nazi Gregor Strasser, were killed as well; so were the former leaders of the Catholic Centre Party, which had been aligned with the Social Democrats. And make no mistake: Germany’s Social Democrats were (and are) socialists.

“The concentration camp system was built in the first place to house political prisoners. The political prisoners in the camps were identified as Social Democrats, Communists, and others who opposed Nazism, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. So rather than making common cause with the established Socialists or Communists, the Hitler regime regarded them as enemies and arrested them in large numbers.

“We could also look at who the Nazis counted as their friends. Noted American conservatives Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Himmler’s pen pal J. Edgar Hoover, Gerald L.K. Smith, and Pierre DuPont. None of these people would have remotely considered themselves to be Socialists, or anything other than firm conservatives, political, social, and economic.

“Admittedly going out on a limb here, but the foundation of National Socialism is that people can’t ever improve or change who they are. Political prisoners were kept alive and served limited sentences in the camps because they were considered genetically valuable. Good German women were supposed to have baby after baby because it was good for the race. Eventually, every road to every social program, every military campaign, every educational program, led back to the idea of and the development of the Master Race. Nazi eugenics owes an embarrassing debt to American eugenics. Nazi racism had roots in colonialism and the idea of the White Man’s Burden. The Klan, the eugenicists, all of them thought that Jews had brought communism and socialism and trade unions into the world.

“Meanwhile, Nazism was in direct conflict with several other philosophies, most notably (for me) scouting. The scouting movement was all about improving the self through education. Although in many countries scouts were segregated, Baden-Powell himself thought this was an error. Scouting was really the antithesis of Nazism; it emphasized betterment of the existing people, not removing them from the gene pool.

“So, finally, economics. Which you know I’m weak in, but I will do my best. Nationalizing the banks: The banks had been taken over by the Weimar government and Hitler’s government re-privatized the four major commercial banks in Germany between 1934 and 1938. The banks did, however, have to provide government financing, so it could be argued that they were under government control. It turns out that the Nazis privatized a lot of formerly public companies. Source: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27771569?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents  Massive public works: This is true, but again, it was a continuation of Weimar policies; just like in America, it was planned that these projects would help reduce unemployment and it worked (but not as well as war was going to). In Germany the projects were funded by deficit spending, and eventually through stolen assets. Capture of major manufacturers: I’m not honestly sure what this means. IG Farben, Ford, IBM, and countless others had government contracts; they were paid for producing particular goods and services (such as IBM’s punch cards being used to track concentration camp prisoners). The German railways were privatized under the Nazis, as were various other companies. So really, it was Weimar that was socialist. Meanwhile, when Jews left Poland and Germany and other places, their businesses were taken over by individuals–not by the state. And for the most part German-owned businesses were left unmolested.

“Later, it’s true, some companies were taken over by the government. As far as I can tell, this was done so that Goering and others could enrich themselves through public money to be filtered through their companies; they did not actually run the factories. I can’t find the reference, but I know I read about one such business that was taken over because the owner was not sufficiently Nazi friendly. And again, I think these business takeovers were an outgrowth of totalitarianism rather than a socialist ideology. Hitler himself was uninterested in economics in general and socialism in particular: “What need have we to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.” By which he meant that the state didn’t have to own the banks and businesses if it already owned the people.

“And, eventually, that’s the POINT. Hitler didn’t care about any doctrine other than the one he made himself. He took some ideas and rejected others, and whatever lip service he paid, in his actions he always rejected socialism. And, wherever his grave is, he’s probably spinning in it at being compared to Bernie Sanders! His was a government in which he told his people his goals, and then sat back to see how they could make them happen.

“I didn’t realize that I was fuzzy on this question. Thanks for giving me a good argument to research and think about.”

Anyway, the moral of the little story: yes, I have days when I’m tired of fighting the good fight. I get exhausted by people. There are reasons to oppose Bernie Sanders; you don’t have to make up your own facts. I get tired of making the same arguments over and over; I get demoralized by people who’d rather believe lies than the truth. I get tired of people who won’t open their minds to any idea that Rush Limbaugh didn’t tell them first.

And then some days, good sparks come from hitting opposing ideas off each other. I might never have looked into the economics of Nazi Germany as a policy without those posts. Because what America is really about is the free exchange of ideas, even (and especially) with people you disagree with.

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Something Weird Happened Today

I did it! They did it! And more importantly, it works!

After a very long weekend (gymnastics meet, two hockey games, encountering an awful lot of unpleasant people both on-line and in person), I decided that today is the day. On Saturday I got through the rewrites I’ve been working on (I’ve been making Act II B tighter and more compelling), leading up to, you know, It.

Specifically the big Kit/Brooks sex scene that is the center of this section of the book.

I know, I know; old as I am this should be easy. But it isn’t easy, at all. I have of course written it before, but I faded to black before actually getting down to business. But this is New Adult. The book is still not really a romance, but that’s not uncommon in New Adult. New Adults are busy people, with more on their minds than having sex, serious people, blah blah blah. But I didn’t realize how unsatisfying the fadeout was until I read through Act II B a few weeks ago. I made a three-page outline of just this section; one list of scenes as they are now, and the other of how it should read. So I’m cutting and pasting but there’s also new material.

Today was the day for sex. Explicit, real sex between two real characters, young people who aren’t virgins but aren’t well-traveled, either. Because again, the center, the heart of the story, is that people make mistakes and you learn and move on. Kit’s going into this with her eyes open.

It snowed last night here but there was barely any on the ground when I got up at 5:30. I went through the whole morning, feed the animals, feed the children, pack the lunches, nag people about homework and toothbrushing. At 7:50 I walked the smallest one to the bus stop. Snow was sticking to the street more now, and there was no traffic coming past. At this time of the morning it was a bit eerie, but her bus arrived by ten past 8 and they were all gone.

(Yes, my husband was here. He slept until 6:45 and then took a shower. This is more helpful than you would think.)

I sat down at my desk, and opened the file, and read my outline. And started sweating.

Is this really so hard? What am I afraid of, that people will know I’ve had sex? I do have three kids and I’ve been married for 17 years.

So, I pulled out notes I had from a workshop I attended with Andrea Catalano at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in the fall of 2014. I can do this.

From Andrea: “Just describe what goes where, and take it from there.” Use frank terms; they might even seem clinical at first. Don’t be afraid; people love this stuff.

Okay. I can do this. I check my e-mail and discover that the kids are going to be back soon, since school has now been closed.

Hell. I can do it. Only now, I have to do it fast.

And then, a miracle occurred. I had been planning to start from the scene I already had, and then add to it, but I realized that the scene I already had was all lead-up and no action. I cut the first two pages; I skipped through some description and the next thing I knew those two animals were taking off their clothes.

I did it–they did it. Somehow two characters took over the scene and I just wrote down what they did. I sat right here at my desk and wrote 2200 words and when I was done, these two characters had pretty good sex. More importantly, the scene did what it’s supposed to do; it expresses where these two are in their lives and their relationship. It shows that all those thoughts and feelings are normal, and so is making some jokes along the way. I typed the heading for the next chapter…

And then I slept for two hours.

 

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