Quote of the Week: The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it. –Albert Einstein
Einstein warned us that those wishing to perpetrate evil (like Hitler in his time, or Trump in ours) are incapable of operating without two additional forces supporting them. First, they need supporters who themselves may be unwilling to “speak their minds,” but who also applaud evil men for unleashing the darkest monsters of our psyche, man’s tendencies toward suspicion and hatred. And evil is equally dependent on those who stay silent and inactive; who work, raise their families, and die while remaining distant from greater events around them.
The United States is at a crossroads, much like Germany was in 1933. A generation from now, Trump may have disappeared into the footnotes of history, unremembered and without having accomplished anything of substance. Or, Trump can – if we let him – turn our nation away from its democratic principles and economic prosperity and onto the path toward authoritarianism and poverty. We can remain a powerful and independent democracy; or become, as Trump’s supporters would have it, a third-world dictatorship and economic colony to China, India, Russia, and Brazil. Although Trump’s supporters would bristle at that objective, that is where their course will lead us. The twenty-first century economy requires ever more education and cultural diversity, and pushes into poverty and history ever more twentieth-century (and older) sources of income. Those on the Left, like Clinton and Sanders, who want to steer our nation forward understand the vital importance education and cultural diversity will have in this new century. Their policies of the Left can help keep our nation free, democratic, prosperous, and powerful. But Trump, and his fellow Republicans, call for the dismantling of education and other public goods that build our City on a Hill. Trump’s opposition to education is hardly surprising coming from a mogul who himself shipped jobs to China, helping China (to use his own monosyllabic diatribe) to “win.” Trump calls for ever greater debts to China through lower taxes (while increasing defense and other spending), and also increasing our provocation of China into military conflict (thereby also risking a nuclear apocalypse as well). But the trumpenproletariat do not think closely about his policies any more than Germans in 1933 could see past Hitler’s own simplistic “solutions” to German problems.
Americans who value their nation must also value its principles, not merely its strength. What makes the US “great” is not its military, but the inclusiveness of its society and ideals, the openness of its discourse, and the prosperity of its economy. To keep our nation “great,” we need to keep it inclusive and diverse – pushing that envelope ever further as we go. We need to welcome immigrants and refugees to help build our nation with us. We need to keep our discourse lively and open – engaging each other, rather than staying in the shadows and allowing evil to grow unmolested. And we need to transform our economy to a 21st century model – green, sustainable, information dominated, and supported by a massively expanded and dramatically improved educational system.
Most of all, to keep Trump from becoming our own nation’s Hitler, to push him back into the ash-heap of history, we need to fight – all of us – against evil where we see it. We need to combat stupidity and simplicity of thought (the preferred growing environment of hatred and fear). We need to bring more people to the battlefield of political discourse, and use our weapons of logic and facts.
Talk to your people – your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Explain your views. Learn theirs. Engage and combat the evil in front of you – before it knocks on your door and throws you into a paddy wagon. We can stop this now, in its tracks. Or we can watch TV, shut our eyes, and bring our nation to its knees and its end. Which way do you want this to go? Will you be the evil, or be its end?
Headline image via Google Image Search.