Hey, in case you hadn’t heard, some people rambled over to Cleveland this past week for a little party. And next week, a few more folks will ramble to Philadelphia for a different party. Those who drive to these events probably do so in something not unlike our flag-bedecked ’58 beauty above. It’s just that some of them like the red part of the flag best and the others like the blue. As for me, if this election gets any more bizarre, I’ll be putting up the white flag and surrendering. And maybe putting my Rambler (with me in it) on a ferry to Canada.
Oh well, we can hardly avoid politics on a week like this, so we’ll talk about it at least a little today.
I can’t think of a more provocative article with which to begin Ramblings than this one: Eric Weitz’s piece at Tablet called, “Weimar Germany and Donald Trump.”
Comparisons with Hitler are almost always suspect to me, but Weitz is not exactly doing that. Instead, he describes a process by which the traditional conservatives in Germany during the 1930’s, who at first distanced themselves from the “uncouth, low class, and undisciplined” Nazis, ended up making a political bargain with them shaped by a shared political language. That language shifted the blame for Germany’s defeat in WWI and subsequent humiliations to the Jews, Socialists, Democrats, those who practiced sexual libertinism, and the signers of the Treaty of Versailles.
There was nothing inevitable or predetermined about the Nazi assumption of power. It was the result of a conscious political decision by traditional conservatives made in a time of crisis when Germany wallowed in depression and the political system lay paralyzed.
In the early 1930’s only thirty-some percent of the German population favored the Nazis, a significant number yes, but not enough to give them power. The conservative elite, many of whom represented Germany’s Protestant and Catholic churches, made a bargain with the Nazis and convinced President Paul van Hindenburg to name Hitler chancellor of Germany. He only had three Nazis in his cabinet at the time.
Historical analogies are always fraught. No serious political movement today in the West is anything like the Nazi party. But the process by which traditional and radical conservatives came together through a common language carries numerous warning signals as we experience the surge of right-wing populism from Poland across the continent, on to the United Kingdom, and across the ocean to the United States.
Read the article. As Weitz says, parallels are always hard to draw with accuracy, but many of the similarities are striking. A matter of concern in the U.S. today, as it was in Weimar Germany, is that more moderate politicians are willing to enter an alliance with those spouting extremist rhetoric, especially the language of fear, blame, and hostility toward “the other,” particularly foreign elements said to be harming the nation. “The moderates make the radicals salonfähig, acceptable in polite society. That is the real and pressing danger of the current moment.”
The Brits of course have had their share of upheaval this summer, with the Brexit vote and now a new Prime Minister. It’s nice to know that there is still some continuity there to help our friends across the pond calm down and adjust.
Although Theresa May has replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, Larry the Cat will keep his position as Prime Mouser.
Larry arrived back in 2011, touted by the animal rescue center that recommended him as an A-1 killer of mice. Turned out he did a lot of sleeping on the job instead and didn’t seem to take much interest in the many mice that had invaded 10 Downing St. But he eventually did some hunting and it seemed to satisfy the public for awhile. But mostly he pursued his own cat adventures.
Once, threatened with being replaced by another cat, he fought her and was defeated, though he kept his place in the house. He did, however, once stare down a police dog, greeted many visitors to the home, and is even credited with writing a book and keeping up his own Twitter feed. He has his own bio on uk.gov.
The NPR article reporting all of this puts the fact that the feline in chief is staying in perspective.
It’s been absolute political turmoil in the U.K. over the past few weeks, with the nation deciding to leave the EU, the prime minister stepping down, the replacement being selected months earlier than planned, the lead architects of the Brexit turning down the possibility of prominent posts — and then, in the case of Boris Johnson, being appointed foreign secretary anyway — and the opposition Labour party engaged in open revolt against its leader.
Larry — the indolent, the unmovable, the irrepressibly charming — just might be the most dependable political figure in the U.K. today.
One of the speeches that was certainly “outside the box” (for social conservatives at least) at the Republican Convention was the one given by PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel. In fact, in response to the speech, conservative blogger Matt Walsh tweeted, “”Peter Thiel gets cheered for calling the culture wars fake. Am I watching the DNC or the RNC right now?”
Here’s some of what Thiel said:
“When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?
“Of course, every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American. I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.”
Thiel went on to say he thought Donald Trump was the only candidate honest enough to agree with that assessment. Then again, it was the Donald who suggested last year that maybe we should all boycott Starbucks because their holiday cups were plain red and didn’t say “Merry Christmas” or have any other Christmas symbolism on them.
Progressives didn’t like everything Thiel said either. Zack Ford tweeted, for example, “I don’t know for whom the culture wars are fake, but it’s not fake to the LGBT people fighting stigma/discrimination.”
Ironically, Thiel’s “fake culture war” comment came on the same night that the NBA declared that it won’t hold the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina because of the state’s law requiring transgender individuals to use state-owned bathrooms and changing areas consistent with their biological sex.
I’m not sure what was in the water in Cleveland last week, but officials found something unexpected in the water supply in Hugo, Colorado, a tiny railroad town with 740 residents.
This week, they were all told to stop drinking the water after it tested positive for THC, the psychoactive chemical in Colorado’s most famous cash crop, marijuana. The NY Times reports:
No one has reported feeling sick or intoxicated from drinking the water, though people around the high-plains town joked on Friday that perhaps they should be drinking more water. On the town’s Facebook community page, Hugo Happenings, people joked about Hugo’s new “healing waters,” and said that its ice cubes could be the tiny town’s answer to marijuana brownies.
Thousands of bottles of water were handed out and the main complaint from Hugo’s citizens was that they closed the town’s swimming pool in the midst of a heat wave, with temperatures in the mid-90’s. The town also sealed off the one municipal well that seemed to be the source of the tainted water.
Ken Ham recently led his debate opponent Bill Nye “the Science Guy” on a personal guided tour of the new Ark Encounter. As you might expect, they came away from the visit with vastly different reactions.
Let’s hear from Ken Ham first:
As we walked through the Ark, we had a very passionate discussion. It was like the debate all over again but more intense at times. Though it did get tense due to our differences in worldviews, it was an amicable visit.
…As we discussed geology and the Ice Age, our discussion turned toward worldviews. Ultimately, this is the heart of the issue—we have two different worldviews and two different interpretations of the same evidence because of our different starting points.
We’re glad Bill Nye took me up on my friendly offer to show him the Ark. During his visit I was able to personally share the gospel with him very clearly. On the first deck, I asked him, before a crowd of people including many young people, if I could pray with him and was able to pray for him there. Our prayer is that what he saw will have an impact on him and that he will be drawn to the gospel of Jesus Christ that is clearly presented at the Ark.
And now, here’s what Bill Nye had to say, as reported by NBC News:
What he found, he told NBC News, was an eye-catching attraction that was “much more troubling or disturbing than I thought it would be.”
“On the third deck (of the ark), every single science exhibit is absolutely wrong,” he said. “Not just misleading, but wrong.”
…Nye said the exhibit encourages visitors to trust faith over science and thereby undercuts their ability to engage in critical thinking.
“It’s all very troubling. You have hundreds of school kids there who have already been indoctrinated and who have been brainwashed,” he said, recalling how one young girl on the Ark told him to change his way of thinking.
“The parents were feeding her word for word,” Nye added.
…Nye said the religious element of the theme park itself doesn’t worry him — rather, he’s concerned about what it’s passing off as fact.
“I’m not busting anyone’s chops about a religion,” he said. “This is about the absolutely wrong idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old that’s alarming to me.”
He found said choices, uh, …interesting.”
- Donald Trump entered on night one to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” This classic rock song, of course, features flamboyant gay idol Freddie Mercury.
- Monday afternoon, it was David Bowie, played by the RNC house band singing about love, religion, and cocaine — “Station to Station.”
Perfect choices for the party of Family Values™.
Campbell talks about some other songs, but let’s cut to the chase: my favorite was the Rolling Stones’ classic, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Apparently the message was that Donald Trump is what we all really need. But I found it a striking admission: Who really, deep down in their hearts, wants this guy?
Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump, the eat your peas and shut up candidate.
Come back next week, when we’ll discuss cheesesteaks and corruption after the blue folks meet in Philly.