Originally published 10/20/2003. Links were valid at the time of publication.
It’s interesting how history repeats itself if you know where to look. Sometimes, even if you don’t know where to look, serendipity looks you right in the eye and smacks you upside the head.
I was watching HBO’s fantastic series “Band of Brothers” (Netflix is a wonderful thing) which began providing me with a desire to find out more about the era. Months ago, I had bought Frank Capra’s World War II series, “Why We Fight” but hadn’t seen the entire series. I decided to revisit Volume 1, Prelude to War, which provides some fascinating insight as to how American could have been duped into not entering the war until so late.
Looking back through the eyes of the 21st Century, we look at the terrible horrors of Hitler and Japan and can only wonder about the intolerable inhumanity that these criminal institutions inflicted upon their neighbors. The idea that somehow the Allied nations knew about such atrocities in advance of entering the war boggles the mind. The question that we’ve had to face for several decades now is, “How could we have done nothing?”
In Prelude to War, the War Department was extremely heavy-handed in it’s indictment of not only the Axis rise to power but also America’s complicity through acquiescence. Our desire for “peace,” defined mostly by non-involvement, mirrors some of the attitudes we have heard in 2002 and 2003 in such a frightening way that one can only wonder if naivete and ignorance are inevitable character traits of this country’s personality.
At this point, there are numerous ways to take the conversation. We could, for instance, talk about the resistance of the American people to take Iraq to task for so long. There is the inconsistent and hypocritical attacks on President Bush for his justifications for war. There is even the possible discourse about how allied countries hesitated in pursuing international action to further their own political interests.
But there is another danger, and one that does not come from international threats or terrorist dangers, one which threatens to eat America from the inside out. What surprised me most about the lessons learned from Band of Brothers and Why We Fight comes instead from the realization that America is following lockstep (one might even say goose-stepping) in the path of former criminal states in eliminating the very concept of the individual. We have come to a point where we are following in the very footsteps that lead German, Japan, and Italy to become nations of servitude and hatred.
Within these countries in the 1930s, the first step in answering the question of independent thinking was with decisive decree: “Take children from the fate of their fathers and teach them that the State is the only Church.”
As the German children sang in school each day, “Adolf Hitler is our savior, our hero. He is the noblest being in the whole wide world. For Hitler we live. For Hitler we die. Our Hitler is our Lord who rules a brave new world.”
Believe it or not, my point here is not to argue for the insertion of religion and prayer into schools. Rather, my main concern is how government influences society and culture by establishing itself as the highest authority of morality.
Independent thought was not just discouraged, it was eliminated. Within the schools the State was the only entity that mattered. School children were required to report regularly on the activities of their neighbors, friends, even parents of any activity that contradicted the state.
In Germany, Hitler is actually called “our Lord.” In Japan, the Emperor was a diety. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, “religion is the opiate of the masses” was taken to such an extreme that any overt expression of religious allegiance other than to the State was often met with Death (or banishment to Siberian gulags, which pretty much meant the same thing).
Ah, but that was then, this is now. Such religious persecution n’existe pas here in the United States! Unfortunately, that is not the case.
In the interest of demonstrating “fairness and equality,” government schools have determined that selective education is far more “fair and equal” than factual education. The process by which this is done has come to mimic those tactics of 1930s dictatorships.
Take, for example, Ann Coulter’s recounting of a few stories by David Limbaugh in his new book, “Persecution: How LIberals are Waging War Against Christianity.” One fourth grader in private prayer before lunch is sentenced to detention. Another kindergartner is reprimanded for holding hands with two other students and saying grace. A third example examines the atrocious offense of two sisters merely possessing bibles, where the mother of the students was threatened with being reported to Child Protective Services.
There shalt be no God but the State.
In truth, these are the stories that we expect to hear from the Soviet Union, China, even – perhaps – Taliban-run Afghanistan. But the United States?
The problem here is the mind-set that has permeated U.S. culture since the rise of political correctness in the 1980s: it is more preferable to reduce the status quo to the lowest common denominator than to raise previously inequitable treatment to balanced levels. For example, it’s better to demonize Christianity (not that it’s all that hard) and lionize Islam, rather than examine the historical facts of each and let the students come to their own determination. (There is precedence for this, of course. Not surprisingly, Islamic schools also make scapegoats out of Jews and Christians.)
In other words, let the students learn. Then again, who wants that kind of aggravation when you can manipulate their exposure in the first place?
We are marching — goose-stepping, even — inexorably toward the realm where independent thought is not only frowned upon but is punished. To go against the educational system, or more specifically, the government, is to face the wrath of the State. Governmental Indoctrination Centers, commonly known as “public schools,” have become places where the roots of anti-capitalist, pro-socialist, anti-individualist, pro-conformist dogma threatens to cripple the country’s intellectual and economic present and potential future. But by remaining in an ignorant stupor, we may not be the best, brightest, or strongest – in fact we may completely annexed or killed by those who seek our destruction – but at least we’ll feel good about it with no shame.
The importance here is not that there is a “rightful place” for Christianity to be taught in schools, but rather that the role that government has taken is leading to an appalling and fearful situation: where government becomes the only mechanism for ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and one of indoctrination. Some might argue that such a state has already arrived, which perhaps leaves room for another article, but in comparison with the lock-down of independent thought during the 1930s by the Axis states we can still turn back the tide if properly motivated.