April 6, 2010: This one’s for you, Sarah “Reload” Palin

This month’s history theme came up because my dear friend Lissa gave me a copy of Richard J. Evans’ The Coming of the Third Reich (if you know Lissa, you know that such a book is a pretty typical offering. If you know me, you know how grateful I am to have a friend like Lissa.)

“Gripping,” “Comprehensive,”  Magisterial,” “Definitive,” claims the paperback’s covers. All true.

That I was reading this gripping, . . .  book the weekend Barney Frank and John Lewis were verbally abused made this page-turner even more compelling.

Today’s lesson: One reason the Nazis  rose to power? A pervasive, ominous, well-publicized threat of violence. Yes, certainly the Brownshirts and the Stormtroopers outright attacked  newspaper offices, union headquarters, assaulted Jews, university professors, Communists.

But for the exhausted Germans, debilitated by war and hyper-inflation and shame (I am becoming more and more fascinated by shame; more anon), that this violent, might-is-right movement (in its earliest days, Nazis called themselves a movement, not a political party) had been unleashed [great word, huh] was enough. Even if the Brownshirts hadn’t burned any books in your town, you were likely to think and act and vote as if they had.

So listen up, Sarah Palin. As a Quaker, I “utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons.” (That’s from our Peace Testimony which we announced “to the whole world” in 1661.) And now that I’m hip to how incredibly effective just threatening violence can be, well, I’m asking you to cut it out. Okay?

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