Between two isms

I grew up between two isms. My parents’ generation defeated fascism. I was born five years after the death of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), so the painful memories of World War II were fresh in my childhood. I devoured WW2 movies, TV shows and books. One question haunted me: How was Germany duped?

Before WW2’s dust settled, the US became embroiled in a struggle with communism. I was born during the Korean War (1950-1953) and grew up hearing stories about the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949) and the establishment of a communist government in China (1949). As a frightened 11-year-old, I watched President Kennedy’s speech during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The American war in Vietnam was a defining event for my generation. I was an Air Force ROTC cadet but the war wound down before I graduated.

With Japan and an eventually-unified Germany embracing democracy, my attention (and US foreign policy) was diverted from fascism to communism, confident that the US would continue to reject right-wing authoritarians like Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) and George Wallace (1919-1998). As I’ve written in earlier posts, my seminary professor of ethics, Theodore Weber, said many years ago that fascism is the greater threat to industrialized societies, as documented by Anne Applebaum and others.

In the last four years, many troublesome events have reminded me of Professor Weber’s observation. The two most devastating were the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville (August 2017) and the insurrection following the “Save America” rally in Washington (January 2021). The two isms still threaten us and require vigilance, particularly on our right flank.

I didn’t expect to find the answer to my childhood question about Germany in the America of my old age as millions are duped by a Big Lie.

From “What Is QAnon? What We Know About the Conspiracy-Theory Group,” by Brett Forrest, Wall Street Journal, February 4 2021

2 thoughts on “Between two isms”

    1. Yes, indeed. I remember after the 9/11/01 attack, in a discussion following a presentation by a Muslim scholar, the group was grappling with those philosophical questions and issues of justice. The scholar said in Islam, the word “mischief” broadly applies to people who do unjustified acts such as the 9/11 attack. It was a wide-ranging conversation and very helpful to me. The presenter said anyone who does what the terrorists did was “no longer a Muslim.”

      It’s a challenge to wrestle with those issues of human nature, especially with people who are from different traditions. But, I believe the risks and dangers are greater if we don’t try to understand or deal with human nature. I agree with Teilhard that humanity is in its infancy, with much to learn. That concept makes me more hopeful and inspires me to engage the process. 🙂


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