American Occupation – Tablet Magazine
I lived for many, many years in rural Vermont. I had purchased a long-abandoned post-and-beam farm on a third-class dirt road. The real estate agent was a German immigrant who had come to Vermont with his wife and small children just after the war. He suggested I call a local builder, Bob, to inspect the house, which was superficially in terrible shape, but the farmhouse and basement were sound. Bob said he would be happy to fix it, and he and his brother-in-law restored it to its 1805 perfection.
Bob’s family had lived through the war in Germany, then the famine, and the resettlement in America, ignoring the language. Bob taught himself carpentry and all the building trades, and became a highly respected member of the small town, where all his contemporary men had fought against the Axis in World War II. His brother-in-law, Eric, had been in the Hitler Youth, and Bob was a glider commando in the Luftwaffe – today’s equivalent of Delta Force, or Navy Seals.
My family became friends with Bob, and his wife, Ilse, became a surrogate grandmother – or better, a great aunt – to my children. His family was my first encounter with the German national character – hardworking, honest and carefree.
Of course, I was rarely unaware that the regime he had fought for was dedicated to the destruction of my people and my race (if the Jews are a race…at least, my fellow man). I asked Eric about the Hitler Youth, and he said he missed a meeting, and his group leader told him if he missed another one, he would be shot. And, Bob, and all the other men of fighting age and able, were drafted, and what were they to do?
Just as Eric was explaining, and perhaps apologizing, his membership in the Hitler Youth, Bob was telling me that his father had risked his life saving a Jew he knew.
Either way: maybe, and maybe not. I have never met a German who lived through this period of war who did not tell me the story of his family in the service of the Jews. Leaving aside the question of the truth of the stories, I was struck by their apparent necessity for the storyteller. Today’s Nazi-era self-protective logic invokes an occupation by the forces of evil, which they were mostly too powerless to combat. Most people who lived it are gone, and their descendants are entitled to imagine a story they can live with, not absolutely false or true, but in which someone tried to act.
For the past two years in America, I have witnessed our own forces of evil with disbelief, despair and rage. Corruption, blasphemy and absurdity were accepted by half the electorate as the price to pay for doing business; just like the fear that this acceptance generates. Does anyone really believe that men turn into women and women into men who can give birth, that the earth is burning, the seas are rising and we will all perish if we don’t cover our faces with cotton strips ?
Nobody does. These proclamations are an act of faith, in a new, as yet unnamed religion, and the vehemence with which one proclaims allegiance to these untruths is an exercise no different from any other ecstatic religious oath. They become the Creed of the Apostles of the Left, their proclamation physically binding the adherent to their restrictions, just like the oath taken upon induction into the armed services. The inductee is told to “step forward” and once he does, he can no longer claim “I misunderstood the instruction”.
Those currently in power insist on masking, but do not wear masks. They claim that the seas rise and build mansions on the shore. They abhor spending on fossil fuels and fly exclusively in private jets. And all the while, half the country will not name the disease. Why?
Because the cost of challenging this oppressive orthodoxy has become too high for them. Upon an eventual awakening, they – or more likely their children – could tell that the country was occupied. And they would be right.
Gandhi said to the British, you have been with us too long, it is time for you to go. He took Oliver Cromwell’s line, and it’s a good one. The left has been in the high places for too long, advocating dogma even as opportunities to complain have diminished (which position is closed to people of color, or to women? Inclusion at all levels of the workforce; preference in the higher, a seat in the cockpit, in the Oval Office, in a movie cast, or in an elite school+?And yet the vehemence of their protests grew, evolving into blacklisting and even the riot of those who claim to represent “the oppressed”.
The ancient doctors spoke of the disease “declaring itself”. History teaches that a pervasive aspect of a coup d’etat is acts of retaliation staged by agents provocateurs of the revolutionaries and blamed on supporters of the legitimate government. It would be a historical anomaly if we didn’t see it by the midterm elections.
Because the disease has declared itself, and we are no longer in a culture war, but in a nascent coup, with its usual distribution of characters. The Bolsheviks could have been defeated by a company of soldiers in suburban Moscow, Hitler arrested in Czechoslovakia, and the present horrors faced at the Minneapolis police station or a school board meeting in San Francisco. But these tragedies, and our current tragedies, were not only allowed but encouraged to run their course.
Still, I believe there is hope for reason and self-direction. Hispanics in Texas oppose policies that plagued their state with violence from gangs they fled to Mexico; Ron DeSantis and conservative Floridians have demonstrated irrefutable common sense, responsibility and probity, opposing “critical race theory” and the sexual indoctrination of adolescents. Black conservatives, similarly, appeal to reason from their historically reasonable community, to confront the horrors the left has made of cities. In San Francisco, a place where many of us left our hearts but where natives historically left our brains behind, people voted to remove mean fools from their school board. And Bari Weiss founded a university in Austin, Texas for the pursuit of free thought.
As Tennessee said, “suddenly there’s God so fast.”
That’s a little more than facetiousness on my part. I found great comfort in the Torah, advising Moses again and again, when he was reluctant to fight the power of the Egyptians, and uncertain that he could do it alone, that he would not be alone, as God would be. with him.
What we see in these brave dissidents is the wisdom of Rumpelstiltskin’s story. The young woman marries a king who locks her in a cell until she is able to spin flax into gold. She despairs of the impossible task, until an elf shows up and says he will show her how. He does it. She asks how can she thank him, and he says all he wants is her firstborn. And she has to give him her child until she finds out his name. She’s terrified and distraught, but she knows she has to try. Eventually, after committing to the task, she guesses his name. What prompted her, frightened as she was, to break the cycle of illness? She would not visit her spell on her child.
Now that the disease has declared itself and its dangers have become clear, it is time for all of us to overcome the occupation by standing up against these tyrannies under which we are not prepared to live.