Disenchantment USA

The title of the movie escapes me. Or maybe several comprise memory. The remembered scenes issue from Nazi propaganda reels.

In any case, the rudely sinuous voice of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, narrates the black & white images. They were issued early during the Nazi reign. During the ascent.

The most vivid scene recalled? Mobs of agitated people scurrying this way and that across an unusually broad street. Or with the action occurring in Europe, likely a square.

In reality the crowd wasn’t whipsawing across a concrete plain. Only through movie magic were they to-ing and fro-ing. Likely to escape some police reaction confronting them. Let’s say a manifestation that had started and proceeded peacefully until the anarchists crossed the fascists. Yet to a captive audience in a darkened theater, already weakened by incessant lying from authority, made suspicious of foreign influences through deceptive native leaders, they were readily susceptible.

The Great War, a self-inflicted disastrous course of error manufactured their fright. Collective dispiritedness made them eagerly receptive to shunt blame.

Goebbels tells viewers people like them are confused. That they’ve been cruelly criminally misled. (Talk about projecting!) He insinuates unfocused, weak, liberal movements antithetical to their true character are the cause of the citizen’s distress. Oh. Right. This is Goebbels speaking. The lumpen would never have been “citizens.” They only would’ve been “people.” Das Volk! And barely that as the world would discover.

Pretty sure the imagery had been repurposed from a particularly contentious time in France, when the Popular Front dealt with French reactionaries and industrialists dedicated to sabotaging the expansion of any citizens’ rights. Then, as currently in the United States, reactionaries stood at the forefront of curtailing justice, fairness, and liberties. At least during the 1930s black & brown shirts weren’t as brazen as today’s similarly disposed Americans. Our fervid reactionaries will claim with straight reddened faces that ideological impositions – theirs upon us – will produce greater freedom.

Ours is a young country still. Americans aren’t deep thinkers. And as too many originalists will chime in, contemplation isn’t in the Constitution.

Americans don’t have a Goebbels goading us to the societal precipice as 1930s Germany had. We have worse. Fox News. Right-wing radio barking heads. Skewed presentations of our society and ceaseless screaming about the decline of the majority against the ascension of the formerly marginalized cram bandwidth and ether. Their audiences? Eyeballs and ears of people who didn’t need much convincing of somehow being besieged, although this never the case.

More like they didn’t keep up with the modern. Or were too lazy to make the effort or scared by the new. Either way they became inadequate. Their own lack of initiative rendered them infirm.

Say this for Fox Kennel and the nation’s battalion of right-wing radio rabblerousers, they’ve done an excellent job of further enflaming the mindless, baseless fears of less dynamic America.

After planting the seeds of invented grievance in empty minds, the aforementioned sowers nurture self-pitying dissent. This crop yields poisonous resentment hour after hour, day by day. It’s the worst kind of factory farming.

Unsurprisingly, most Americans aren’t naïve, gullible, vacant vessels being filled with contrary notions about the nation as well as their neighbors. However, the reasonableness of most of us makes the furor of the “stigmatized” outsized.

Goebbels would love Fox Kennel, as well as the haranguers who pollute AM radio. For any who suggest tweaking the First Amendment, forget it. That mechanism works fine. It’s less than discerning Americans who imperil the nation’s freedoms. Our real freedoms not those the right seeks to limn for its own selfishness. Those audiences of crap consumers are inattentive. They’re gullible, ripe for manipulation.

Such willing clay.

At least interwar Germans had a rationale. Present-day Americans merely feeling put-upon don’t.

On social media, I follow a site whose basis is German Expressionist Films. A short-lived and specific genre which flourished between the end of the Kaiser’s reign and the rise of National Socialism. If Germany had won the Great War, these movies, their stories, the impressions left behind, never would’ve been birthed. Had those Germans suffered the same sort of catastrophe as did a later generation in the Second World War, again, these stories never would’ve emerged through light and shadow.

The Armistice, and the jittery decade of peace until the Depression emitted a strange twilight that brought the subconscious to the surface of waking awareness. That was Weimar Germany. So accustomed to order, to discipline, the lack of rigor afterwards set Germans adrift. Having been directed throughout their lifetimes, they became directionless. Disorderly.

Searching for mooring, exploring facets of life the old order would’ve decried as “deviance,” those displaced and disordered Germans stumbled across once hidden landscapes and interiors the war’s aftermath brought into clarity. These had always been part and parcel of their existence. Only defeat, the old order rent asunder, and the schisms created loosened the leaden blinkers of “thus as it ever was.”

Doubtlessly an indecent many Anglo males in less dynamic America feel the same absence of sure-footedness after lifetimes of believing they knew exactly where they stood.

There’s an uncomfortable amount of Weimar Germany speeding Americans to an abyss on this July Fourth.

The Germans eventually voted out their first stab at democracy after the collapse of empire. Can’t discount that. The certainty of being astride the world stage brought a serenity. A surety. The kind that fueled bombast. The same sort of security today’s disaffected Americans felt when “the others” in our nation were marginalized. Then, even the most downtrodden Anglo man knew he stood atop “the other tribes” – blacks, Latinos, gays, women.

And believing his position assured in this respect, that same Anglo did nothing to improve his circumstances. His complacency let “the others” rise and pass him. Unfortunately for that fellow as well as the apparent tens of millions of Anglo men finding themselves strangely adrift in his similar straits, those thought inferiors actually took to heart the promise of America. Until recent political devolutions on the right and abysmal, no, regressive, Supreme Court decisions, the old American notions of hard work, determination, diligence, the ingredients which propel ambition and may reward with success, worked for those who’d discovered then exploited them.

Sometimes rather than seeing them as disaffected, I look at susceptible American Anglo men as dislocated. Each of them knows he should occupy a particular place other than some low spot on the totem. How he got there, why he’s peering up rather than looking down is his mystery.

The right has suitable soothing answers. Even if untrue, especially if untrue, these simply please through the anger provoked. Without any friction they shunt away Anglo males’ culpability in their own decline.

In the Nazi propaganda, harangues always insisted something was stolen. Intangibles more than the material were emphasized. Pride. Honor. Esteem. Attributes we build within ourselves. Despite their honest results producing efforts, then as now, “the other tribes” achievements were dismissed, disregarded, or downgraded.

Then as now, such fit less-dynamic men’s insecurities.