Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Muslims Now and Germans Then

Right now the ruling class is in a twit over their ruling-class stooge Donald Trump stirring up a hornet's nest about Muslim immigration to the United States. Here is what he said in a press release:
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.
It's really pretty cute, because Trump's main thrust is that the ruling class doesn't have a clue. Golly. Where did he get that idea?

But let's think ahead a bit. What will the United States do when the current World War III heats up into a real shooting war, and the United States is obliged to replicate its last war against the forces of the Great Reaction that opposes freedom, markets, and individual responsibility.

It just happens that I am reading Willa Cather's One of Ours. It is a heartbreaking tale of a misfit Nebraska farm boy who goes off to World War I. The reader wonders how Cather can inhabit the mind of a frustrated young man so well.

But one of the themes of the book is the Germans. Not the Germans in Germany but the German farmers in Nebraska. Did you know that Germans are the biggest ethnic group in America, at about 50 million? Followed by the Irish at 36 million, Mexicans at 32 million and English at 27 million?

So what happened with the Germans in the runup to World War I and the actual war itself? Cather sets the stage with Mrs. Erlich, cultured mother of a family of boys going to college. And protagonist Claude Wheeler's best friend is a German and a freethinker: Ernest Havel. "Let me tell you about the German army," says Havel at the battle of the Marne.

During the war, a couple of German farmers get prosecuted in the local court for "disloyalty:" August Yoeder and Troilus Oberlies. They had made a few intemperate remarks around town, and Oberlies had "played Die Wacht am Rhein on a slide-trombone, to the great annoyance of his neighbors." The judge fined them $300 each and told them that they had "not recognized the element of appropriateness, which must be regarded in nearly all the transactions of life." A second penalty, the judge warned, would be "much more severe."

The treatment shows, I think, the immense power of the nation state, and it gets you to understand the relaxed attitude in the ruling class about Muslim Americans. Probably it's best, at the current stage of the war, to allow all the crazies complete freedom. We want to know who they are and the best way to do that is to get out of their way. But when the real shooting starts, and the government mobilizes the nation for all-out war, then the Germans or the Muslims or whoever, most of them, will keep their heads down and do what they are told. And the ones that don't will get a sharp reminder of who is the boss around here.

The fact is that even back in World War I you get through Willa Cather's writing the immense power of the nation state and its authority --  short of actual compulsion -- to will obedience to its regime among the people, even among people that don't really feel loyalty to its laws and its wars.

On this reading, who cares about Muslim no-go areas? It's a benefit to the larger society to concentrates potential problem people in known areas. Did not the Nazis concentrate Jews in ghettos? Who cares about a crazy Muslim major killing unarmed soldiers at his base? Who cares about foolish terrorists like the San Bernardino jihadi couple?

The ruling class can afford to have Muslims acting out; it can afford to have CAIR mouthing PC platitudes; it can afford to have Donald Trump pushing at the Overton Window. When the time is right they will lower the ball in Times Square and rile up public opinion for a big fat war, and everyone will go along, even the Muslims, just like the Germans did in World War I.

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