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Friday, October 3, 2008

Difficult Times

The National Book Festival had a different flavor this year, primarily because DC was centered on the bailout talks. Visiting the Holocaust Museum impacted me much as last year’s trip to the Vietnam Memorial did. I think I carried away a different feeling because of the state of our economy.

Republican vs. Democrat aside, we’re in difficult times now, and we run the risk of repeating the 1930s. And then it begs the question – what role did the world’s economic weakness play in Hitler’s rise to power? The Holocaust is a horrific, singular event that is still a black mark on our world’s history, but it isn’t unique in its genocidal scope. Rwanda, Bosnia, and most recently Darfur…it still happens, so perhaps the state of the world is irrelevant. Yet our weakness, being a nation hated by so many others, makes it – and us – vulnerable. It should frighten us. All of it should frighten us. We’re down, and the rest of the world has steel-toed boots. We need to unite, pass the bailout, or we’ll realize we’re nowhere near the bottom yet.

We don’t like the role of being the world’s police, and when we can’t take care of business at home, we can’t even pretend to play it. What then? Darfur needs help, but until we clean up the mess in our own house, it’s hard to see beyond our own front yard.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Ah, history questions. Let me weigh in.

Hitler's rise to power was, in part, caused by the depression of the 1930s. It was a combination of factors, really. Germany was already crippled financially due to World War I reparations payments; hyperinflation rose prices by astronomical amounts (example: a 50 billion mark postage stamp in 1923).

Hitler was able to combine economic woes, the 'stab in the back' by the government at the end of WW I, and simmering hatred for the Jews (seen as manipulators of world markets) with a national 'inferioriority complex,' and promised that only HE could lead the country back to its former greatness.

We're lucky to not have the type of ethnic strife that plagues so much of the rest of the world. I've been to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, etc., and have seen first-hand what it's like. I've been on the sidelines when a mass grave in Bosnia is uncovered; words can't do it justice.

Do some people in the world hate us? Yeah. But what stands out to me are those who truly appreciate what our country does: the family living in a dirt-floored house in Guatemala, showing off repairs made by an American engineer; the Bosnian Muslim woman, sobbing as she said, "So sorry, so sorry" to us the day after 9/11; and the Iraqi kids being able to go to school for the first time ever stick in my mind.