Charles Pierce Identifies It–What Are We Going To Do About It?

My mother used to recite a rhyme that I don’t recall entirely, but the gist of it was that the only difference between men and boys was the size of their toys.

Americans are being “governed”–if you can dignify what is coming from the White House as governing–by a boy with a nuclear toy. (If there were any remaining doubts, Michael Wolff’s new book should dispel them.)

Who among us would ever have anticipated having an occupant of the Oval Office tweeting “mine is bigger than yours” at another, equally demented, world leader? (Do you suppose we could settle this by putting the two of them in an examining room, and measuring their “parts”?)

I used to attribute Trump’s unbelievable lack of self-awareness to privilege. We all know people whose money or power insulates them from contact with people who will tell them the truth; the longer their isolation from ridicule or dissent, the less grounded they become. But I think Charles Pierce has a more accurate evaluation of the problem.

Pierce’s column analyzed Trump’s recent interview with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt. Schmidt had intercepted Trump on a golf course, where are no aides to constrain the free flow of what Trump apparently regards as sentences, and reaction to that interview has been shock and (terrified) awe.

Pierce dismissed criticisms of Schmidt’s conduct of the interview as irrelevant to what it exposed:

In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. (The president*’s father developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s.) In 1984, Ronald Reagan debated Walter Mondale in Louisville and plainly had no idea where he was. (If someone on the panel had asked him, he’d have been stumped.) Not long afterwards, I was interviewing a prominent Alzheimer’s researcher for a book I was doing, and he said, “I saw the look on his face that I see every day in my clinic.” …

In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart.

Pierce gives several examples from the transcript of the interview–boasts that embarrass rational people, non-sequiturs that most observers (reasonably enough) attribute to ignorance, and Trump’s trademark, repellant grandiosity, which Pierce sees as the desperation of a man who is losing the ability to understand the world around him.

And as he points out, this lack of capacity is oh-so-useful to Congressional Republicans.

In Ronald Reagan’s second term, we ducked a bullet. I’ve always suspected he was propped up by a lot of people who a) didn’t trust vice-president George H.W. Bush, b) found it convenient to have a forgetful president when the subpoenas began to fly, and c) found it helpful to have a “detached” president when they started running their own agendas—like, say, selling missiles to mullahs. You’re seeing much the same thing with the congressional Republicans. They’re operating an ongoing smash-and-grab on all the policy wishes they’ve fondly cultivated since 1981. Having a president* who may not be all there and, as such, is susceptible to flattery because it reassures him that he actually is makes the heist that much easier.

If we had a Vice-President and Cabinet who actually gave a rat’s ass about America rather than their own prospects and assorted zealotries, we could hope for invocation of the 25th Amendment.

If we had Congressional Republicans who were willing to put country above party, we could hope for impeachment.

If the President is seriously mentally ill–and it’s hard to argue with that diagnosis (a number of psychiatrists have already concurred)–that explains his terrifying behaviors.

What’s everyone else’s excuse?


  1. Weeks ago I ordered and received a copy of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”, reading the prologue, probably due to my level of fear at the time, stopped me from reading further. The past few days of being bombarded by the media, Trump himself, members of his administration and of course, Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ unquenchable loyalty (parroting Trump’s words and scrambled thoughts); I began again…after ordering my copy of “Fire and Fury”; to be delivered by FEBRUARY 13th. To quote from the Prologue; Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. and Bandy K. Lee, M.D., M.Div., “Soon after the presidential election of 2016, alarmed by the apparent mental instability of the president-elect, we both separately circulated letters among some of our professional colleagues, expressing our concern. Most of them declined to sign.” “…They asked us if we were not wary of being ‘targeted’, and advised us to seek legal counsel.” If members of the American Psychiatric Association were – and are – afraid to come forward and told to seek legal counsel; our “fear” goes beyond being an excuse to being a valid reason. Trump cannot “fire” members of Congress (we voters can to that this year) but the revolving door of White House staff members indicates “fear” has permeated Trump’s hand-picked administration.

    “If the President is seriously mentally ill–and it’s hard to argue with that diagnosis (a number of psychiatrists have already concurred)–that explains his terrifying behaviors.”

    While reading through the psychiatric terms and definitions of terms, I had a thought regarding a possible “excuse” for family and White House staff covering up for Trump. Remembering he has opted out of annual White House dinners, which appeared in the media to be due to his opposition to their membership and foundation; the annual dinners are always evening affairs. How often have we seen or heard from Trump during evenings or at night – both here and abroad? Could the reason be “sundowning”? Alzheimer’s patients appear to be functional (if not normal) during daylight hours but seem to lose sense of reality late in the day. This is NOT to excuse the refusal of the White House administration and Congress to take action to protect this country – from itself and from counties abroad being alienated by Trump’s mental instability.

    “If we had a Vice-President and Cabinet who actually gave a rat’s ass about America rather than their own prospects and assorted zealotries, we could hope for invocation of the 25th Amendment.”

    To quote again from “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”; published prior to his and Kim Jong Un’s terrifying pissing contest and size comparisons, Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword state, “…Trump is “chumming” for war, possibly for the most selfish of reasons, to deflect attention from the Russia investigation. If another unbalanced world leader takes the bait, Trump will need the formerly “obsolete” and now non-essential NATO (his terms) to back him up.” This is no longer a possibility but is now a reality and one the world is watching.

    “What is our excuse?’ “…What Are We Going To Do About It?” Just as the current administration with full Congressional support leads us to “follow the money” on all issues; these two questions leads us directly to the 2018 Primaries and the November elections when we have an opportunity to begin “cleaning House” …and the Senate.

  2. So what can I do? – my reps are entangled in a pile of crap issues, and everyone knows the man is insane and those around him and supporting him in the Senate and House are under the thumb of RUSSIA! and yet it continues – Seems to me we have seen this movie in history many times before different scenario different times – but still the same insanity. I have a .308 rifle one of MILLIONS in this country is THAT the answer we are waiting for??? Tell me, because it sure seems like history is about to rip this country apart with a repeat due to short uneducated memories. I do not run. This is MY country, born bred and raised – and I have a home and land, and I have a Constitution (Raped! as it is by plutocrats and enemies and morons!) but it is still a foundation I stand on. If there are so many of US out here – who can see the problem – then why is it STILL a problem? If NAZI’s can march with guns – we can march ‘en masse’ and demand our government be changed – and the reps and such all the way up to the white house be charged with treason agains the United States and her People! Or are we so ‘American’ we wait for SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT FOR US? We got some waking up to do – or we are going to awake – DEAD. And pardon my rant but I am frankly quite beyond the point of a medium ‘seething boil’…(P.s. my rifle is to protect my home! I do have the right to protect myself.)

  3. JoAnn,
    Your observation about sundowning is spot on. It does explain a lot. Understanding what we are all seeing and hearing from the White House is important. However, more important in my mind is what is going on in Congress as Republican representatives and senators rip and tear at the country in an effort to harvest as much as possible before the “winter of our discontent” settles in. For surely that winter is coming.

  4. The man who propped up Ronald Reagan was none other than Roger Ailes who launched Fox News into the limelight.

    Reagan allowed the educational fraud, Arthur Laffer, to implement trickle-down economics. It was the birth of Neoliberalism.

    I know this might sound insane, but Trump is doing a great service to the USA. Hillary Clinton was a fraud and while she spoke about being a “realistic progressive”, she would have had us in a war with Russia by now.

    She was an owned politician. Trump is also owned but thinks he calls the shots. That’s where his mental illness kicks in. Let me ask this, “Do you honestly think Mike Pence didn’t know what was going on with Trump?”

    Mikey is an opportunist. He thought the VP position with Trump would net him the POTUS. From what I’m hearing in the last two days, Mikey is in trouble.

    Meanwhile, this interview is priceless:

  5. Those lack the range of Clintons’ Readers Digests and sound more political than anything Blue Cross-Blue Shield psychiatrists at IUMC would diagnose and treat for dementia onset. Senility comes to the prairie, too, as does puberty. Indiana Conference on Social Concerns had quite a day in State for parental gravity analysis. Some columnists can get a little speedy, too, or pumped up with racetrack remedies.

    What Area Agents are around for Mike Cawley Pence to save Hoosiers jobs when called away to do budgets there at the State House News Bureau site? When lines are down from the 317 toll road-calls, everyone has to use Ohio markets, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky routes to advertise any products or spread thin to cover all the BASES for real patients in wards.

  6. While I appreciate Mr. Pierce’s comments, I personally withhold any judgement of 45’s sanity until someone with either an M.D. or a Ph.D. in Psychology tells me he or she has examined him and found him to be suffering from whatever he is suffering from.

    However, I don’t need a medical professional to tell me that he is a bloviating pig and I don’t need anyone to confirm that he is unfit for the office he holds. I’ll just stick with those facts for now. Aren’t they enough?

  7. About my reference to “sundowning”; a news article on AOL reported Trump’s late last night Tweet rant saying, “Steve Bannon cried and begged for his job when when he was fired.”

    It is the Congress – and we mustn’t leave Pence out of the equation – who are our strongest and most dangerous enemies at this time. The all have Section II of the Constitution and Amendment XXV (weak as it is) as backup to remove Trump from office but choose not to.

  8. Those afflicted with Alzheimer’s are innocent victims. To suggest that Trump’s flaws are the chaste wobble of an afflicted mind is much too generous. My take is that he has always borne a vicious mean streak made deadly by spoiled selfishness, an affinity and affection for evil and ruthlessness that he for a time in his life was clever enough to somewhat cover up. His diminished mind, by whatever cause, is not driving his current behavior; it is merely failing to camouflage it. A fully capacitated Trump in the Presidency would make all the same moves, maybe more, maybe worse, but he would sweeten them with the sauces of polite deception, that mean art so finely developed in and gleefully enjoyed by the rich.

  9. Our President defined both ‘stable’ and ‘genius’ this morning and Congress passed a law quickly to ‘investigate’ and ‘incarcerate’ any one who does not understand that definition completely.

    President Trump, in an extraordinary public statement, pushed back against charges of mental instability and declared himself a genius. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he wrote on Twitter.

  10. Larry; you are correct about “he has always borne a vicious mean streak made deadly by spoiled selfishness, an affinity and affection for evil and ruthlessness that he for a time in his life was clever enough to somewhat cover up.” But; most of the 27 psychiatrists who authored “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” have been aware of and watched him for years. It is the changes they have observed in recent years which have led them to their views (they refuse to “diagnose” him) today and why the believe he is so dangerous – this country and other nations.

  11. “Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society—if we want to get sane, we must first gain insight about ourselves. Simply put: Trump isn’t crazy but our society is.”

    “Twilight of American Sanity” by Allen Francis, M.D. [past leader of the American Psychiatric Association]


  12. Dr. Kennedy —
    An examining room is not needed. Trump is sporting it all for the whole world to see (and it’s not much, despite Pence’s stroking)!~!

  13. Syphilitic train wreck is pouring on all the steam now. The world is watching — stunned. America is still arguing about who gets the scrap iron to sell.

  14. Peggy @ 8:22 am >> While I appreciate Mr. Pierce’s comments, I personally withhold any judgement of 45’s sanity until someone with either an M.D. or a Ph.D. in Psychology tells me he or she has examined him and found him to be suffering from whatever he is suffering from.<<<

    I happen to agree with your comment. These mental health experts that are diagnosing The Trumpet remind me of the insurance companies when they diagnose from an office without ever actually examining the patient in person.

    The one point of Trump's behavior that always breaks through is his total and complete focus on himself, he has built a personality cult. When the Trumpet demolished his Republican opposition in the primaries, a strong message was sent out to the Republicans = oppose the Trumpet at your peril. Trump's usefulness to the Republican Party should not be underestimated. The Trumpet is delivering via executive orders and the new tax scam exactly what the "Donor Class" wants.

    I suspect if anything comes of all these investigations, it will center on money laundering.

  15. The other little boys should have taken him out behind the barn and whipped the snot out of him. Hey! Congressional’s not too late.

  16. To be a little more specific than Dr. Francis….America’s BODY POLITIC is crazy. Its DNA has been compromised by the machinations of a few, powerful, DEVIANT ELITES, all of which had past ties to the JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY [Charles Koch’s father was one of the founders].

    Nothing will start to change until we face up to this FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM.

  17. Reagan, Bush II, Trump all three have been unable to execute the Presidency but were, as befits a third world banana republic, pretend monarchs who could be readily sold to citizens made loyal to the crown by completely disingenuous media, the Republican Broadcasting Network. They were puppets, the public were puppets, all strings led and lead to the RNC.

    Now what? The RNC has taken over and began the sale of America to their string pullers, the Kochs and their allies.

    Do we surrender? Hell no! We revolt.

  18. Pieces of all of the above commentary added together show how badly we are in need of an educated electorate. By that I mean an electorate more aware of what they vote for. This pertains to their representatives as well as the ballot initiatives. If they were educated, Mike Pence would still be shucking corn somewhere and Donald Trump would still be figuring how to abuse bankruptcy laws and stiffing his contractors.

    But our electorate is lazy, and that laziness causes them to default to their “gut”. In 2016, the combination of “gut” and the outdated Electoral College gave us what we deserve in Congress and in the White House. That said, maybe it DOES take something this dramatic to wake us all up to how fragile our democracy really is and how sinister the Birchers (Koch brothers), the Mercers, the Scaifes, the Coors, the Mellons, et. al., really are. We the people have literally allowed the inmates to take over the asylum, and aren’t they doing a fine job?

    So, who will tackle Trump and put him in a straight jacket? Marv may be right about things getting worse if Pence or Ryan inherits the office of president. Those terrible people know how to destroy our democracy without having to brag about how smart they think they are.

    My question: How much more incentive do rational people need to educate themselves and be sure to vote, work for rational candidates and get unregistered voters to register and vote too?

  19. What are we to do about it. Put faith that the Mueller investigation will result in bringing down the white house? Have faith that the electoral system isn’t too rigged to have a rectifying result? Keep protesting, blogging, calling representatives to complain & stop enjoying the show knowing that the price of admission is too steep to pay!

  20. Once again, Marv has cut to the chase with his comments. Trump’s candidacy would not have a chance if the fragmentation of this country hadn’t reached the level it had reached by 2015 and continues to this day. The polarized political environment, the lack of opportunity throughout this country due to the shortsightedness and greed of the business community are huge contributing factors in what is happened. Additionally, the lack of retraining options for workers whose industries have gone overseas and who are now put in the position where they’re barely able to eke out a living, not to mention the slow walking coup d’état that is been carried out by the malevolent portion of the billionaire class in conjunction with if a Congress and a senate that no longer have any semblance of allegiance to their constituents or to the Constitution are also would work against us.

    We have clearly lost our way and we’ve had a great deal of help in doing so from people and organizations that see this is their great opportunity to make a killing both financially in ideologically that runs diametrically contrary to what this country is supposed to stand for and what all of us were brought up to appreciate and revere. Add to that the collusion between the current occupant of the White House, his campaign, and possibly his administration itself, with a hostile foreign power that wants to diminish us so that it can further its aims and those of it’s a leader to create an alternative world order where the United States is placed into a role of diminished importance and influence and where the world is essentially turned upside down in the process.

    Everything that this country stands for or has stood for is right now on the chopping block where we have a government that feels that it’s an appropriate measure in regard to balancing the budget to turn off the care and support needed by the elderly, the disabled, and innocent children, just to name a few constituency groups and the humane undercurrent by which governance in this country has had its heart for as long as any of us can remember. That these options are even on the table representing total refutation of what this country is stood for and all the social and cultural advancements that have been made since 1787. People gave their lives to further the development of this country and to negate their sacrifices and everything else they did and continue to do is reprehensible.

    If the American people simply roll over and play dead in the face of such a breach of all the societal norms that hold this country together even through periods of political and social fragmentation we might not be worthy of saving and will suffer the consequences. I truly don’t believe that but it some point all of this utter ridiculousness and un-American behavior on the part of people that should know better and who also swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America needs to be checked and those that are exhibiting conduct that borders on being treason or at the very least malfeasance in office need to be removed from those offices. Hopefully that occurs through the electoral process and not through some extra constitutional means but right now we’re up against it folks.

    If this is just allowed to continue what other breaches with establish norms of conduct will the American people have to face an along with them the rest of the world who still looks to us for leadership, something that none of these fools are capable of offering. If this is not changed none of us are going to like at all the position this country is going to be in in a global environment where we are an also ran an essentially forced to be in that situation because we have ceded are global position to do the malfeasance of our own government and it’s collusion with those that want replace us to further their own pursuits of global domination both politically and economically.

    What it boils down to is that we have a choice; neither sit back and let this happen and just allow things that are evolving now to become the New Normal with all the social and cultural degradation that it will entail or do we stand up and be counted and work as hard as we can to preserve and protect the country and the culture that we exist in? The choice, ultimately, rests with us.

    May God continue to bless America!

  21. Vern is on to something. The millions who did not vote in the last election sealed the fate of those of us who did vote. They did not get what they did not vote for and we did not get what we voted for – a loss on all fronts. All our high-sounding arguments about Locke and Machiavelli have little relevance to such millions who can’t be bothered to protect their own paychecks, their futures and that of their progeny. At bottom it’s all about arithmetic – turnout – a rather crass evaluation of reality in the political universe. It’s all about The Prince sans Machiavelli. Our task is to get them off the couch to protect their own interests, and by necessary implication, ours, not to mention that of the country as an ongoing enterprise seated in democratic values.

  22. Vernon,

    “My question: How much more incentive do rational people need to educate themselves and be sure to vote, work for rational candidates and get unregistered voters to register and vote too?”

    They need to see a picture of what FUTURCIDE looks like if they don’t wake-up and overcome their fears. They aren’t like Jews who were confined to a ghetto, not yet at least. Rhetoric is not enough. DESCRIPTION is a necessity at this point in the game.

    To paraphrase Professor Albert Einstein, “To do the same thing over and over that doesn’t work is tantamount to SUICIDE.”

  23. Donald Trump is not the monster. He is only the ugly face of the monster we’re facing. The body of the monster moves both on the surface and the sub-surface, much like submarines which operate on both the surface and the sub-surface.

    Until SONAR was invented, the Allies were at the mercy of the German submarines at the beginning of W.W. II. Likewise, we need a PICTURE of the monster’s movement, both on the surface and sub-surface, from its INCEPTION or BIRTH. That’s the only way the grave danger can be understood and communicated without the intervention of FAKE NEWS or other means of deception.

    Hollywood needs to come to the rescue.

  24. An excerpt from
    “They Thought They Were Free
    The Germans, 1933-45”
    by Milton Mayer [ He was one of the partners at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions located at Santa Barbara. He went to Germany to find out the answers first hand]


    “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

    “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

    “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

    “You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one’s energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time.”

    “Those,” I said, “are the words of my friend the baker. ‘One had no time to think. There was so much going on.’”

    “Your friend the baker was right,” said my colleague. “The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

    “To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

    “How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

    “Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late.”

    “Yes,” I said.

    “You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

    “Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

    “And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

    “But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

    “But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

    “And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

    “You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

    “Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

    “What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or ‘adjust’ your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know.”

    I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.

    “I can tell you,” my colleague went on, “of a man in Leipzig, a judge. He was not a Nazi, except nominally, but he certainly wasn’t an anti-Nazi. He was just—a judge. In ’42 or ’43, early ’43, I think it was, a Jew was tried before him in a case involving, but only incidentally, relations with an ‘Aryan’ woman. This was ‘race injury,’ something the Party was especially anxious to punish. In the case at bar, however, the judge had the power to convict the man of a ‘nonracial’ offense and send him to an ordinary prison for a very long term, thus saving him from Party ‘processing’ which would have meant concentration camp or, more probably, deportation and death. But the man was innocent of the ‘nonracial’ charge, in the judge’s opinion, and so, as an honorable judge, he acquitted him. Of course, the Party seized the Jew as soon as he left the courtroom.”

    “And the judge?”

    “Yes, the judge. He could not get the case off his conscience—a case, mind you, in which he had acquitted an innocent man. He thought that he should have convicted him and saved him from the Party, but how could he have convicted an innocent man? The thing preyed on him more and more, and he had to talk about it, first to his family, then to his friends, and then to acquaintances. (That’s how I heard about it.) After the ’44 Putsch they arrested him. After that, I don’t know.”

    I said nothing.

    “Once the war began,” my colleague continued, “resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to show it in public, was ‘defeatism.’ You assumed that there were lists of those who would be ‘dealt with’ later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised a ‘victory orgy’ to ‘take care of’ those who thought that their ‘treasonable attitude’ had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.

    “Once the war began, the government could do anything ‘necessary’ to win it; so it was with the ‘final solution of the Jewish problem,’ which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its ‘necessities’ gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany’s losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it.”

    Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 166-73 of They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1955, 1966, 2017 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided.

  25. lets see,,,, trump trys to kill health care, recinds programs to help the poor,wall street prevails over wage growth,many freedoms for the working class recinded,AG is a senile old man,and the new admin hands the rich our wages and taxes. now, if Iran is protesting about the same issues,but trumps supports those protesters. seems hes just fanning flames of war,and niki hailey is another whore for john boltons vile ideals. maybe trump is incapable of making decisions. and congress again,sees party,over the people. remeber this in novemeber,2018. its never too late to boycott,and protest this mess..

  26. as a Libertarian, I always have doubts about folks who vote Democrat because “they had no other choice”, especially as more real info comes to light (not the Trump anti Hillary silliness). HOWEVER, it is certainly possible that Trump is correct about Korea, although I wish he had a better PR team. We effectively GAVE Russia the better half of Korea in 1947, and almost gave them half of Japan, if that ultra Liberal Douglas MacArthur hadn’t stopped it. THAT started the Korean War, which took us unawares. We didn’t win it. That started the “truce” and North Korea. The N. Koreans sent a commando squad to Burma/ Mynmar to assassinate the S. Korean president, nothing done about it. A Korean airliner was blown up mid air, we did nothing. A USN C-121 electronics aircraft was shot down in international waters, all 33 aboard killed. The Korean White/Blue House took a commando attack, as have many S. Korean targets. The recently impeached ROK female president attributes some of her actions to the death of her father and mother in that situation, nothing was done, we had officers at the DMZ hacked to death by PDRK forces, nothing done, a Russian supplied submarine and torpedo’s blew up a S. Korean destroyer/patrol ship in 2010? nothing done, nerve gas attack at Malasia’s international airport, nothing done, 3 generations of the same family acts crazy, and everybody ignores it. NOW, they have Trump, and they can’t predict that Trump will do the same fearfulness act as Obama, both Bushes, Nixon, Truman, etc. Will he blow his top if they attack Guam, etc? First president in years that is not totally predictable. We have sat still while they build chemical weapons, anthrax, rockets, hydrogen bombs, large special forces, cyber attacks, phony dollar bills, as erratic as ever and stronger by the day, and until Trump have never had to worry. Wish we had Richard Nixon but Trump may be the President we need at least for some important things.

  27. J. England,

    “HOWEVER, it is certainly possible that Trump is correct about Korea, although I wish he had a better PR team.”

    “Wish we had Richard Nixon but Trump may be the President we need at least for some important things.”

    What happens if you’re wrong about Nixon,Trump, and Korea? Ever think about that?

  28. Marv: we ignored all the moves PDRK made from Korean war to now, and with their current and increasing capabilities that was certainly an unwise decision. Nixon, whose reputation is rising, clearly was far superior in foreign affairs (w/Kissinger’s help) than all post war presidents although Bush the Elder seems significantly better than we thought at the time. Former State Senator Obama will be recognized as an example of the “peter principle” along with his foreign policy experts Kerry and Clinton. Bill Clinton will be recognized as an example of blowing an enormous opportunity to make a better world and instead deserves to be awarded the “Harvey Weinstein Piece Prize” although, unlike Obama, he gets no cash or medal but should get a free coupon book to McDonald’s. I think that is where the phrase “first the big mac, then the attack” came from. Perhaps Otto von Bismark was right when he said “God protects fools, drunkards, and the United States of America”. Hopefully that proves true.

  29. J. England,

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your interpretation of our strategic political history since Richard Nixon. My disagreement is with your confidence in a “Fake President” like Donald Trump.

  30. As usual I am saying as usual you all have a point. But this time I say Tom Lund you said it all and you said it right.

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