Saturday, June 21, 2003

Modern America is run by Nazis – We’ve got proof.

In today’s edition of the London Times, Matthew Parris believes he has discovered the truth about America and those who currently run the show at the White House: they’re all Germans, and that means fascists.

Now, Parris doesn’t come right out and say that Bush and his people are Nazis, though the hint is about as subtle as an elephant sitting in the front row of the Paris Opera House. But I’ll get to this in a moment.

Of course Parris has to back up his claims and he does so by stitching together as many disparate strands of American Germanicdom as possible. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster lumbering around since the parts don’t fit too well together.

For example, Parris begins by referring to German Americans as the United States’ lost ethnicity, not least because a large percentage of Americans are descended from Germans. But, as Parris points out, this is one of those facts that are lost on us simply because we no longer realize just how significant German immigration has been in American history. Parris calls this “Bismarck’s last laugh,” which is just one of those hints that America is ruled by some sort of clique of Prussian Junkers.

But what exactly is the solid proof of extensive German influence? Well, Parris tells us that all we need to do is read a list of American congressmen to see how many are German – it reads like the “register in a Bavarian kindergarten.” Let me see, Snow, Collins, Lieberman, Kennedy, Leahy, Dodd, Chafee, Kerry, Santorum, Biden, Craig, Grahams, Edwards, Dole, Breaux, Lincoln, Boxer, Hatch, Daschle, Domenici, McCain. Odd, that doesn’t sound all that Bavarian to me. On the other hand, perhaps we should enquire as to the pedigree of the current British royal family and what name they sported until World War I – Saxe-Coburg und Gotha. No German there, nope none at all.

Well maybe we’ll have better luck with the Bush administration. Parris can’t help but mention all those Jewish German names: Perle, Wolfowitz, Fleischer. So now we’ve gone from Bismarck to German Jews which seems a strange connection since even Parris has to admit that these people fled Germany. Stranger still since, as we must remember, Parris is trying to edge us ever closer to the view that the Bush administration incarnates some sort of scary fascist regime.

The difficulty in mentioning these folks is that they can easily be countered by such names as Powell, Rice, and a whole host of cabinet secretaries who are Hispanic, African-American, Chinese, etc. But of course, what really matters is the people who make America’s current Germano-imperial foreign policy. Here, not surprisingly, what Parris wants to get at, really get at, is the one Jewish German who is behind all the others and that’s Leo Strauss. Parris, unable to resist the temptation to jump on the Strauss-equals-neo-conservative bandwagon, would have us believe that the German view of Realpolitik has been transferred to the shores of the New World and now reigns through the influence of a Jewish philosopher of German origins.

On this point, Parris undoes himself, because he seems to take no account of either Strauss’ life or his ideas. First, it would be worth noting that many of Strauss’ own family perished in Nazi Germany and Strauss himself did not have a great love for the old traditions of Prussian Germany. In addition, one of Strauss’ most admired statesmen was precisely Winston Churchill, not Hindenburg. Finally, Strauss spent his entire career challenging the German conception of philosophy from Kant and Hegel, through Marx, Weber and Nietzsche, right up to Husserl and Heidegger. This isn’t to say he didn’t learn from them, it only is to show that Strauss had very little time for the categorical imperative, for the slaughter bench of History, the fact-value distinction, the Superman or Dasein. And while we’re at it, we should note that today, the influence of Heidegger, who was himself once a member of the Nazi party (an affiliation he never repudiated in his later life) is now far more fashionable in the Paris academy than in the classes of the American Straussians.

There are other odd contradictions in Parris’ assessment. One such is his assertion that it is Mittelamerika that now rules over the old aristocrats of New England. But later in his article, he mentions the names of some prominent modern political figures in the US with German names. He includes here people such as the Roosevelts, who in fact were quite obviously New England aristocrats. Then there’s Eisenhower. You remember him, he was the fellow who fought the Germans. And even George W. Bush is descended from Saxons, which could be said for many English people. It is also perhaps worth noting that the Bush family, despite residing in Texas today, is a solidly old New England aristocracy. Bush’s grandfather was named Prescott!!

But if this isn’t enough, Parris turns to the testimony of a German-American friend who went traveling from Berlin to Prague and found that the houses all resembled those in suburban America. Apparently this fellow has never traveled much since you can find American-style homes in many locations throughout the world, and not just on the Berlin-Prague autoroute. Still, this is only an introduction to Parris’ more profound point, which is the “scary” similarity between how German statesmen used to talk and how American statesmen talk today. So there you have it, the link has been established. From architecture to statesmanship. Apparently, the statesmen we’re referring to here are those of the Third Reich, or at least the Kaiser. America is aggressive, insecure, bombastic Germany of 1914 or 1939, you take your pick.

The faults here are many. As I’ve pointed out, there is a certain overlap of historical influence in Europe itself, even today. The connections between England (i.e. Anglia) and the Germans are deep and reach further than just the bloodline of the royal family. The same can be said about the philosophic influence of Germany on France.

Parris fails to understand how interconnected these nations actually are both in Europe and in the US. Parris would like to reduce Germany, at least the Germany that existed prior to the end of World War II (which is to say pre-critically theorized, sanitized, Habermasized Germany) to all its less desirable violent traits, and there were many. On the other hand, a philosopher as astute as Montesquieu (a Frenchman) saw that a distinctive sense of modern freedom was also born in the German forests, a sense that informed both England and America. Also, Ernest Renan (French again) argued that Germany had a clear and admirable sense of morality though it also had an unfortunate bullying side. In any case, it seems to me that there is a strong element of German independence and forthrightness in the US, but we can’t forget that there is also a strong element of English practicality and prudence mixed with a French – yes French – philosophic appreciation for enlightenment democracy. It’s often said that England likes to see itself as Athens to America’s Rome, but I tend to think that America’s real Athens is France since it was French philosophy (Montesquieu again) who so influenced many of the Founding Fathers. I would suggest that England if more like America’s Boeotian Thebes with its small, fiercely independent, landowning democrats. Epaminondas would not feel out of place in many parts of the US. Germany, on the other hand would count as America’s Sparta: disciplined, morally resolute, battle-ready. This, I think, is a more apt picture than that painted by Parris.

Additionally, Parris can’t quite decide which Germany, leaving aside modern dull Germany, he wants to associate with Bush’s America. One assumes it would be the worst, but as I noted, he mentions Bismarck, who was quite the statesman, but also talks about these unnamed German statesman who were so scary. Bismarck was a daring but prudent man. He successfully unified Germany, but unlike many of his neighbors, he knew better than to get mixed up in such costly ventures as African imperialism. Further, he had an impressive ability to use alliances to his benefit without getting entangling himself in their endless intrigues. By contrast, the leaders of World War I Germany tended to be less restrained. But even here, we must note that all Germans are not the same. Prussian Germans were considerably different from Bavarians and the Catholics of southern Germany. Also, the older generations of Prussian Junkers were much more dedicated to tradition and discipline, while the younger Germans were influenced by a sort of brash, individualist power politics influenced in part by Nietzsche. So Mr. Parris, which Germany is it?

I suppose Parris would like to draw the worst connections possible, and that would be with Hitler’s Germany, but there again, we run into the undeniable problem that Bush’s America, to the extent that the presumed Straussian neo-conservatives are in control, is therefore influenced by a thinker who hated German totalitarianism and attempted to warn liberal democracy about its dangers. And, incidentally, over the last two hundred years, only three European nations have attempted to dominate the continent by force. They were France under Napoleon, Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Russia under communism. As I recall, the three nations leading the recent charge against the US and Britain at the UN were France, Germany and Russia. Funny that.

The only thing Parris’ article really demonstrates is the lengths historically illiterate journalists will go to in order to concoct fantasies about the US, to paint it as an aggressive beast determined to dominate the world through economic and military control. If anything reminds me of old German rhetoric it is that attempt to disparage an entire nation with falsehoods and stir up unfounded fears. In the case of those old Germans I will, however, refrain from mentioning the target of their accusations as I think we all can figure that out for ourselves.

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