In spite of what a lot of people think, the 1960s were indeed dark times, with all the assassinations and political turmoil, mostly over that stupid war, and yet I don't think they were anywhere near as dark as the 1930s, especially in Europe.
On the day JFK was shot, I was taking a one-year "sabbatical" from college, so old enough to realize this was a big thing, comparable in scope to Lincoln's assassination. But by the time MLK's death came around -- and then especially RFK (who I had already decided I would vote for over Gene McCarthy) -- I had gotten blase about it all. Killing famous people started looking like the new normal, but still, I felt no sensation that the country was headed into the dark ages, simply because you never heard anybody, except maybe a few flakes, say these assassinations were a good thing. Ironically, despite a few stray violent radicals, most Americans were basically singing from the same page of the hymnal throughout the 1960s.
But the 1930s and 1940s were another story. We could look back on those decades and wonder what the hell was going through the minds of the Nazis and the Fascists, plus all the citizens of Germany and Italy who allowed them to do what they did. It would never have occurred to us in the 1960s to set up concentration camps and death camps, and most of us were shocked that we had once created internment camps for the Japanese in our own country. How could all the good people of those countries allow this stuff to happen?
And yet, maybe many of us in the '60s started realizing that future generations might ask the same of us in our own times: How could those people back in the '50s and '60s have allowed so much racial discrimination in the land of the free? In fact, it may have been that realization that pushed so many whites back then to join up with blacks in the Civil Rights movement.
We may be getting close to asking that question again: How can so many Americans be backing Donald Trump, a despicable and ignorant tough guy who is constantly, and almost proudly, lying through his teeth, with impunity? It almost seems like 1930s Europe, all over again:
Sunday afternoon, Trump did his weird version of a manual retweet of an image depicting a man (in this context, assumed to be black), with a bandana over his face pointing a gun sideways towards a list of wholly fabricated statistics. ...
The image alleges that 97 percent of African-Americans were killed by African Americans, while only 1 percent of murdered African-Americans were killed by police. ... It also claims 81 percent of whites who are killed are killed by blacks, which is pure race-baiting at its most ignorant. The numbers in this erroneous image are attributed to the “Crime Statistics Bureau - San Francisco,” and reflect 2015 data.
For one thing, a “Crime Statistics Bureau” does not exist. The FBI is responsible for this data and they have yet to release a report on 2015, because, well 2015 is not over yet.
Secondly, whoever made that image did so with the intent of lying about the percentage of white Americans killed by black Americans. In 2014, that number was 14 percent, not 81 percent. Additionally, in the graphic, only 16 percent of whites are killed by other whites. In the same FBI report, it clearly states that 82.3 percent of whites are in fact killed by other whites ...And then there was this happening in Birmingham, something right out of early 1930s Germany that reportedly happens a lot at Trump rallies:
Mercutio Southall Jr. — a well-known local activist who has been repeatedly arrested while fighting what he says is unfair treatment of blacks — interrupted Trump’s rally and could be heard shouting, “Black lives matter!” A fight broke out, prompting Trump to briefly halt his remarks and demand the removal of Southall.
“Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?” Trump said on Saturday morning. “Get him out of here. Throw him out!”
At one point, Southall fell to the ground and was surrounded by several white men who appeared to be kicking and punching him, according to video captured by CNN. ... As security officers got Southall on his feet and led him out of the building, he was repeatedly pushed and shoved by people in the crowd. The crowd alternated between booing and cheering. ...
“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said on the Fox News Channel on Sunday morning. “I have a lot of fans, and they were not happy about it. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a trouble-maker who was looking to make trouble.”Don't you, as I do, long for those simpler times when a candidate could single-handedly implode his own campaign by promising in a debate to close three government departments, but then be able to name only two of them?
And yet, just as I had become hardened to assassinations in the '60s, Americans today have become so totally accustomed to the nastiness of Trump and his campaign, and even that he still hasn't as yet been drummed out of the race, most of them probably didn't even notice these two incidents.
Back in earlier times, being caught sending out a tweet filled with false statistics to make some racist point, or defending the beating of a protestor at one of your rallies, would, for sure, get you immediately bounced out of the race. No, it's not your party or even the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) that would have done it, it would have been the voters themselves who would have known that you crossed a line.
But these days, it seems there are no lines. What changed?
Probably the voters. Back in the old days, voters might tolerate a little funny business here and there from their candidate, as long as the infraction wasn't very serious and there was "plausible deniability" to hide behind. Nowadays, telling an obvious untruth just doesn't have the currency it once did, especially among conservatives, probably because the people backing Trump -- and, to some extent, all of the other Republican candidates -- don't really care about what's true or not as much as they care about their candidate. After all, it's all those folks they don't like who seem to be constantly obsessed with the so-called "truth"!
So we're not only losing common grounds for discussion these days, we're losing that sense of decency that everyone once, back when the professionals were in charge, took for granted. Our only hope for 2020, when elections once more roll around, everyone will demand that their choice for president not be an outsider, but someone who can prove that they know how to do this politics stuff, and is someone with some record of having worked inside the system.
If, that is, this country is able to survive the elections of 2016.