‘I Never Knew’ Is Not Acceptable

Our democracy, religious and reproductive freedoms, public education, and physical safety are under attack from an increasingly extremist GOP. Vote.
Image via Shutterstock.

After World War II, you heard from some Germans: “I never knew such things were going on. I am a good person. If I knew, I would have done something.”

This article takes away that argument from you. Now you will know. Then I hope you will engage in the November election to ensure Republicans do not win any political office this year.

The big culprit of course is the stoker of the Big Lie. Every time Trump spreads the falsehood that he won the 2020 election, he drives another stake into the heart of our democracy. Republican leaders and candidates who do not condemn his Big Lie are despicably complicit in his attack on our democracy. 

The Republican Party uses voter suppression legislation and gerrymandering to weaken democratic freedom. They ignore the findings of the January 6 Committee, and instead of learning from the failed coup attempt to prevent another one, they use the facts uncovered as a springboard to engineer a possible successful coup in 2024. They now champion candidates for governors and election-controlling secretaries of state who believe the Big Lie so that they can subvert the presidential election in 2024 exactly as was tried in 2020. 

The Republican Party stands with fascist white supremacists. At the recent CPAC convention, the guest of honor was Hungarian fascist strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban who spouted his anti-immigrant white supremacist ideology to thunderous applause. Who else champions this moral rot? Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania Doug Mastriano. He too spreads the Big Lie, spouts Christian nationalist ideas, and has ties to Gab, a far-right social media platform with antisemitic commentary, and its founder Andrew Torba. 

Remember Charlottesville? The neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” terrorists who marched shouting ”Jews will not replace us” were praised by Trump as being part of “the good people on both sides.” During the campaign, Trump called out to the white supremacist Proud Boys “Stand back and stand by” as he hoped to use them as a force for obstructing the peaceful transition of presidential power on the attack on the Capitol on January 6. Sure enough, they were there. As the January 6 Committee uncovered, Trump knew that some of the Capitol attack mob were armed, but he still directed them to the Capitol because he believed they would not harm him. What other “good people” were on Trump’s side that day?  Well, eleven right wing extremist Oath Keepers were charged with sedition in their role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6. 

The FBI warns of the growing threat of domestic terrorism caused by these right wing hate groups. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress in 2021 that the number of domestic terrorism investigations increased from around 1,000 when he became director in 2017 to about 2,000 in 2020. The number of arrests of white supremacists and other racially motivated extremists has almost tripled.

Eleven Jews were gunned down in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue by a person radicalized by the white nationalist ideology of the radical right. The murderer was deeply involved in posting antisemitic conspiracy theories on social media websites such as GAB. Ten Black shoppers gunned down in a grocery store in Buffalo, 23 Hispanics gunned down in a Walmart in El Paso, and hate crimes against Asian-Americans on the rise across America: all fueled by racist white supremacy ideology.

Republicans plot a national campaign of a phony culture war about sex and race with CRT nonsense and homophobic hysteria about gender. Now local school boards are under attack with vitriol and outrage leading to the banning of books.

Meanwhile, a conservative packed Supreme Court takes away reproductive freedom from women ushering an era of state-forced births even on victims of rape and incest. The all powerful State trumps women’s freedom while Republicans, the alleged party of small government and individual freedom, applaud.

Hmmm. A demagogue expert at manipulating the media with his lies and divisive hate speech fails his first coup and continues to seek power, laying the groundwork with his complicit Party leaders for another power grab. Right wing hate groups multiply. Jews are gunned down while they worship. Books are banned. Propaganda machines issue their own version of alternative facts. Remind you of anything? 

So let’s talk about Germany under Hitler.

Germany was a democracy before Hitler came to power. In a country suffering from the economic trauma of World War I that led to soaring inflation and unemployment, Hitler used his communication skills and control of the media to demonize scapegoats such as Jews and communists and extol the racial purity of the Aryan race. Note that the first of many Nazi book burning events focused on books about homosexuality and transgender topics. He promised a defeated Germany that he alone could restore the glory of Germany (in effect promising to make it great again). The cost of empowering this demagogue was the transformation of a democracy into a fascist state, countless deaths and destruction in yet another world war, and the horrific inhumanity of the Holocaust. 

.One of the themes in the film Judgment at Nuremberg was the allocation of responsibility for the devastating consequences of Hitler’s Third Reich. An American judge is sent to Nuremberg after the war to try ordinary citizens possibly guilty of complicity in the evils perpetrated by the Nazi regime. The film shows him beset by various pressures and perspectives. Some are political (The United States now needs Germany to be on its side against the USSR in the Cold War so it is pragmatic to let bygones be bygones and not risk angering the German people anymore). Some  are issues of fact (Did the defendants on trial actually know what the consequences of their actions would be?)  Some are personal (A wife of a Nazi general who was executed for war crimes tries with a little flirting to convince the judge that German high culture is so civilized, that good things are being done now for and by the German people, that former atrocities were not known by the general public, and that we must focus on building a better future for all instead of rehashing the past.)

But when the judge sees in the courtroom the films of the horrors of the concentration camps, he then comes to the realization of the idea of the silent complicity of the ordinary German and the more general philosophical idea that we are all in some sense responsible for each other. In a very apt scene, the wife of the Nazi general brings the judge to a happy restaurant where the German folksong Du, du liegst mir im Herzen is being sung wildly over and over again by ordinary Germans in a drunken frenzy. In the song the lover pleads with his beloved that she is causing him great pain by not understanding how good he is to her. He sings “Du, du machst mir viel Schmerzen,weißt nicht wie gut ich dir bin.” (You, you cause me much pain, you don’t know how good I am for you.) 

The irony is biting. Germans boldly and loudly profess their virtue while objecting to the pain someone will cause them due to their blindness to their alleged goodness.

But the judge then does recognize exactly how good the German people were during the Third Reich and now feels justified in causing them much pain by sentencing all the defendants to life sentences in prison. 

Today in the United States ugly fascist strains are running rampant through the Republican autocrat-loving book-banning Party, you know exactly what is going on. So how good will you be for America?

Yes, our democracy is under attack, our religious and reproductive freedoms are under attack, and our physical safety is under attack. You can choose either to be blissfully ignorant with silent complicity or rise to the occasion and do your part to stem these attacks in November.

Show the world how good you truly are and participate in the political process this fall to ensure Democrats get elected. End this fascist epidemic and do your part this November to put us back on the journey to making real the American ideals of democracy, freedom, and equality for all.

Steve Cickay

Steve Cickay

Steve studied philosophy at the University of Chicago where he developed critical inquiry and writing skills that enriched all his endeavors in life. He moved with his family to Bucks County in 1985 attracted by the excellence of its public schools for his children. He spent his life in public service in the Departments of Army, Navy, Labor and Treasury in the information technology field. During retirement, he became more active in local politics as an independent activist, a Democratic Committeeperson, and a Democratic candidate for State Senate in 2014. Although he enjoys walking his rescued pitbull Hazel in the beautiful parks of Bucks County, biking and trying to run in his advancing years, his new role as a grandfather fills him with exquisite joy.

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