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Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, October 6, 2018

Resist Trump Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kavanaugh redux. We are pretty much where I anticipated we would be last week when the new FBI investigation "not to exceed one week" was launched. This has to be one of the more miserable episodes in our nation's history. No one has been slain in a duel. No one has been caned in the Senate Chamber. That may be the best that can be said for it.

"By and large, what’s new in the revised NAFTA is almost identical to the provisions in the doomed TPP that the Obama administration spent five years negotiating, which faced an uphill fight in Congress before Trump pulled out of the deal." (Keith Johnson, Is Trump Mainly Rebranding NAFTA?, Foreign Policy, October 1, 2018).

Christopher R. Browning is Frank Porter Graham ­Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a historian he specializes in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of the world wars. He is author of The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy September 1939–March 1942 (2004), Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp (2010), and other books on related subjects. In other words, he is a scholar of distinction.

Browning's essay The Suffocation of Democracy (The New York Review of Books, October 25, 2018) is a sobering analysis of the state of American democracy and the peril in which it rests. He documents parallels and similarities between our era and Europe between the world wars while noting explicitly that there are differences between the democratic decline of that earlier period and our current situation. This clear-headed appraisal, factual, scholarly, eschewing overblown polemics, is worth reading in its entirety. Browning's conclusions are thoughtful and well-reasoned. They should give pause to thoughtful citizens.

The domestic agenda of Trump’s illiberal democracy falls considerably short of totalitarian dictatorship as exemplified by Mussolini and Hitler. But that is small comfort for those who hope and believe that the arc of history inevitably bends toward greater emancipation, equality, and freedom.

In closing Browning says forthrightly, "Trump is not Hitler and Trumpism is not Nazism, but regardless of how the Trump presidency concludes, this is a story unlikely to have a happy ending." That sums up my take on it nicely.

Well, now, I cannot close on that dismal note. Having nothing else, I will lay a little Keats on you. This passage comes from "The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream." The exchange is between his Muse, Saturn's priestess Moneta, and the narrator.

...'Art thou not of the dreamer tribe?

The poet and the dreamer are distinct,

Diverse, sheer opposite, antipodes.

The one pours out a balm upon the World.

The other vexes it.' Then shouted I

Spite of myself, and with a Pythia's spleen,

'Apollo! faded! O far flown Apollo!

Where is they misty pestilence to creep

Into the dwellings, through the door crannies

Of all mock lyrists, large self worshippers

And careless Hectorers in proud bad verse.

Though I breathe death with them it will be life

To see them sprawl before me into graves.'

Keats takes exception to the suggestion that he is of the dreamer tribe, not a poet at all but its opposite. He resists.

Mock lyrists, large self worshippers, careless Hectorers in proud bad verse, I can think of a few.

Keep the faith.

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