Fateful Days

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Dr. Malcolm Cross

It’s only natural, given our justifiable zeal to honor America’s veterans, that we focus on November 11 this time of year.  Probably few bothered to think too much about November 9.  But in Germany it’s called Schicksalstag, the “Fateful Day,” for it’s the anniversary of several momentous events in German history, including at least two that have profound meaning for all concerned with questions of who controls, and who is controlled by, fate.

November 9 first gained notoriety, in German history, at least, in 1848 with the execution of one Robert Blum, a German political activist who supported equal rights for women and opposed both German anti-Semitism and German imperialism.  His efforts won him a firing squad.  November 9 is also the anniversary of the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1919, and Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.  

But the most important events to occur on November 9 were Kristallnacht in 1938, and the beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  The former confirmed Germany’s descent into Nazi totalitarianism while the latter heralded its liberation from communist totalitarianism.

Kristallnacht—Crystal Night, or the Night of Broken Glass–was the night that state-sanctioned Nazi mobs rampaged throughout Germany, destroying Jewish-owned businesses. It was by no means the first act of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, but for pure malice and savagery it was unequaled up to that point.  It’s now seen as the harbinger of the Holocaust.

On November 9, 1989, an East German communist official prematurely announced the government’s decision to ease travel bans on East German “citizens.”  This prompted large but peaceful crowds to congregate near the Berlin Wall—as ugly a symbol of communism as any, other than a Gulag, that could be devised—expecting to be allowed to enter West Belin without impediment (usually East Germans attempting to flee to the West were shot by border guards).  As East German guards, with uncharacteristic restraint, looked on without firing into the crowd, the people began to knock out holes in the Wall, thus beginning one of the most welcomed demolition projects in history.

So what, if anything, does this all mean?  

Believers in the “Great Man” theory of history believe that great events, for good or ill, are the product of powerful individuals:  No Washington, no successful American Revolution; No Lincoln, No Union triumph in the Civil War; No Hitler, No Holocaust.

But these powerful individuals cannot succeed on their own—they require the cooperation of We the People if they’re to do what good or evil they want to do.  By 1938, most of the German people had either accepted or at least resigned themselves to the rule of the Nazis.  Once the Nazis went on their rampage, there was nobody to stop them.  On the other hand, the beginning of the peaceful demolition of the Berlin Wall, however much it might have been inspired by the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan or the acquiescence of Mikhail Gorbachev, was ultimately the work of the East German people themselves, deciding to reject further totalitarian rule and thus taking matters—especially chunks of the Berlin Wall—into their own hands.

So We the People are ultimately in control of our fate.  We can accept great evil, or work for great good.  We can support candidates for office who’ll make Donald Trump look like Mister Rogers and Elizabeth Warren look like a penny-pinching Scrooge, or we can select leaders who’ll use their powers of knowledge, imagination, and compassion to work within the system to help us form a more perfect union.  We can make not only November 9, but every day, a Fateful Day, as we control, for better or worse, our individual and collective fates. 


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

2 Comments

  1. https://www.alternet.org/2019/11/trump-used-money-raised-for-vets-as-campaign-slush-fund-that-should-end-his-political-career/

    No other president would have survived defrauding veterans’ charities

    Written by David Atkins / Washington Monthly November 10, 2019
    One of the many perversities of the Trump era is the low bar to which presidential accountability has now become set. We are currently watching unfold the saga of presidential bribery and extortion of a foreign power in order to sabotage a domestic opponent, and to pursue an outrageous conspiracy theory designed to exonerate a hostile foreign power to which that president remains shockingly solicitous. Taken together with the Mueller probe (and it’s all of a piece), it’s the greatest presidential scandal in American history.

    But it should still leave us speechless that only a few days ago the President of the United States was held liable by judge of defrauding veterans to the tune of millions of dollars via a fake charity he used for vainglorious personal and campaign expenses. To recap:

    So it has come to pass with a New York judge’s ruling Thursday that the president had misused money given to the Donald J. Trump Foundation and, as part of a settlement, will have to pay $2 million in damages. Not only did he use the money for himself, including the purchase of a 6-foot-tall portrait of None Other, but he also filled the board of directors with family members (the usual suspects: Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric) and at least one officer, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who didn’t know he was even on the board, according to court documents.

    The man who popularized “fake news” apparently also invented a fake charity. They’re tons of fun until you get caught. But there was nothing fake about the money Trump spent that was intended for others.

    In addition to the portrait, for which he paid $10,000 (albeit at an auction for another charity) but which later hung in his Doral golf resort in Miami, Trump’s other charitable interests included about $250,000 to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit business. Best of all, he used $12,000 from the charity to buy a jersey and a helmet autographed by then-Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

    Our eyes glaze over reading this stuff because…well, it’s Donald Trump. But that’s only because our sense of moral outrage has become deadened by his behavior. Try, if you can, to imagine that Barack Obama had raised money for veterans only to spend it on a giant portrait of himself and a bunch of sports memorabilia. It would have singlehandedly destroyed his presidency and would likely have forced his resignation. George W. Bush was certainly no saint, and his administration was guilty of misdeeds of horrendous consequence. But he would never have been so tawdry and venal as to steal money from veterans for such things. If he had, it would likely have ended his presidency. Same for Clinton, Bush Senior, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. None of them would have survived such a revelation.

    But in this funhouse horror of an administration, the news that the President of the United States was forced by a judge to repay $2 million to real charities because of these grifter scams was just another Thursday. It wasn’t even the top headline of the day.

    Donald Trump skates by because we have come to expect this level of debasement from him. Because they refuse to hold him accountable, we have come to expect it of the entire Republican Party.

    But we must not let ourselves become numb to it. The House impeachment proceedings should include this gross business among the other counts of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors. The public should be reminded of it during the next year’s campaign ads. And the shame of it should follow him and his entire family of grifters for the rest of their lives.

    As much as we should avoid lowering the bar for this president, we should have the self-respect as Americans to demand the same level of accountability from all of our public servants. If the realities of partisan politics prevent us from doing so while he is in office, then the shame, opprobrium and criminal and civil consequences must follow him and his co-conspirators after they cease pretending to work on behalf of the American people

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    Veteran’s talk and some veterans haven’t received travel pay to appointments they qualify for months after Ronald Reagan froze travel pay and it went on for 27 years froze. Veterans are used to getting the shaft and they march on but one young veteran said in a treatment sessions week before late last week a lady told him “thank you for serving” but she never thought to ask “do your children have healthcare, does your wife”. Think about it those 5500+ dead in Bush’s illegal war and Colin Powell lying to the United Nations about Munition Canisters being aluminum gathering rods when 2 months before The United States Energy Department told him they what they really were. And hearing upon return they here thanks for serving instead of Sorry you were duped. Suicide rates for veterans are down only a tiny bit

    The Iraqi vets are having to face realities of now and the innocent were of their doing because they bought into Bush’s lies. Thanks for serving … ! …

  2. And that Civil War was not a civil war but an invasion of men choosing leave America and prove that some people deserve to be owned. With the Confederate Vice-President’s speech its not defensible. Historians accounting’s are not the way it always why. And Confederate soldiers deserted near the official end having wished they had heeded Governor Sam Houston’s word and not seceded.

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