He's Alive

Brooklyn Currents | 11/24/2016 | 2 comments


Portrait of a bush-league Führer named Peter Vollmer, a sparse little man who feeds off his self-delusions and finds himself perpetually hungry for want of greatness in his diet. And like some goose-stepping predecessors he searches for something to explain his hunger, and to rationalize why a world passes him by without saluting. That something he looks for and finds is in a sewer. In his own twisted and distorted lexicon he calls it faith, strength, truth. But in just a moment Peter Vollmer will ply his trade on another kind of corner, a strange intersection in a shadowland called the Twilight Zone.

So began an episode of the Twilight Zone that aired in early 1963 -- bringing  very much to mind the election in late 2016.

Titled "He's  Alive," the story, penned by TZ creator Rod Serling, focused on Vollmer (played by the late Dennis Hopper), an insecure, unstable loser who began organizing a neo-Nazi group, trying to rouse up local crowds with tirades against blacks, Jews, immigrants -- anyone different from himself.

He wasn't getting very much attention. But after he started to receive regular suggestions by a mysterious man standing on a dimly lit street corner on how to energize the crowds, what to say and how to say it, he started getting traction. More people would show up at his rallies, and his confidence grew.

When he finally demanded that his mysterious adviser reveal his identity, the man stepped out of the shadows of the street corner --showing himself to be Adolf Hitler.

When Vollmer was shot as he tried to escape from police who wanted him for the murder of his roommate -- an elderly Jew who had spent nine years in the Dachau concentration camp -- the ghost of Hitler left him dying in the street, to move on to the next purveyor of hate.

Serling ended the story with this warning:

Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare – Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami, Florida? Vincennes, Indiana? Syracuse, New York? Any place, every place, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry, he's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive.

It's frighteningly relevant to today.

I'm not making this comparison lightly. In fact, immediately after Donald Trump was elected (actually, selected by the Electoral College vote), I was impressed with his out-of-character gracious acceptance speech. I also was impressed by his (at least seemingly) cordial meeting with President Obama, with Trump at one point saying of Obama, "He's a good man."

But after I just started thinking that maybe all the vitriol and hate that Trump spewed during the year-and-a-half campaign was just theatrical hot air to get votes, Trump made the announcement that Stephen Bannon, a key adherent to the "alternative-right", or "alt-right" movement, would be Trump's "chief strategist and counsel," with an office in the West Wing.

The alt-right movement, it must be understood, is not simply an ultra-conservative faction. It is unquestionably a white supremacist, neo-Nazi organization. If you have any doubts about this, just view the chilling video from a convention that the alt-right held at a restaurant in Washington a stone's throw away from the White House. You can see Richard Spencer, the founder of the alt-right and president of its" National Policy Institute," shouting "Hail Trump  Hail Victory" as many in attendance made the one-arm Nazi salute. (In case you didn't notice, "Hail Victory" is the English translation of the German Nazi salute, "Sieg Heil")

Trump told editors and reporters of the New York Times that he had no reason to believe that Bannon has said anything like Spencer did, adding, " I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. It's not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why."

Not exactly a thundering condemnation of Nazi sympathizers, especially since Trump's campaign very much has energized the alt-right and groups like it. Trump used much stronger language in condemning the cast of "Hamilton" for conveying a message to his vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, in tweets spanning two days (while Pence himself said he wasn't insulted at all by the message), demanding the cast to "Apologize!" He also wasted little time in bashing Alec Baldwin and Saturday Night Live for daring to mock him.

Think about it. If someone made a Nazi salute evoking your name, wouldn't you be at least a little upset? Wouldn't you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the person and his organization?

Trump is not only failing to do that, he is almost embracing it, despite his luke-warm comments to the Times. When David Duke of the KKK enthusiastically supported him during the campaign, It was like pulling teeth for his advisers to get Trump to (reluctantly) disavow Duke, after ridiculously claiming he didn't know him and would have to look into it.

Yes, it is indeed frightening that we are about to have a president who not only attracts hate groups, but also makes little effort to dismiss them or warn against them.

Currently there is a movement to convince enough Electors to not vote for Trump (when they gather on Dec. 19) in order to deny him the White House. Organizers – who say they've gotten more than 4 million signatures on an online petition – stress that Hillary Clinton won the actual vote by more than 2 million, and there are some indications -- though not proven as of this writing -- that many of the computers in some swing states were hacked in favor of Trump, meaning that perhaps he didn't even legitimately get enough of the Electoral count.

Enough Electors changing their vote to affect the outcome is about as likely to happen as one of them getting hit by lightening -- but, like a hit of lightening, it is possible.
If something like this change in vote had occurred in Germany (Trump's ancestral homeland ) in the 1930s when Hitler was elected (yes, he was elected), just maybe...


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