What Would You Do If You Saw Your Nation Going Fascist?
Okay, so you call yourself a patriot. But what exactly do you think that word means?
Is it the patriotism that says “My Country, May She Always Be Right; But My Country, Right Or Wrong?”
Is it the patriotism of the 16th Century's Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon of Augsburg Confession fame (1530) that believed that every leader of a nation was ordained by a pro-violent, justified war theory god who endorsed the beheading of criminals (“punishment by the sword”) and was okay with the participation of his children in the mass slaughter of those perceived to be God’s enemies?
Or are you the type of patriot that loves his or her country so much that you won’t let tyrants or the super-rich or godless mega-corporations take it over out of their greed for more power and wealth? Are you willing to have a lover’s quarrel with your country?
In order to find out which type of patriot you are, read the following hypothetical situation, and you can judge for yourself.
Suppose that you were a white, God-fearing, church-going citizen in a country that prided itself on its inventiveness, its literacy, its art, its culture, its honored military history, its glory in past wars and its current superpower status—and you saw your democratic institutions and the human rights of your neighbors being degraded and taken away.
Say that you saw a bunch of powerful corporate types, who lied consistently to enrich themselves and were obsessed with the desire to wage aggressive war. Say that they started to grab control of your country’s government, judiciary and military. Say these cunning politicians and their ruthless financiers, without winning the popular vote in any fair election, gained control of the highest office in the land, and then, in rapid succession, started decimating the rights of its citizens, declaring liberal causes illegal, purging all minority groups and socialists, silencing the liberal press, working to destroying all political opposition, censoring the media and marginalizing and silencing the artists, the poets, the writers and creative thinkers.
You would be in 1930s Germany and the tyrants would have been Adolf Hitler’s cunning and cruel henchmen. And what would you, or any of us, have done in that situation?
If you were an average white, affluent, employed citizen, with all the privilege and power granted to you by that majority status, you would have said nothing in opposition to the leaders of Germany, even as the rights of their targeted minority groups were rapidly being taken away and people started disappearing into the gulag of prison institutions.
As an average Christian, you would have obeyed your German military veteran bishop or pastor, almost all of whom had pledged a loyalty oath to their Fuhrer so that they felt duty-bound to follow him instead of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because of an out-of-context single passage in the Epistle to the Romans (if you regarded the Bible as the inerrant word of God), you would have been inclined to obey St. Paul and the existing rulers of your nation in this time of crisis rather than the great truth that all humans deserve freedom, liberty and mercy.
If you were an average white lawyer, physician or psychiatrist, for example, you would have readily joined Hitler’s Nazi Party, for doing otherwise would have jeopardized your practice. And you would have kept your mouth shut when witnessing the anguish of your Jewish, Slavic, Gypsy, socialist, liberal or homosexual clients and patients as they were forced to steadily march toward the concentration camps and gas chambers.
But the title question wonders if you would you have been a "good" patriot. Would you have been on the wrong side of history by being obedient to the local fuhrer and to the flag that symbolized his rule?
Knowing that any German citizen seen helping out the outlawed “enemies of the state” was guilty of treason, on whose side would you have lined up? Would you have taken the side of the oppressed and outcast, or the side of the rulers?
Knowing that saluting the Swastika was regarded as a crucial act of patriotism and that flag-burning was a crime, would you have stood with the victims or would you have taken the side of the victimizers?
On which side would you have been—the “terrorist” organizations courageously and patriotically trying to save their beloved nation from fascism? or would you have been on the “safe” side with the militarists and corporatists who looked like they were going to be the winners? Your answer will describe your politics—and your theology.
Now fast-forward to 2003—but I suppose that we won’t have to do that. The point has probably been made.
Gary Kohls is a Duluth, MN physician, a peace and justice activist and a founder of the faith-based organization, Every Church A Peace Church.
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This story was published on March 5, 2003.