Something Seems Strangely Familiar Here: Town Hall “Protests”

1. Déjà vu, in Psychology–The illusion of having already experienced something actually being experienced for the first time. 2. An impression of having seen or experienced something before: Old-timers watched the stock-market crash with a distinct sense of déjà vu.

Dull familiarity; monotony: the déjà vu of the tabloid headlines.

Machiavelli once said that “[w]hoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.” So as I have recently flipped through the numerous self proclaimed left and right winged television shows on CNN, Fox, and etc., a chill crept through the nerves within my vertebral column. My eyes were horrified, but at the same moment, not surprised to witness fisted clinched and crocked brows on white Americans at town hall meetings where civilized debates of the proposed health care plan by the Obama administration was to be occurring. Angry rhetoric along side held high posters propagating to on lookers that our president was in essence similar to the paranoid sociopath and war criminal Adolf Hitler. With a critical lens, a psychologists may say that these people are actually guilty of transference (which is a phenomenon in psychoanalysischaracterized by unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another).

Secondly, what was more troublesome for me were the number of people at these town hall gatherings who were strapping semi automatic side arms and even holding military grade weapons such as AR15s.

Haven’t we been here before? Has history not shown us the damage this sort of anti-social behavior and angry rhetoric can have on people and a country? I feel that the evolution of WWII and the Hitler regime is a perfect example for us to keep in the forefront of our minds. There are enough comparisons between what is happening in our country to what lead to WWII and the slaughter of millions of innocent Jews that should give us pause.

During the rise of Hitler, the economy was in a depression. Hitler’s tactic to blame the Jews for the state of Germany appealed to their emotions and not the true nature of the crisis in Germany. The propaganda that followed that was created by Hitler and Goebbels gave way to a wave of radio blitz, leaflets, movies, and posters that stoked the flames of hatred and misdirection. Are we seeing this today? Yes we are indeed.

The rallies, the nonsensical statements calling the president a racist against whites by Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh can be compared to the radio blitz by Lord Haw Haw and Axis Sally of Germany.

Moreover, the ignorance, frustration, and racism toward Jews allowed for fertile ground for the rise of the Third Reich. As the world knows, here in the U.S. we are too undergoing a scary economic crisis. This is the time of high unemployment, company bailouts, government bank takeovers, increase in spousal abuse, and etc. We have seen throughout multiple media outlets how the country blames in part our first Black president for not helping the government to recover faster. This factor on top of the already dissatisfaction of many Whites having a Black president has caused an alarm to be raised in regards to hate groups. CNN has recently noted that many whites blame President Obama for the economic crisis. Here in the U.S., groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted that “[a]fter virtually disappearing from public view a decade ago, the antigovernment militia movement is surging across the country – fueled by fears of a black president, the changing demographics of the country and fringe conspiracy theories increasingly spread by mainstream figures.”

I am not declaring that another holocaust is imminent. But what is important here is for us to all take a moment and realize that if we are not careful, history could indeed repeat itself.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    Dr. Fitzgerald, a wonderful post. But please let me suggest we are much more like Nazi Germany (without the large-scale genocide) than what America wishes to believe or would ever admit. The U.S. has wrongfully and illegally killed how many innocent victims on foreign soil(s)? Concentration camps (prisons) exist across the nation and are still being built (now a private business industry…) and concentrated ghettos throughout the nation—housing groups disproportionately by race. Shall we talk about policing? Those are just a couple of examples to add; I’m sure people could add to and make an incredible list on the similarities as of now. What I am thankful for however, is that President Obama is in office.

    This nation fails to examine the holocaust took place on this very soil that it is responsible for, and of course slavery, Jim Crow, and contemporary brutal conditions oppressed groups are enduring every single day. It always points to Nazi Germany to show what the “real” demons look like and then demands with a psychological iron fist that “we” are nothing like “them”…*coddle Americans* of course not, now now…. Does not our own history make the Holocaust in Germany look like child’s play? Not to down play that history—that is not what I mean here at all. My concern is the failure of America to look at itself and quit point fingers. Take responsibility just for once, rather than shifting responsibility.

    I wanted to quickly point out that at our local Town Hall meeting a portion was spent on “illegal immigrants” and the Republicans were concerned there might be loopholes that would allow them to tap into acquiring healthcare “illegally”…. The Senator suggested there will be no loopholes, but with the Hippocratic Oaths physicians take, in emergency situations, such as a 9-year-old child of an “illegal immigrant” will be saved if dying on an operating table…and there were negative comments and gestures signaled from the right.

    It’s all very difficult to not only stomach, but to stay sane in an insane world….. I’m not sure what can be done with this nation. The privileged, from all ends pertaining to political labels/orientations overwhelmingly, are not humbled. Arrogance is dangerous and it’s bound to catch up at some point in time. To keep this on the shorter end, that’s all I have to say….

  2. Dave Paul

    On a related note, I saw the new Tarantino film last night, “Inglorious Basterds” and I was struck by one thing: The audience members cried out in delight at the final death of Hitler and Goebbels and the ruthless massacring of the Nazi aristocrats of the final cutscene. I was taken aback at just how much pleasure my fellow movie-goers were receiving from the extremely grotesque and excessive violence the American “heros” were bestowing upon their German brothers. Now, granted the film itself may be a critique of mob-violence and humanity’s predilection towards slaughtering those we view as “unhuman,” but I just couldn’t shake the disturbing realization that the violence we were watching onscreen was not much different from the violence shown in Nazi war propaganda during WWII. Now the film itself may not be part of a calculated propaganda machine aimed at demonizing Nazi’s, but it made me think about how we are all taught about the evils of Nazi Germany as schoolchildren, and how this socializing leads us to enjoy watching members of the Third Reich hacked into pieces, shot to confetti with machine gun fire, or bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. Really, are we all that different from the people of Germany who were swayed into supporting that which we now recognize as the worst evil in recorded human history?

    Has anyone else seen the movie? Thoughts?

  3. Jenni M.

    I saw it and definitely had similar reactions as you – I was very disturbed at the dehumanization of the nazis in the film, most of whom were “ordinary” people – a fact that is inconvenient when we typically prefer to just deem certain people “evil” and others “good” (not that I’m defending genocidal killers, but we really have to adopt a more nuanced understanding of the social context that allows atrocity to occur. In taking in all the “cheering” in my movie theater (which was packed to the brim), I tried to imagine a movie about the American Holocaust where the audience would cheer at slaveholders, slave catchers and militia men being bludgeoned to death by former slaves. Where Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries get trapped in a theater and burned to death amid the crowds applause. It wouldn’t happen. I’m still trying to wrap my mind over the politics of the movie, of rewriting history in this way, and while I found it entertaining in other ways, and thought the cinematography and dialogue was excellent, I did walk out disturbed and scratching my head. It’s worth noting the racial problematics of the film as well. Why did Brad Pitt’s character need to be an Apache? As a wise friend and colleague noted, it created a vehicle for brining the savage violence (and of course, the scalping – I guess that equation never gets old – American Indians=scalping). The moral violence of killing Nazis is captured in the charaters’ whiteness, but the savage violence on which the movie relies is allowed by invoking the Native American ancestry. There’s surely more to say here, but I’ll close for now.

  4. Dr. Terence Fitzgerald Author

    When reading Jenni M’s comments, T.S. Eliot comes to mind. He was quoted as saying, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” It would seem that the reality that many feel comfortable addressing many times over within the movie industry are wars that define Americans as “good” and others as “bad.” Americans have a proclivity for imagining their stainless red cape flowing within the air as they have conquered evil foe underfoot. Finally, the idea of seeing our forefathers as evildoers on the big screen will never happen in this country. In terms of addressing the reality of the pains of the physical and emotional pains of Blacks, as Adam Savage noted, Whites and some conservative misguided Blacks, “reject reality and substitute it for their own.”

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