History is Not the Past
I felt alarm in the reading at the distinction Zweig made between what he defined as the differing responses evoked by the outbreak of the first World War compared to those that arose at the beginnings of the second conflagration. From the perspective of 1942 Zweig writes in his memoir that was completed the day before his suicide, “A breach of law such as Germany’s invasion of neutral Belgium which today, now that Hitler has made lying perfectly natural and disregard for humanity a law, would be unlikely to be seriously condemned, had the world in uproar from end to end at that time.” I am not well-enough informed of the accuracy of Zweig’s distinction: I am not an historian of either war. But there is something prescient about Zweig’s words that highlights the time in which I feel that we now suffer. I am alarmed because not only the acceptance of but the blatant perpetration of lying at high governmental levels, the fabrication of baseless and evidenceless, unfounded accusations of criminal activity leveled against not only clearly figures but a former President of the United States, and the cruel disregard for the welfare of those most in need of care permeates this country. Every morning I awaken to some horror provoked by the mean-spirited and venal leadership of United States. Either the cowardice or the callous heartlessness of a Republican oligarchy threatens the foundation of our democracy. This sordid bunch seem to me like a gang of ugly trolls living under a dank, garbage strewn bridge gleefully plotting their despicable evil deeds against any who would dare care to cross to the other side; mostly men (and a few women) who are finally evil and not merely mischievous--and that with malice aforethought intend to inflict their will on the powerless. It is only these billy-goat-gruffs who will ultimately benefit from their unspeakable plottings.
Zweig writes, “Never—and I say so not with pride but with shame—has a generation fallen from such intellectual heights as ours to such moral depths.” I cannot speak to our intellectual heights, indeed, I have my doubts, but I can daily attest to the depth of our moral decline merely by opening the pages of any newspaper or listening even briefly to any media newscast. I am appalled at the behaviors of Americans who continue to maintain their support of this group of egotistical and venal incompetents who have nobody’s interest but their own at heart, and I am fearful for the future of the country under the reign of Trump and his assembled odious crew.