Thoughts and observations from August 2017.
With all the talk about our supposedly long held American aversion to Nazism and Fascism, it might be worthwhile to step back a bit from two of those classic aspects of American exceptionalism, guileless self regard and generous self congratulation, to take heed of a few facts of Nazism’s first presence on the world stage.
It should be noted that the 1920s and 1930s, the decades when these right wing autocracies rose from the debacle of the first World War, were tumultuous times of cultural shift in North and South America, Asia and Europe. Once the high times of the 1920s crashed in the United States, the depression that hit the world and dominated the 1930s created an anxiety that made the ascendancy of anti-democratic states run by autocrats almost inevitable.
The American automobile manufacturer Studebaker had a model called the DICTATOR, for fuck’s sake. Really. So the idea of a strong man in charge had its cohort of eager acolytes in the Good ol’ USA.
Charles Lindbergh and his fellow America Firsters were swooning admirers of Adolf Hitler–and Harry Cohn had a photograph of Benito Mussolini in his office.
And, as it had for centuries, northern and western European culture dominated the world, primarily through armed conquest and colonization. Hence, the assumption by Caucasians of a position of default in the hierarchy of racialism. Whites, the norm. Asians–or Orientals, as they were called, were exotic, but still inferior. Blacks–or as they were politely known, Negroes–were primitives, and thus distinctly inferior.
It should be noted that these beliefs were shared across every social, economic, spiritual and political strata. From the farthest fringes of the right wing, to its more moderate adherents, through the center and liberal cohort, all the way to the most extreme radical thinkers of the left, White was the norm. Everyone else was the other.
Latins, Jews, Arabs and other free floating outliers were on their own–but nevertheless, regarded as second class humans by the dominant white Anglo-Saxon culture–a polity that regarded even fellow Christians the Roman Catholics as a near alien species. Whereas Jews, the so called Cosmopolitans were seen as a wandering culture with no loyalty to any nation, the Catholics were perceived as tools of the Pope, thus abnegating any true fealty to the American story.
In my own personal family experience, my mother, a Jewish Democrat and staunch supporter of the Popular Front, felt utterly justified in her contempt for Asians and Blacks, willfully ignoring the irony of aligning herself with a white culture that held her and her kind in complete and utter contempt. Needless to say, this sort of thing was all too commonplace.
In the 1920s, White Anglo-Saxon American culture had just about had it with the immigration of the detritus of Europe–and enacted a wave of anti-immigration legislation intended to cut off the stream of what was perceived as mongrel Europe–code for Jews.
Thus, whereas for years I’ve regarded Roosevelt and his New Deal as a savior of my family, my nation, and my world, I’ve come to believe that at its core, his recovery programs boiled down to welfare for white people–and could never have been enacted if those mongrels hadn’t been denied access to the USA in the previous decade.
And there’s a direct connection between those anti-immigration laws and the Eugenics movement of the early decades of the twentieth century–a movement that figured prominently in the personal belief system of Adolf Hitler.
Once we add the concept of Manifest Destiny, we can easily see just what an inspiration the USA was for the Fuhrer.
Exterminate the mongrels. Take the land we need.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Or not. For those who paid attention in school, Japan attacked the US Pacific fleet in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The United States declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941–a decision, needless to say, that Hitler and Germany came to deeply regret.
And that regret isn’t simply Deutsche weltschmerz, but a feeling shared by an alarmingly large passel of Americans. Naturally, there were a lot–but far from a majority–of Americans who felt there was something just wrong about this Hitler fellow. But most Americans felt that whatever was happening in Europe was the European’s problem.
For those couple of days between the two declarations of war, America–by which I mean, of course in this context, white America–was perfectly happy to begin the engagement in what was, at its core an unspoken racial struggle between the superior white race and these little oriental upstarts who had the gall to challenge Anglo-Saxon hegemony.
Then Hitler fucks everything up for Caucasians everywhere by joining forces with his allies Hirohito and Tojo–who, we can all assume, he would have taken out by a German blitzkrieg the minute they’d ceased to be of value to the goals of the greater German Reich–and pulls the USA into war with other white people with whom they have mostly political disagreements–but with whom they do share a major common belief–that the true threat to the world is international Communism.
Now, of course, there were plenty of Americans who recognized the threat to civilization, western and otherwise, posed by Hitler and his National Socialist philosophy and regime, and did everything within their power to encourage Roosevelt, his administration, and the rest of their fellow Americans to accept the existential nightmare that was Nazism.
Significantly, in the Red scare of the 1950s, many of these were branded by the House Unamerican Activities Committee–HUAC–as Premature Anti-Fascists, or PAFS–love those acronyms–when they were dragged through the mud by many of the same rightwing shithearts who’d been America Firsters two decades earlier.
Curiously, perhaps ironically, actual communists of the thirties weren’t branded with this particular tar brush, because toeing the line of the Kremlin in US politics made them isolationists, laying off Hitler and everything he stood for, as long as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact held sway.
The minute Hitler pushed on through the bloodlands of Poland on his way to ultimately losing the war in the East, American Reds like Pete Seeger, who’d opposed any American involvement in the European war, forged the so-called Popular Front–the extreme left supporting Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a centrist liberal candidate, in his campaign against European Fascism–at the behest of Josef Stalin.
But, as ever, I digress.
For the most part, the average American couldn’t have given a flying fuck about European Jewry–or the French, for that matter. Their war was against the Yellow Peril from the far East–and if Hitler hadn’t done the right thing by Hirohito, we might very well have maintained our neutrality in the European war–which would have been just fine with most of those average Americans, many of whom earnestly and honestly believed that it was American Jews who got us into the European theater of what soon came to be known as World War II in the first place.
Back then, the west regarded Asia as a garden to be plundered, and Asians, both foreign and domestic, as odd and exotic. The west regarded Africa as a savage continent, and Africans, both foreign and domestic, as crude and subhuman. The west regarded Jews, both foreign and domestic, as greedy and sly.
Asians were seen as no threat, until they attacked Pearl Harbor. See Japan in the 1980s. China today.
Blacks were seen as no threat, until they finally demanded to be treated as equals–and started to actually fight for it.
Jews were always seen as a threat–ironically defined as wildcat capitalists and international communists–despite all that mistaken belief in assimilation.
And, as a Jew, I feel like the odd man out, hated by both left and right, Islam and Christianity. I remain deeply uncomfortable with the fact that one of the prime movers of the Women’s march is an Islamic woman with a deep antipathy to Jews, masked by that old leftwing canard, anti-Zionism.
Nothing new there, though–and again, I digress.
Which all brings us to the now of it. When I hear and see remarks that this Nazi assault on reason and rationality in Charlottesville isn’t America, I have to beg to differ.
These engines of Anglo-Saxon resentment, their default mode of white, northern European dominant culture, with its expectations threatened by the very things their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers dreaded most, have simply been empowered to take their mindset public by their elected president.
‘The only new wrinkle is the adjustment of black men and women from the “as long as they know their place” mode, to a cultural threat on a par with the Jews they apparently fear being replaced by, if we take their Nazi war chants to heart.
But now, in this current climate of nascent proto-fascism, as what should only be called the second American Civil War begins to move from the rhetorical phase into action, there’s no more need to grit one’s teeth and pretend to accept the inevitability of a world that no longer accommodates the view of white northern European dominance.
There’s no longer any need to bite one’s tongue at an expression of the natural right to racial equality, to sexual equality, to ethnic equality. These American Nazis, who clearly and painfully regret our victory in 1945, have been here all along, waiting for their strong man who arrived in the nick of time to justify their entrenched positions of resentment and terror.
These people cannot be reasoned with.
They cannot be accepted.
They cannot be normalized.
Fuck him, fuck them, and fuck everything they stand for.
As ever, I remain,
Howard Victor Chaykin — a prince.
Howard Chaykin is a longtime veteran of the comic book business, serving as an artist and writer for nearly every publisher of comics in the past four decades…and counting. He took the ’90s off to work on mostly unwatchable television, so he missed the money and dreck that was comics in that execrable decade. He is responsible, some might say culpable, for introducing a number of previously unexplored themes to comic books. If you’re not hip to what that’s supposed to mean, there’s always Wikipedia. His newest book, HEY KIDS! COMICS! is now available in comic stores and via digital.