freedom at risk

I have just finished reading the Erik Larson book, In the Garden of Beasts, and I must say none of the insights I was hoping for ever materialized. There surely were some beautiful, gratifying passages of language; Larson the author was as satisfying as ever. I enjoyed learning about  William E. Dodd and his family and the State Department intrigues that undercut Dodd’s effectiveness as our ambassador to Berlin. Yet from Larson the historian I encountered no new lessons which clarify our present-day challenges to freedom or illuminate what we must do to save ourselves and our children’s futures. As a result, I am disappointed with the book—but perhaps I was looking for things Larson’s account was never intended to deliver.

I was struck by Larson’s descriptions of pompous Nazi bigwigs in their big sleek cars, their hubris, their selfish lust for power… they were just politicians, after all, not much different from today’s politicians, American or otherwise.

In the background last night’s debate between the Republican presidential candidates has been streaming and droning on. These people, too, offer few answers of substance or value. They pander to jingoistic notions of American exceptionalism, they assume false poses of rectitude, they present a smorgasbord of empty-calorie intellectual fare. Coke or Pepsi? Bachmann or Palen? Bush or Perry? What’s the difference? Almost all of them have long since sold out to the highest bidders.

I perk up as Rick Perry gets a question about Texas executing innocent prisoners. He answers that the system in Texas offers adequate safeguards, that such errors don’t happen. He is so cock sure, so untruthful, so ignorant. (Perry doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming either.) No one challenges him. No one mentions Todd Willingham. Perry would have made a good Gauleiter in another time and place.

It is ten years since our own Reichstag Fire, and too many people seem to accept the loss of freedoms resulting from the ill-named Patriot Act. Everything Hitler and the Nazis did was legal under German law. We seem to have learned nothing from history. We seem doomed to relive it.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to a wartime recording of the “Gedenkmarsch”


6 Responses to “freedom at risk”

  1. September 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Rick Perry says that there are safeguards preventing innocent people from being executed in Texas, eh? Wow, I suppose someone should tell the Innocence Project of Texas that their services are no longer needed.


    They only have 44 exonerations as a result of DNA evidence. The leading cause of wrongful convictions in Texas? Flawed eyewitness identifications.


    Yeah…sounds like a totally fair and error-free system to me. And what about Johnny Garrett? The state refuses to look at the DNA evidence that was left at the scene because they are so sure they don’t execute innocent men that they actually threaten the families of those men if they try to argue that the conviction was wrongful. Even after the person has been executed. Seems like if you’re sure you run a perfect system that a little DNA testing would be harmless, right?

    Seriously though…I’d rather gouge out my own eyeballs with a spoon then vote for Rick Perry.

  2. 2 Gloria
    September 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Another innocent man will be murdered on 21 of september this time in Georgia. i guess there are error-free system too.



    Rick Perry knew that Todd Willingham was innocent before he was executed (maybe murdered is a better word to call it since Todd Willingham was innocent) To me that’s murder.

    They are willing to execute innocent people rather than recognise they were wrong.

  3. September 8, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I completely forgot about the error-free prosecution and conviction of Steven Woods in Texas. He will be executed on the 13th of this month unless clemency is granted. This, despite the fact that another man has since confessed to the murder and stated he was the only person involved in committing it.

    Here’s a petition asking for clemency on behalf of Steven Woods for anyone interested:


  4. 4 Mary Ellen Johnson
    September 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I also read In the Garden of Beasts. What struck me was how quietly we slide into fascism or how willingly we are led to the guillotine upon which we are willing to sacrifice democracy. That was the lesson for me. It can — and is — happening here in 2011 and who will speak out, who will protest?

    We will look around and tell ourselves the day is beautiful, we can still buy food and gasoline, and so long as others quietly disappear or the atrocities don’t hit too close to home, we can continue life as before. Just a few simple adjustments.

    How easily we cede our freedoms. Not even a challenge for our oppressors to annihilate us. I always wondered what the Germans and Jews felt as all this unfolded. Now I’m beginning to understand.

    As bad as Perry’s bufoonish defense of state sanctioned murder, worse was the thunderous applause from that proudly red white and blue room full of “patriots.”

    I am beyond weeping for this country.

  5. 5 Gloria
    September 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Juvenile Detention Sex Abuse Scandal 1/2 Texas, Officials Covered Up Pedophile Ring

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