Traudl Junge, Adolph Hitler’s personal secretary spent the last days of the Third Reich in a Berlin bunker taking dictation for his last will and testament. After the war she testified that Hitler ultimately blamed the Holocaust on the Jews and the destruction of Germany upon his own people, the Germans, for not being strong enough to defeat his enemies.
Such are the big egos of the history’s tyrants. From Genghis Kahn to Stalin to Pol Pot to Sadam Hussein, tyrants first divide the world into enemies and allies, and then set out to destroy their enemies. But in the end they often consume their own allies.
How could the educated people of Germany elect Hitler to office to high-jack their democracy in the first place? How could Venezuelan voters reelect Hugo Chavez to methodically yet inexorably take apart the press and his political opposition and nationalize key industries? How could Argentines, even after the disastrous experience with Juan and Eva Peron, elect populist president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner who by executive action put the country on a path to government orchestrated economic ruin?
The answer is that no democracy on earth is immune to elected leaders who seek to turn democracy against itself by slowly and methodically classifying and dividing inattentive populations, rewarding friends, and punishing enemies. In the end, especially when democracy slips away without the spilling of blood, the population belatedly becomes aware of the asphyxiation of liberty and the moral decay and the economic ruin which inevitably follows.
From the time of George Washington, our country has had been blessed with principled and modest leaders who credited others with their success and who sought to unite rather than divide our people. From Jackson to Nixon when a few presidents strayed from this narrow course Americans delivered a stern rebuke. But let us not think that in these fluid times the American life we know cannot be corrupted and destroyed. The signs of political rot in Washington and in state capitals across this land are clear.
Let us look at today’s leaders at all levels of our government and rebuke those who credit themselves, blame others, and seek to divide us and turn us against each other. If all of us don’t fight back resolutely against these big ego politicians today, we may each find ourselves on their enemies list tomorrow.