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Caseythoughts My patience (always in short supply) for once has been rewarded. I put this weekly menagerie of Thoughts on hold until the last minute (well, my last minute, not my publisher's) hoping I would not have to write about the stupidity of everyone involved in the government stasis. I can't even write 'shutdown' because I had begun to wonder (as Howard Beall in 'Network' opined) if anyone truly cared. I started muttering, like columnist Peggy Noonan, that 'Who cares what you call it? Get it done...get off your high horses (all of you) and stop posturing!' You people in Washington have no posterity left, even as you try to protect your posteriors.

As I said, I waited and my patience (as it were) paid off. The people who have our trust are now asking us to trust that they will figure it all out in two to three weeks while TSA employees, air traffic controllers and everyone else gets a pay check. These poseurs are supposedly going to figure out in two weeks' time what they haven't been able to figure out in twenty years. I say put a bunch of sixth graders (is that a bit too old?) in there and I'll bet the 'immigration mess' will be addressed and presented to Congress successfully and intelligently, maybe in the same way they deal with base closures and pay raises: a yes or no voice vote so they can all hide until the political firestorm lets them know which way the political wind blows. But I wouldn't say how sad and stupid this all is. Our nation has turned into a pseudo-reality show. Network deja vu.

There is something going on which I've been watching for awhile and I think that, even though it's far from our Lansing home-base, it's something worth commenting on.

My long term partner-in-crime and bestest friend in the whole world has told me of her deceased father who had a unique perspective in his lifetime: he was a veteran of both World War One and World War Two. One of those American males who fell right into a narrow demographic 'slot' just (almost) the right age to serve in both conflagrations. He was older, no doubt, than the average male in 1941, but was an officer with unique qualifications and served honorably.

The reason she occasionally brings him up is because he was quite vocal in his latter years as well as during the lead up to 1939 speaking of how it should be and have been obvious to any thinking person that the years between 1918-1939 were ripe breeding grounds for the disaster that became what we called WWII. All the 'seeds' that bloomed in 1914's initial European 'holocaust' were merely pushed underground (and watered by revengeful peace conferences) for twenty years, and "anyone with half a brain and read the newspapers (he opined) could see the second 'holocaust' a'coming."

I am using the word 'holocaust' in a wide sense, not intending in any way to demean our current understanding of the destruction of six million Jews and other 'undesirables' in the German juggernaut, nor the millions Stalin murdered in the thirties. Forty million and more died between 1933 and 1948 in the confines of our sad world: Asia, the Pacific, Europe, especially Germany and Poland, and Mr. Stainton, as an officer in the 'Great War' watched in horror as it came back again to haunt the world with Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and others. Stainton said we could have predicted what was coming merely by reading. listening and casually interpreting the daily news from the world, even in the thirties.

Maybe things were a little less complicated seventy, eighty years ago, but I am certain that if he were saying this to me tonight I would be nodding assent strenuously to his words. Here's why I think it's happening again.

The world's democracies (almost all of them) are in a total uproar, and much of it seems due to xenophobia, nationalism, and what is murkily being called 'sovereignty'.

I've no need to point out that much of what is agonizing and polarizing in our United States revolves to a great extent around immigration, xenophobia, the 'other' aspect of fear, and a generalized angst about our 'national direction'. But the bigger problem is that we are only a cog in this machine, and America seems only vaguely aware of this as an international phenomena, if aware at all. Examples follow.

The United Kingdom (not very united or hardly a kingdom these days, reminding me of a history professor who had a smarmy saying about the Holy Roman Empire) is on the verge of what is being called a 'hard Brexit'. The British voters, by a thin margin two years ago, said 'Out' of the European Union and it is now raising havoc in British banking, British politics (vote of no confidence, political turmoil), and finance, insurance, multi-national industry, and much (not all, but a significant portion) of this 'sturm und drang' is a result of anger over immigration rules and 'free borders' of the European Union. Teresa May's government hangs by a thread, fears of an Irish border trouble abound, as do the struggles of the pound sterling and the London financial markets. Stay tuned, as the deadline may be pushed to May 29th, but no further for the inevitable British retreat. But wait, as they say, there's more to make the case for the European democratic descent.

France's (far?) right wing, formerly called the Front Nationale, now renamed the Reassemblement Nationale, continues to gain in strength as they look forward to European Parliament elections and continue to foment unrest in French streets with the 'yellow vest' movement. They are forecast to cull the most votes in France in the European Parliament elections as they call for 'economic patriotism' (their words), vehemently opposing immigration and the 'Islamization of France' (their words). They're on the winning side, it seems, as Macron's moderate-leaning garners a rapidly diminishing 25% of popular support.

Spain? Split violently over secession aspirations, arresting dissident legislators of Catalan, continuing to hobble along economically after economic devastation of the middle class in the 'Great Recession' and a disenchanted middle class.

Germany? The rightist AfD (Alternative for Germany) party continues to not only gain strength in its xenophobic and anti-immigration stance and far-right rhetoric, it appears to be gaining support in conservative German provinces such as Bavaria. Angela Merkel is stepping down and the party leader who succeeded her, and is the potential next German national leader, has given at least lip service to the AfD's immigration rhetoric and its nationalistic tendencies. Some are calling the AfD a neo-Nazi bastion. The liberals in Germany appear in retreat.

Sweden? They just ended a seven month stalemate with no effective coalition government, all 'moderate' parties refusing to join with the 'Sweden Democrats' who won 13% of the popular vote and espouse, you guessed it, a virulent anti-immigrant stance. Note that France, Germany Britain and Sweden were (and still are) the countries of choice for the tens of thousands of emigres from the Middle East and Africa.

Africa and Italy. Italy has gone with a right-wing coalition which has reacted violently to the teeming boatloads of African immigrants from Tunisia to Sicily, assuming they survive the Mediterranean waters. Again, a nationalistic and anti-European Union 'open border' stand which appealed to over half of the Italian voters along with ideas that "when people want to emancipate themselves from an elite, an oligarchy, they can." That quote from the leading French right wing candidate who claims that the European Parliament elections in May will propel the various 'nationalistic' movements such as Italy's into power in several European capitals. Remember that the European Union was, in the eyes of the idealists in the fifties, a way to avoid any future European conflagrations.

All this while, let us admit it, Pax Americana, in place and working since 1945, is not so quietly in retreat, and Fortress America seems to be leading the way not in 'liberalism' (I use that word in an old-fashioned early 20th century manner) but in fearful and almost jingoistic NIMBY-ism. Europe has done this before, and so has America. And that gentleman who survived a uniform in both world wars that I spoke of earlier specifically warned of this. He said he could see it in 1919 and 1939, and I think he would be saying it again if he were here to witness it.

And a note of news that hardly made a ripple here in the U.S. is one of the precipitating events that led to this thinking. The fatal stabbing of the mayor of Gdansk this month struck a real chord in those professing nervousness about Europe. Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz, the victim, was a part of the Solidarity opposition in Poland that put several of the nails in the former Soviet Union's coffin in the early 80's. Adamowicz, was a supporter of liberal issues (Poland is a pretty conservative, even reactionary, place to begin with) such as gay rights, acceptance of refugees, and associated 'liberal' policies. This put him in conflict with the farther rightist elements of Polish politics. He was cited by his political opponents as a man who "advocated bringing Muslims into Polish cities". The Law and Justice party has encouraged radical thought, writings and actions denoting Adamowicz and his supporters as "enemies of Poland". Sounds like the anti-Jewish rants of the thirties, doesn't it?

He was stabbed by a man who may have become unhinged in prison, but who was quite convinced that people like Adamowicz were traitors to Poland and killed him at a charity fund raiser. It has been compared to the fatal shooting of the female British MP who advocated for staying in the European Union just before the Brexit referendum: politically motivated, another assassination prompted by growing fear and what can only be called 'immigration fever'. And we can think of a couple of tragedies here, too, in the past two years, which are easily and correctly attributed to those who have become enraged, even unhinged, by political rhetoric, frequently concerning immigration and unreasonable understanding of nationalism. Symptoms, indeed, of the previous century's woes.

I've read a lot of history about Europe between 1870 and 1948, and it all seems one herky-jerky thread of anger, mistrust, assassinations, misdirected alliances and xenophobic cries of national identity and sovereignty; how borders were mismatched to realities, mutterings of 'We don't think you belong here', defensive measures ratcheted up to assist demagogues and their military ante. One human disaster followed another and no lessons were learned until forty million were dead, the rest of the world was exhausted and starving and Captain America (thanks, Ray Davies) picked up the pieces with the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, Bretton Woods and lots of American know-how, money, leadership, foresight and caring.

Hitler, Mussolini and others in the 20's and 30's acted on distrust, dysfunction, depression and fear to lead Europe and the rest of the world to its near destruction. Today, America has yanked the drawbridge closed and declared that we're no longer interested in anyone but ourselves and our own declining 21st century psyche. And Europe seems poised to follow our example, looking an awful lot like 1933.

Meanwhile, the Russian bear is quietly fomenting this unrest by the ruble and the internet, and the Chinese dragon builds its Belt and Road initiative, patiently waiting and knowing that the same distrust and fear, dysfunction and depression, are at work. Knowing that, perhaps, it's just a matter of time.

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