America’s Reichstag fire

Creation began after a book, with a spirit hovering over the sea. God created the Torah two thousand years beforehand. It was His toy. Play with your toy, the angels pleaded. They’ve always had a problem with mankind. No, said God, I want Israel to play with Me and My Torah. Let there be light! He said.

Fascism began at night, on cobblestones outside the universities, and instead of the light of Heaven there was the fire of burning books. The fire of a parliament building going up in flames. The fire of destroyed synagogues. Then the smoky fire of burning human beings.

American Nazism began at the universities, too. It wasn’t called that. It was called Political Correctness. Students demanded the removal from reading lists of books whose ideas offended them. Teachers were spied upon, secretly denounced, subjected to inquisitions and Title IX kangaroo courts, and dismissed. The idea of due process, of the presumption of innocence, existed only to be ridiculed. Israel, the new Jew as scapegoat, was reviled as a matter of leftist dogma. The country nine miles wide was the root of all evils. (A dean at a certain Ivy League school once wrote to me, “Every real American knows Israel is the source of our problems.”) Identity politics replaced the common human denominator: it does not matter who you are, only what you are. It was inevitable that “Critical Race Theory” should follow, as the reincarnation of German Rassenkunde. The idea of race rather than of humanity is the cold, poisonous heart of what calls itself the left in America today.

Gleichschaltung: the extension of Nazi ideology into all spheres of society. Here too American Nazism has followed. The brownshirt-left cancer’s metastasis means here that if you are a healthy young American Indian you can get coronavirus vaccine. If you’re an elderly, vulnerable Jew, wait your turn. You apply for a job at a bank and are told “people of color” have first dibs. God help you if you are a Jewish woman working for the New York Times and you do not adequately debase and degrade yourself before your derisive colleagues. Human dignity is for others.

Kristallnacht: Rampaging mobs in a score of American cities kill, burn, loot, and maim. They spray paint “F*** Israel” and “Free Palestine” on the walls of synagogues, deface a monument to Raoul Wallenberg, smash the windows of midtown and downtown Manhattan. Democratic politicians cheer on the rioters, prevent the police from protecting citizens and property, and make Black Lives Matter their rallying cry. Doesn’t my life matter, too? No.

The media repeat the mantra “mostly peaceful demonstration” so often that it becomes a surreal joke.

The Reichstag Fire: A large crowd, tired of totalitarianism and convinced for very good reasons indeed that the general and runoff elections have been manipulated, march to the Capitol. Such demonstrations and break ins have happened before, but since this time it’s not angry feminists but supporters of President Trump (most of whom, gasp, are “white”), it’s a “mob”. Former governor Schwarzenegger, who ought to know better, calls it Kristallnacht. No, Arnold, the shattered glass in L.A. and N.Y.C. was Kristallnacht.

The police at the Capitol shoot and kill a young woman, an Air Force veteran. She is light skinned. If she were darker skinned and had a criminal record the length of my arm, she would be the darling, the martyr, of Hollywood airheads and Brooklyn hipsters. Instead she’s forgotten. The demonstration becomes the pretext for the new regime to launch a second impeachment. Dissenting voices are shut down. Mass arrests are taking place- suddenly it’s okay to fund law enforcement, it depends only on whose law. (The KGB used to say, “Once we’ve got the man, we’ll find the law to fix him.”)

Here is Donald Trump. He said China’s trading practices were unfair. He asked NATO members to pay more for their own defense. The American economy boomed. He said the deal with Iran was crooked (it involved a plane load of cash that just vanished. Vanished.) and he had a terrorist leader assassinated and behold, there was no armageddon. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Yes, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It was the capital of Israel before London, Paris, or Moscow were a gleam in the eye of forest savages who painted themselves blue. The sky didn’t fall down. Instead, our Arab Muslim cousins started making peace. Isn’t it nice? I’d love to visit Grandpa’s hometown, Tetouan.

Some weeks before Trump’s inauguration I was strolling, gentle reader, down the main street of the pleasant, lunatic town of Santa Cruz. Several inmates from the local branch of the asylum (the University of California) were holding up placards demanding Trump be impeached. He wasn’t president yet but who cares at the laughing academy? Maybe it was zen. Other placards plaintively suggested that passers by ought to discover “Love”. Love? Never heard of it. But boy did we get impeachment. NPR became the circus shill for it. America became impeachment city.

For four surrealistic years other escapees from the nut house — California’s esteemed Senators and Congresspersons- declared Trump a Russian spy. He wasn’t. Okay, a Ukrainian spy. Impeachment. Maybe this time they will declare him a spy for Belarus. (When I taught at Hebrew University I had a pupil from Moscow whose grandpa, a Hebrew poet, had been arrested as a spy during the Great Purge of 1937. “We were going to accuse you of being a spy for Japan, citizen Shapira. But we already have too many of those. You were a spy for Honduras!” “But Comrade Investigator, I don’t know where Honduras is.” “Don’t go and worry yourself over nothing, citizen Shapira: everything will be spelled out in the printed confession and all you have to do is sign.”) Impeach him after he’s already out of office. Impeach him posthumously. More than once. In effigy. Like a ritual. Like a book burning in front of Berlin University.

Most American Jews prefer Biden to Trump; the New York Times, to the Law and the Prophets. They do not feel a strong bond to Israel, whose people are not politically correct enough to commit mass suicide, so that the right sort of gentiles will feel sorry for us again, just for a bit, maybe. They are not alarmed by the cancel culture that has spread from degenerate academia to poison everything. Keep your head down and don’t make trouble, and nobody will harm you. The attacks by BLM/Antifa on synagogues are reprehensible, yes, but what about that guy in the Washington, D.C. mob who wore a pro-Nazi tee shirt? Isn’t white supremacism the real problem? Aren’t we recipients of “white privilege”? And, come to think of it, what about “toxic masculinity”? Are we to be socially, culturally, legally inferior to “people of color”? Well, that’s Social Justice, it’s bracingly therapeutic to admit guilt and take the knee, isn’t it, and anyhow the fracas over the Reichstag fire, I mean, the riot at the Capitol, will pass and things will calm down as they always do… They still think they are Germans.

About the Author
James R. Russell is Emeritus Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, and has served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Associate Professor of Ancient Iranian at Columbia, and part-time Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Biblical Hebrew at California State University, Fresno. He is at present Adjunct Professor of Iranian Religions at the Daneshgah-e Adyan va Mazaheb, Qom. He is on the Editorial Board of the journal Judaica Petropolitana, St. Petersburg State University, and a founding member of the International Association for Jewish Studies, chartered in the Russian Federation. His PhD is in Zoroastrian Studies, from the School of Oriental Studies of the University of London. His recent books include "Poets, Heroes, and Their Dragons", 2 vols., UC Irvine Iranian Series, 2020, and "The Complete Poems of Misak Medzarents", CSU Fresno Armenian Series, 2021.
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