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'It Can’t Happen Here'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

“It can’t happen here,” many Americans believe.

“It” is the Holocaust. “The Germans had a fatal flaw in their constitution,” these people argue. “Germany’s constitution had a special provision – article 48 – that allowed Hitler to assume emergency powers. The American Constitution, however, has no such provision.”

It turns out, though, that it doesn’t really matter what provisions the American Constitution has or doesn’t have. Over the last six weeks, virtually every single one of America’s 50 governors has assumed dictatorial powers, and barely any of us have said boo. They have shut down churches, closed schools, prohibited public assemblies of any kind – and nearly all of us have dutifully obeyed their orders. Indeed, we now snitch on neighbors who don’t toe the line.

The American Constitution (as interpreted for the last 150 years) places strict limits on government power – both federal and state. Barring citizens from attending church, operating a store, or swimming in the Pacific Ocean because of a medical emergency that isn’t widespread in many states is not among the prerogatives of legitimate government authority.

No matter. Governors have gone ahead anyways. In Elizabeth, NJ, last month, authorities deployed drones to warn residents to “move away from each other and separate.” These drones are prop #1 in any dystopian film plot. Now they’re being used in New Jersey with no sense of shame – or horror.

On Friday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked what’s next. “What can’t politicians do in the name of public health?” he asked. “Could they intern people?” He went on: “You can dismiss the possibility of that if you’d like, but remember just a few months ago most of us would have dismissed as ludicrous the possibility that propaganda-spewing drones would be hovering above. Now we have them. So what’s next? What can’t they do?”

“Our Constitution will protect us from tyranny,” people believe. Will it? The Soviets had a glorious constitution, but it did little to protect ordinary Russians. Indeed, the late Justice Antonin Scalia once noted that the “bill of rights of the [USSR] was much better than ours.” It “guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account.”

Of course, it was all a joke because promises on paper mean nothing if ordinary citizens don’t protest in rage when government violates these promises. How many of us have stood up and declared that we refuse to let the government keep us under indefinite house arrest. At first, this house arrest was to be for only two weeks – to flatten the curve. Well, we’ve flattened it. Now what?

Now, we just wait, the governors tell us. Until… Well, it’s not clear until when. In the meantime, when chassidic Jews in Brooklyn try to pay their last respects to a revered rabbi, they receive a supercilious lecture from Mayor Bill de Blasio and summonses from the police.

From where does the mayor get the authority to order police to hound peaceful chassidic Jews? Nowhere. He doesn’t have the authority. He’s doing it anyway. If he ever read the Constitution or Declaration of Independence, it was probably back in elementary school.

Westerners often speak of the Holocaust, but they don’t seem to have learned some of its most basic lessons. Germany was a modern democracy. How did Hitler grab absolute power? Simple. By declaring an emergency. And it was an emergency. The German economy was in shambles. So the German people looked the other way while he barred Jews from German society (and later exterminated them).

“Emergency” is a magical word! Once an emergency is declared, everything is permitted. And who defines “emergency”? The politicians.

So what if the Democrats win back the White House in November and declare an indefinite state of emergency to save the planet from “harmful carbon emissions”? Will the mainstream media object? Most certainly not. They’ll cheer on this “bold” step just as much of German society cheered on Hitler’s power grab. After all, what greater emergency can there be than saving the planet?

The question is: What will we freedom-loving Americans do? What are we doing now?

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