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William Scott McLean: History’s twins

History does not provide an exact mirror, especially with the machinations of the Trump Administration.

With Trump we often feel we are in a circus of fun-house mirrors that warp reality. What you see in those mirrors is an off-camber take.

The final evening of the Republican National Convention was one of those fun-houses of mirrors. The 2,000 people gathered before the White House wore no masks. They imagined and acted as if biology didn’t exist. In the middle of a pandemic of unheard of dimension, they kicked all Americans in the teeth who have dutifully worn masks to protect one another. And they did not “social distance.” They sat side-by-side as if there were no threat from the virus. They chatted amiably, they smiled. On the hillside before them was a stunningly large gathering of American flags; the flags were the backdrop for their leader.



In a speech filled with lies and with a denial of the reality of millions of Americans’ lives, Donald Trump proceeded to hood wink his audience with a cheater’s con.

Listening to this gathering, the twisted mirror of history was the Nazi Goebbels in the Berlin Palace of Sport, speaking in 1943 to a crowd of thousands. Germany would but a short time later lose World War II. A beautiful city of millions was reduced in that war to a pile of rubble. Goebbels screamed to his audience that night in 1943, “Do you want total war?” The call from the audience was a communal “yes.” They got it, but it ended differently than imagined.



The details of history teach us how hollow this call-and-response was. Millions would be dead at the end of Goebbels’ “total war.” Civilization would be in ruins. And the children who lived through the horror would ask why the adults had created this living hell.

Goebbels was propaganda minister in the Third Reich. His was Hitler’s first appointment after the seizure of power. Watching the final evening of the 2020 Republican Convention, remembering Goebbels screaming from the podium, the words of history were not exact, but the message was: We deny what is happening outside this space. We want a total war against those who still believe in democratic possibility.

After Trump’s speech, there was a “Royal Family,” standing before national flags and framed by Trump/Pence banners, all of it in what used to be called the “People’s House.”

The show’s fireworks then began. The name Trump exploded in the heavens with the Washington Monument as the background.

William Scott McLean lives in Nevada City.


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