2017: Brace For Impact

2017: Brace For Impact

At the beginning of the Second World War in Europe, there was a period of time, eight months and one week to be exact, that was dubbed The Phoney War. This period began with the German invasion of Poland on September 3, 1939 and ended on May 10, 1940 when the German armies rolled over the borders of France, Belgium, and Holland. During this period of time, after the Germans had secured Poland, it was said that nothing much happened. People knew it was going to happen. People were waiting for it to happen, yet the onslaught everyone was waiting for failed to occur.

Of course, there were a lot of people who would have been surprised to be told that nothing happened during these eight months. The Poles, for example, who lost their country, or the seamen whose ships were already going down. The Finns would have been astounded to find out nothing was going on, for it was in this period that they fought and lost their ill-fated war against the Soviet Union.

So, there was plenty of stuff happening, but the big battle, the German’s full frontal assault on France, the Blitz on London, the events that we in the West generally associate with the beginning of the Second World War, had yet to occur.

The German term for this Phoney War was Sitzkrieg: the sitting war. It meant basically, that though war had been declared, and people in the West knew what was coming, or didn’t know, which was worse, they just sat around and waited for it, stunned that it had come to this, wondering how their lives and the lives of people they knew or loved were going to change over the next months and years. I have to admit, that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling since November 8, 2016.

Even though I know what happened and how it happened and why it happened, I’m still stunned that it happened, and spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer screen reading political and economic analyses, or with other like-minded, equally-stunned people, going over what might possibly be in store.

I of course won’t have to wait eight months and a week for things to get going. The onslaught will begin already on January 20th, two-and-a-half months after Mr. Trump was elected. I assume it will begin on January 20th since Mr. Trump promised this, and though many a person I talked to during the campaign insisted Mr.Trump wasn’t serious about half the things he said, it would appear he was actually very serious. January 20, 2017 could be the beginning of the end for a lot of things.It could be the beginning of the end for the Dreamers, the children of illegal immigrants who’ve been allowed to stay in America to do things like study and work. It could be the beginning of the end for the people who pick our food in the fields of California and Florida and Texas and for the cheap prices we’ve been paying for this food. It could be the beginning of the end for a lot of people who’ve managed to get some health insurance in the last couple of years. It could be the beginning of the end for clear, relatively-breathable air over our cities. It could be the beginning of the end for affordable public housing. It could be the beginning of the end for a national commitment to public education. (Show me a country that doesn’t have a commitment to public education and I’ll show you a failed country.) It could be the beginning of the end for the control women had begun to wield over their own bodies. It could be the beginning of the end…I can’t go on and anyway you get the picture. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of things and I’m sure there are plenty of other things I’m not even aware of, things that in the coming months and years, I’ll realize I was a fool to miss.

And, of course, that’s just the domestic list. Internationally, the next four years don’t bear much thinking about. Trade wars, real wars, the possibility of nuclear war? That’s when I move from being stunned to being just plain terrified.

Europe, of course, endured her nightmare and after six years of mind-boggling carnage came out the other end. She came out destroyed, her populations decimated. She came out cut in half. In the western part, she rebuilt herself with American help, and became for many decades and remains (I still insist) a darn fine place to live. People say that after the war the Western half of Europe became a better, fairer place. I agree with that, but oh what it took to get there. It’s also the kind of thing historians say years after the pain of events has eased. Whereas the people who lived through these events didn’t have the luxury of analyzing what was happening from a distance. They had to live it, bear it, and that’s what we’ll have to do as well.

Enter the dismantlers, the demolishers, the destroyers. Enter a group of people who say they despise government, but who’ve never lived in a country where the government did nothing for its people. Enter a group of people who can only think the way they do because they’ve grown up in a country where the government, compared to other countries, actually functions pretty well. Enter a group of people who entertain strange, fuzzy notions of how wonderful it was back in the day when people had to do everything for themselves, when they might die in childbirth because they had no doctor, or starve because it didn’t rain. Enter a group of people who, in love with the past, are propelling us into a chaotic, dangerous future. And the only thing I can think to say isn’t very philosophical. It’s more like a raw, desperate cry, a thing you shout to fellow passengers when the vehicle has gone hopelessly out of control.

This is it.

I can’t stop it.

Brace for impact.