Facebook is fascinating if you’re a sociologist or a reporter, jobs that pretty much utilize the same human observation skills. Interviewing people for newspaper stories became easy years ago when I realized humans share a small number of personality traits. There are variations of those personalities, but because the foundations of those traits are so similar, it’s easy to predict what people will do and what they will say in any situation. Interviewing became a breeze. I knew what to ask.
If we were able to take social media back in time, Facebook posts wouldn’t be much different from today’s. We’re still the same. Take it back to the 1930s, and conservatives would be haranguing Roosevelt for his “socialist” programs — programs that saved the country from plunging into further financial ruin during the Great Depression. The posts from that time would have reflected the strong American political divisions that have existed since the country’s founding. They would have read pretty much like today’s political posts.
I can imagine what the Germans during the 1930s would be posting. The day after Kristallnacht, would their comments have reflected outrage at what was being done to the Jews? Or would most of them have been silent about the attacks? I imagine few would have been brave enough to post about the crime, but most of them wouldn’t have said a word. Some Jews might have written about their shock, but centuries of pogroms had trained them to hunch down and wait for the current wave of discrimination to pass.
If a German Jew in 1935 had posted his predictions about the imminent danger they were in after the Nazis issued the Nuremburg Laws, I imagine many more would have commented and said there was no way the laws could lead to mass murder. Their inaction, their belief that their civilized neighbors couldn’t and wouldn’t turn to barbarism was their undoing. But it was the silence of the German people, the Christians, that opened the doors for Nazi atrocities.
We haven’t changed. In the wake of several states passing bigoted legislation under the guise of religious freedom, I’ve watched on Facebook for the reaction. Just like 1935 … crickets. Most people don’t care or don’t believe it affects them. Gays, like the European Jews of the 1930s, don’t see the laws as the beginning of more discrimination or possibly worse. You don’t think Americans are capable of worse? The Jews 80 years ago didn’t think the Germans were capable of worse, either.
This legislation is frightening, and the majority of Americans who aren’t concerned about it is more frightening. We can’t let bigots or racists write laws that will damage our country. If you’re not gay, you should still care because one day legislation could be enacted that will target you. People who discriminate don’t stop. They need to hate, so when they’re through with one group, they have to find another. Their hate has to be fed. The Nazis were defeated, but there will always be people just like them.
So, I’ve watched Facebook in the days after Indiana. Little outrage. A whole lot of indifference. 1935.