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Once, there was a man who played on his pipe in such a magical fashion that he could attract all the rats in the town of Hamelin and lead them into the river Weser (in northern Germany) where they drowned.
This solved a severe problem of rat infestation. But the city council and the mayor did not want to pay the piper as they had promised him, so he resorted to his pipe again and played a different tune with which he could lure all children away, disappearing in the mountains with them, never to be seen again.
This fairy tale has enjoyed enduring popularity, and it carries deep, if not ominous, messages about gratitude, loyalty, honesty, decency, and mutual respect.
Unfortunately, this fictional account is suddenly highly relevant again, now in modern-day politics, as we are facing, especially in the United States, but in many other countries, the phenomenon that pied pipers are playing their tunes again, and this time the masses are following them down into an abyss—whether we think of Turkey, Hungary, or Belarus.
Democracy is a wonderful political system if it is predicated on solid foundations, offering justice, freedom, and equality to all, irrespective of gender, age, race, or religion. Democracy works when the election system is transparent, fair, and universally accepted. Democracy functions effectively when the various political opinions are truly represented and when the individual opinions find venues to express themselves and to influence the political process. Finally, democracy succeeds when the three branches of government, the executive, the judicial, and the legislative, are clearly separated from each other, and when the president or leader does not exert undue influence on the other branches, as is happening in Poland right now.
The pied piper is playing his pipe once again, this time in the U.S., and certain sections of the population simply follow him, either into the river or into the mountain.
Increasingly, a large percentage of our people accepts the perplexing charisma of the previous President Trump and firmly believes everything he claims publicly as absolute truth. Never mind the opinions of scientists and medical researchers regarding COVID-19 and the need to get vaccinated. Never mind what experts in hydrology and climatology are telling us about the impending danger of global warming. Since the pied piper has chosen to ignore all of them and all sciences, and since he has decided that he is the greatest authority in everything here on Earth, his followers have submitted to his calls and have accepted them as the absolute truth. The river or the mountain are beckoning…
One way of destroying our democracy is to undermine the authority of the media—disregarding, here, media outlets that are nothing but Trump’s personal mouthpieces, that spew forth lies on a daily basis, and that derail all efforts by the scientific community to learn about Covid as much as possible and to fight it with all means available in a rational fashion.
The rats in Hamelin were so thrilled and bewitched by the pied piper that they acted under hypnosis and followed the leader without ever looking back or thinking for themselves. Hitler and Stalin were similarly effective in hypnotizing their people, making them ready both to murder millions of their fellow citizens (Holocaust, Holodomor) and to send even more millions of young men into the death machines of the Second World War.
Indeed, the piper is playing once again, loud and clear, and there are countless rats (pardon the negative connotations of this term) who feel a strong urge to shut off their brains and follow their leader, obviously installed by God as their divine authority figure. Maybe, instead, they are the children whom the Hamelin piper led away—but seemingly nothing can bring those who admire the past president as God’s gift to re-ignite their own thinking and give rationality a chance once again. Democracy is truly at risk when millions of people no longer believe in its principles and operation, no longer read critically the political news, increasingly demonize their political opponents, subscribe to violent means to enforce their own public stance, and refuse to cooperate, compromise, and communicate with the other side.
January 6, 2021, was a traumatic moment in Washington, D.C., which we barely survived as a democratic country, but once the piper is playing his pipe again, the hypnotized masses will immediately follow the call and move in any direction the piper wants them to go, even if it might mean their own destruction and the end of our political system as we know it. We as historians are only too familiar with this phenomenon: Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, called for the rats to come out of their holes and join the piper when he asked the whipped-up and frenzied crowd in his famous speech in the Berlin Sportpalast on February 18, 1943, “Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?” (Do you want total war?) And that at a time when the complete defeat at the hands of the Allied Forces was already foreseeable in the near future!
What is happening in and with our country right now?
Fraudulently, the Arizona Republican Senators hired an ominously labeled cyber-security firm, Cyber Ninjas, to carry out a recount of the presidential election results in Maricopa country, a Republican stronghold, on November 2020, but despite all expectations to the contrary, the company could only confirm that President Joe Biden had won the elections there with even more votes than had been reported originally. To top all that, the piper is now claiming that election fraud was committed also in Pima county, a Democratic stronghold in southern Arizona, which simply does not make sense. But it does not matter to the “rats” what the pied piper is playing on his pipe (pardon my use of the term here; I just need to stay within the narrative framework); as long as the melody is right, they follow him down to the river where they all might drown.
I want to respect people on the other side of the political spectrum, and I certainly do not mean to call them “rats” despite the references to those vermin of the city of Hamelin above. They are my fellow Americans, and so they are just as important to the well-being of our country as everyone else.
But I must call out to the Trump followers to close their ears to the pied piper and to start thinking for themselves once again. Yes, we do have disagreements in details, but not in the overarching goal, that is, the growth of our great nation for all of us living here. Please wake up from your hypnosis and return to the table where we can discuss all relevant issues together, searching for compromises and good solutions.
Hypnosis is currently the greatest danger facing our nation. Not that the Democrats are doing everything right; far from it, but they are certainly not victims of a pied piper and hence not subject to mass manipulations.
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