tar and feathering

Scared by the Government

Mar 5, 2018
National Archives

In previous comments about Erik Kirschbaum's new book Burning Beethoven: The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, I considered how wartime Americans were taught to fear one another and how that fear short-circuited their powers of reason. I also spoke of the role the press played in fomenting that hatred.

This time, I want to take a look at the government's role. I have often thought that if a government can scare people enough, they will throw themselves at its feet. World War I provides compelling evidence for that conclusion.

Wikipedia

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, Burning Beethoven by Erik Kirschbaum. The book is subtitled The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, and it contains a multitude of scary echoes for 21st century America.

I recall, back in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, eating at a steak joint out on the Claude Highway near the Palo Duro Canyon. I ordered my New York Strip, but I hesitated about ordering fries. I simply couldn’t bring myself to say the words “freedom fries.”

Freedom. Something We Give?

Feb 12, 2018
Pintrest

Suppose you were plucked from wherever you are now and plopped into a foreign country where you were told you are perfectly free. You are allowed to say anything you want, worship any god you want, speak any language you want, and make your living in any way you can. The only catch is, your neighbors don't agree. In such a scenario, are you really free?

This hypothetical situation is not exactly what German-Americans faced during World War I, but it still may help us understand what their story tells us not only about their freedom but also our own.