Speaking Of History Repeating Itself

Which of these quotes are about Hitler, Mussolini, or Trump?

1- “You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you.”  

2 – “He advocated the emergence of a dictator—‘a man who is ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep’—” 

3 – “From the first he set out to create a mass movement, whose mystique and power would be sufficient to bind its members in loyalty to him.

4 – “It’s a movement. If you don’t put it down, it will get worse and worse.”

5 – “you know, you can hear in his rhetoric that he is simply trying to make himself sound like a strong man — almost like a dictator, as if he’s going to be responsible for bringing order all the way.”  

6 – “His attitudes were highly theatrical, his opinions were contradictory, his facts were often wrong, and his attacks were frequently malicious.” 

After WWI, Italy was a mess. A weak government, a weak economy, revulsion at the Communism that just took over Russia – all combined to create fear. Then a young, charismatic, ex-soldier, cruel and self-aggrandizing, rose from crowd. He made stirring, patriotic speeches, intensifying the fear and turning it into anger. His used both to divide the country. His Black Shirts attacked local government institutions and terrorized local populations. He advocated a dictatorship to solve the country’s problems. He created a sense of anarchy, then stepped in to quell it. His name: Benito Mussolini. In 1922, he became Prime Minister of the country, in 1925, three years later,  dictator.

After losing WWI, Germany was made to pay reparations to the Allies.  It crippled their economy for the next decade. Germans were scared and broke. Then arrived a young, charismatic, ex-soldier, cruel and self-aggrandizing, who had seen what Mussolini did in Italy. He copied Mussolini, using fear and anger as the tools to pit Germans against each other. His Brown Shirts beat and terrorized citizens and tore down local institutions. Then he went one step further than Mussolini; he blamed the country’s problems on the Jews and set out to kill them all. He created a sense of anarchy then stepped in to quell it.  His name: Adolf Hitler. In 1933 he became Chancellor of Germany, 8 months later, dictator.

A few years later another young man of German heritage , who had grown to adulthood watching both dictators almost destroy their countries, started a construction business in Queens, NY, and made a fortune developing rental properties. His granddaughter, who has a PhD in psychology, describes him as sociopathic, narcissistic, devoid of empathy, and worse.  She ascribes the same qualities to his son, her uncle, in her book, “Too Much And Never Enough”.

Fred Trump, according to Mary Trump, schooled Uncle Trump in the arts of bullying, cheating, lying, stealing, self-aggrandizing, and, if not outright cruelty, being very, very “tough”.

Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, using fear to divide Americans, just as his father taught him, just as the dictators of Europe had done 75 years before.

For the last three years, Donald Trump has fomented those divisions using the same tools. He has increased fear and anger of the “Other”, be it “other race” or “other religion”. He has divided the country almost as completely as it was before the Civil War.

2020 has given him two new things to weaponize: the Black Lives Matter Movement and Covid19. 

He has put his modern day Brownshirts (in this case, brown camouflage) into Portland, Oregon to fight (according to Portland’s Mayor) peaceful protestors, with plans to send hundreds more to other cities run by his opposition. Rather than lead a united effort against Covid19, he has politicians attacking scientists. He has citizens fighting over masks, over who can work and who can isolate from the virus, over the value of life vs prosperity.

This is how authoritarians gain power and how demagogues become dictators.

Are the parallels exact? Not exactly. But the country is divided by fear generated by Trump. Thousands have died – in great pain – under his leadership. He is already challenging the election. He has used his power for personal gain, be it political or financial. And he has corrupted huge swaths of the government.

The parallels exist.  We ignore them at our own peril.

(The clips above are from Encyclopedia Britannica profiles and/or direct quotes: 1- Trump, 2 – Mussolini, 3 – Hitler, 4 – Trump, 5 – Mussolini, 6- Mussolini).

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Why I’m No Longer Writing For The Main Line Times

Last week I sent in my opinion column, as I have done almost every week for 20 years.  

Almost immediately I received a rejection from the paper’s “Content Manager”. She said she didn’t want to get into a theological debate, but the theme of my column was about God making mistakes and Christians know that God doesn’t make mistakes; mankind does. She hoped I would understand. 


OK, there were a couple of corny jokes about God making mistakes and improving Adam’s looks with a beard. But it was a satirical approach to a serious theme: wearing masks. 

I reread it. Yep. The headline was “Speaking Of Masks”. The theme was about masks, with a sub-theme about men making mistakes.

So, I posted it to my web page: https://www.henrybriggscolumn.com/2020/07/14/speaking-of-masks/. Have a look.

Mixing humor and religion is not a new device. Frank Capra used it in “It Happened One Night”. Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks used it in “The Two Thousand Year Old Man”, Broadway used it in “The Book of Mormon”.

I re-read her email and got a chill.

She may have misread the piece – indeed I might not have written it clearly enough – but more important was the prioritizing of her religious beliefs over anyone else’s, from reporters and contributors to the readers themselves.  

A paper which had been always written and read by a variety of people – Christians of all kinds, people of other faiths, agnostics, and atheists – was now controlled by a Christian who did not see the difference between humor and homily.

I hoped I was wrong. I emailed her asking if that was her position or policy of Main Line Media News.

Her response was stronger. It was her job to “deem copy appropriate” for The Main Line Times, The King Of Prussia Courier, and The Daily Times Herald and she wasn’t going to debate it now.

I thought about the bigger picture, about the fundamental issues of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. They are written into the Constitution and have been pillars of the press and media since Thomas Paine. They are in the country’s DNA. Mine too.

Prior to writing this column I was a producer, writer, and director, working for local stations, syndicators, and networks, also for 20 years.  Never was a show or segment edited or re-edited, shot or re-shot, censored or cancelled to satisfy someone’s religious viewpoint. Ever.  

I have had one column rejected in 20 years. It was an investigative piece about shenanigans in the Chester County Republican party. The editor wanted more facts, which was her prerogative. She did not question my religious orthodoxy. 

I first wrote for Warren Patton, editor of Main Line Life, a weekly newspaper which, under his leadership, routinely won national awards. Over time, that and other papers have been sold, consolidated and renamed. Each time new editors were hired, staff was reduced, pages were reduced, coverage was reduced.

Through all those changes not one editor (or Content Managers) ever screened my work through a religious filter. Or even hinted at it. 

Until last week.

I respect her religious beliefs as well as her right to them. And I respect the right of religious organizations to publish as they wish. I just had no idea The Main Line Times had become a religious publication. 

My guess is most of you didn’t know that either.

It’s sad. It’s worrisome. It’s tragic – for journalists and anyone who reads these papers.

That’s why I will no longer write for The Main Line Times or any newspaper that censors content through a filter of religion, any religion.

I will continue to post weekly columns to my web page (www.henrybriggscolumn.com) and my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/henrybriggscolumn/).

I hope you’ll give them a read.  

If you like them I hope you’ll pass them along. If not, I hope you’ll pass them along anyway. Why suffer alone? 

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Speaking of Masks

I know some of you don’t want to wear masks. I understand. It’s unconstitutional and encroaches on your freedom. 

Thomas Jefferson never wore a mask. Neither did Franklin, Hamilton, or the other forefathers. Washington might have. He had really bad teeth. But more on that later.

If God wanted men to wear masks, he wouldn’t have given us facial hair. Of course, at the time he was just trying to correct a mistake.

Oh yes, God makes mistakes.  Check the Bible if you don’t agree. 

The Garden Of Eden was great before Adam arrived. Birds flew. Dinosaurs roamed. Worms wormed. Creatures created. Weather was good. Skies were blue. Water was clean. 

Then God created Adam. 

Since then species have been disappearing right and left. And there’s global warming – not to mention all those wars. 

Interestingly, we’re the only species that goes to war.  Ever heard of birds warring against, say, giraffes? Or a world war between, say, Dalmatians and Collies? 

And you know who’s been running things all these years? Men.

Even before that, God knew he’d made a mistake; Adam was that ugly.  And he had bad breath, but more on the later. 

To make up for His Adam mistake, God created Eve, who was way better looking, at least according to the Bible (“And Adam looked upon Eve, and said ‘Holy &%^!!, she’s a Babe!’ and God looked upon Adam and then looked upon Eve and said “Ho Boy!!” And then God swaddled Adam’s face with hair and said unto Adam, “Don’t ever shave! You’ll scare her and everyone around her.“)

Then Man invented the razor and defied God. 

But the current generations have made hairy faces popular again, with beards and goatees and — did you know there are 27 kinds of beards?  Really. Check out: https://www.menshairstylestoday.com/types-of-beards/. 

God must be pretty happy with the current generation.

Which brings us back to masks. Masks are great for covering up things. 

They can hide mutterings under your breath. “You simpleton!” becomes “Ew! So’s Anton!” 

You don’t have to have your teeth straightened (hear that, English people?)

If you yell in anger, the mask puffs out, making you more menacing; if you gasp in fear, it clogs your mouth, and your breathing, which is more scary.  

If you hate your boss, it covers that disdainful smirk.

You don’t have to brush your teeth if you wear a mask.  

Masks discourage unwanted kissing.

Ventriloquists really love masks.

The best part of masks is they’ve replaced donkeys and elephants.  If you wear a mask, you’re a Democrat; if you don’t wear a mask, you’re a Republican. You don’t even have to say a word; mask or no mask says it all. 

Imagine voting. Those wearing masks line up on one side. Those without masks line up on the other side. A person holding their nose then counts both lines and presto: the next President.

Many people are convinced that wearing a mask infringes on their Constitutional Rights. They cite the 28th Amendment, which was written last weekend by Senator Ted Cruz. It says all Americans have a right to infect other people with Covid 19. He was photographed last week on an American Air Lines Flight from Houston to Dallas tapping it out on his cell phone – no mask, but, appropriately, a 28thkind of beard.

Rumor has it that Trump finally agreed to wear a mask because he thought he’d look like The Lone Ranger. He got really angry when he learned the mask covered his mouth instead of his eyes.

Masks muffle your voice, which is great if you say something stupid; for instance, that face masks represents a “culture of silence, slavery, and social death.”  Yes, a real quote from a Trump fan, which our President immediately retweeted.

Which brings us to the truth about both parties. Democrats want Biden to wear a mask because he might say something stupid. They want Trump to go maskless because he might say something stupid. 

Republicans want Biden to wear a mask because they think it makes him look like an idiot. They want Trump not to wear a mask because…um…uh…

I like masks for both parties, really thick ones, where you can barely hear a person. Not just because it’s safer medically, which it is, but because the silence would be so-o-o-o-o-o nice!       

God? I think he’s beginning to root for women.

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Remember When Character Actually Mattered?

When I was little, we were taught that character – honesty, respect for people, empathy – mattered. It was a surefire way of “winning friends and influencing people”.

It was taught by Presidents, religious leaders, coaches, teachers, and, yes, even parents. It was the stuff of books, movies, TV shows, even Broadway musicals.

I have to admit, not everybody got on the bandwagon, but most did. Life was just easier – better – when you could trust each other. 

OK boomer. Right?

And you know what else is funny? I never questioned the rule. 

Years later one of my kids did. I had been bloviating about not cheating in school to the point of boring even myself when she said “Why?”

That stopped me. I realized two things: even though she was 8, she was a lot smarter than me, and “Because I said so” wasn’t going to fly. 

I sorted through the possible explanations. “It’s wrong”? Uh, Duh! “You might get kicked out of school?” Better, but it didn’t answer the question. “Go ask your Mother?” I’d already used it three times that week.  

Then it hit me. “Because if you cheat, you won’t learn what you need to learn.”

That piqued her curiosity.

“So, math. In order to learn math tomorrow, you have to know what was taught today. But if you cheat today, you can’t learn tomorrow’s math. And then you graduate and get a job, but you still can’t do 3rd grade math. So you get fired…and…”

OK. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do know it had to do with growing up stupid.

It worked.

Years later, my grandson announced that he was going to have to start cheating because kids at his school were cheating and getting better grades and qualifying for better colleges. 

”You want to be a doctor some day?”


“Do you want to save people with your knowledge or kill them with your ignorance?”

OK. I didn’t say that either, but whatever I did say convinced him.

Which brings me to the most important word in the English language, “why”.

Why does character matter? Why should we be honest with each other? Why are cheating, stealing, and lying bad?

In today’s world, lack of character doesn’t seem to hold people back. From cable companies to insurance companies to banks, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, has become “Do unto others before they do unto you”.   

The good news? I think the pendulum might be swinging back. 


Look at our President.

Most politicians bend the truth. Many actually lie. But compare Bill Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” to Trump’s 18000 lies and counting. 

Most politicians try to put rose colored glasses on national emergencies, but compare George W Bush’s “Mission accomplished!” or “Good job, Brownie” to Trump’s “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it (coronavirus) miraculously goes away“.

Most politicians show respect to their counterparts. Trump has alienated everyone from France’s Macron to Japan’s Abe to Canada’s Trudeau. He’s threatened pulling out of NATO, established tariffs on the EU, Mexico, and Canada, deserted Kurdish soldiers on the battlefields of Syria, and ignored Russia’s bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Bye, Bye influence!

Instead of empathizing with Blacks, he encourages White Power.  

Instead of comforting a nation and leading the effort to combat Covid19, he ignores it, forcing 50 states to fend for themselves.  While other countries control the virus, the US sets records of new cases and deaths every day. Instead of wearing a mask, he turns masks into partisan symbols.

His political allies, once afraid of him, are starting to peel away. Florida’s Sen. Rubio: “Everyone should just wear a damn mask”. South Carolina Sen. Graham chastises Trump over defending the Confederate flag. Fox News refutes Trump’s  “99 % of Covid19 cases are totally harmless.” Even the Supreme Court, which Trump has tried to stack, ruled against him on DACA, the Dreamer program. 

The list of defectors, from Tillerson to Bolton, is long and growing.

Bye, Bye friends!

The result? Biden, the old school politician, is collecting more money than Trump. According to Fox News – yes, that Fox News – Biden was leading Trump by 8 points in May. Now it’s 12 points and growing.

I know it sounds crazy, but maybe, just maybe the country is looking for character again. 

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