Last week I was in the capitol of my home state to watch the legislative proceedings. While I was in the senate gallery watching them discuss a bill on limiting the governor’s power to mandate masks, a boy who looked around 16-17 walked in without a mask on. Since masks are required in my state’s capitol right now, a “mask ambassador” promptly confronted him as he was taking his seat and ordered him to put his mask on. He did so, but didn’t pull it over his nose. A few seconds later when the ambassador noticed, he walked over to the social distanced boy again and ordered him to pull it over his nose or he would have to leave. The boy did so, but after the mask ambassador walked out of sight, he pulled it under his nose again.
To the boy’s misfortune, an agitated non-elected official on the senate floor noticed and signaled to the “mask ambassador”. The ambassador told the boy to leave. It was almost 5:00—the end of the day—and the senate was in the final vote. The boy told the ambassador that he wasn’t quite ready to leave as the final vote wasn’t finished. The ambassador then gestured to three Highway Patrolmen, calling them over. They got the boy out of there pretty quick.
What do you think? Should the boy really have gotten kicked out? No one was nearer than six-feet around him, he wasn’t leaning over the railing, he wasn’t being noisy, he wasn’t doing anything dangerous or anything wrong, he simply left his nose showing. I’d say our society is at a dangerous stage if we are kicking people out of government buildings for not wearing a mask.
When Nazi Germany was just beginning, they didn’t just suddenly go kill the Jews (and other German citizens). Instead, they started by making them wear stars. Then they started to take their bikes. They kept taking little baby steps until they were to the point where they could kill millions of Jews without getting major pushback from German citizens.
There are lots of lessons that we can learn from the Nazi Germany Era. One of my favorite quotes reads: “Education is not memorizing that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. Education is understanding how millions of ordinary Germans were convinced that it was required. Education is learning how to spot the signs of history repeating itself.”
My hope is that we will learn to recognize signs of history repeating itself before it’s too late. I hope that, as Thomas Jefferson instructed, people of good conscience will not remain silent. We must always be on the lookout for small steps of tyranny, because as George Washington taught about government, “A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”