27 July 2007

The Gathering Storm

I'm probably the only one in my literary circle not to have yet read Churchill's first volume of his history of the Second World War. Be that as it may, it's one of the gifts my husband bought me for my birthday (the other were tickets to the Indianapolis Tennis Championships Finals match to watch one of my favorites, Andy Roddick). I'm making my way slowly through it, and I came along this interesting passage, in which Churchill ties the success of Hitler's rise to, among other things, the imposition of democracy on post-WWI Germany:

The prejudice of the Americans against monarchy, which Mr. Lloyd George mmade no attempt to counteract, had made it clear to the beaten Empire that it would have better treatment from the Allies as a republic than as a monarchy. Wise policy would have crowned and fortified the Weimar Republic with a constitutional sovereign in the person of an infant grandson of the Kaiser, under a Council of Regency. Instead, a gaping void was opened in the national life of the German people. All the strong elements, military and feudal, which might have rallied to a constitutional monarchy and for its sake respected and sustained the new democratic and Parliamentary processes were for the time being unhinged. The Weimar Republic, with all its liberal trappings and blessings, was regarded as an imposition of the German people. For a spell they sought to cling as in desperation to the aged Marshal Hindenburg. Thereafter mighty forces were adrift, the void was open, and into that void after a pause there strode a maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have ever corroded the human breast--Corporal Hitler.

Interesting. Quite frankly, I think Churchill was right. And he was undoubtedly correct about Americans' "prejudice" against monarchy. As American citizens, we are raised assuming that democracy is of course the best form of government, and any argument to the contrary raises the suspicion that one is in favor of fascism or tyranny--forgetting the fact that democracy is no more immune from corruption than monarchy, or that history is as full of benevolent monarchs as tyrannous ones. More on this later.