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Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

Legislature Building Destroyed by Fire

I’ve spent the past month wrestling with myself. Each time I’ve contemplated writing another blog post about autism, a little voice (not so little, actually) has spoken up: “How can you blog about autism when there’s something so much more important happening?” I kept trying to put that voice aside, hoping the feeling would pass, but each time I sat down to write, the same thing happened. So I’m giving up. I’m not going to write about autism screening, or the latest genetic discovery, or of the interesting papers I’ve been reading on the topic of autism and the legal system (and they have been very interesting). Instead, I’m going to write about the thing I seem compelled to write about. So – You’ve been warned.

Legislature Building Destroyed by Fire. The Chief Executive – who only weeks earlier had come to power on the promise that he would “Make our country great again” – declares a national emergency and suspends the Constitution “for the protection of the people and the State.” Civil rights are abolished, including “personal liberty, the right of free expression of opinion, freedom of the press, and the right of assembly.” Homes may be searched, and property may be confiscated, without a warrant. States’ Rights are abolished. Henceforth, all regional and local governmental agencies must follow directives from the Central Government. Punishment for failure to obey ranges from fines to imprisonment to execution. Operating under the decree of national emergency, the Chief Executive begins a nationwide roundup of political dissidents, foreigners, and selected religious groups.

Fiction? I wish it was. The USA on the morning of September 12, 2001? Thankfully not. No, we’re speaking of Germany, and the year is 1933. You can read the entire decree (in German and English) here. The rest, as they say, is history.

History never repeats itself exactly the same way twice, but the lessons of the past are there for us to consider, and even though circumstances change, human nature is a constant. Strongmen promise protection to a fearful populace, but in the end their strongman habits get the better of them, and those to whom they promised “protection” wind up as victims.

I would like protection too. But I fear destruction from within as much as any external threat. It’s a weird coincidence that today is March 15: The “ides of March,” on which Caesar was murdered and democracy in ancient Rome torn asunder. Alas, Brutus and Cassius have their contemporary counterparts.

Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Must the rest of us also?


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James Coplan, MD is an Internationally recognized clinician, author, and public speaker in the fields of early child development, early language development and autistic spectrum disorders. Join Dr. Coplan on Facebook and Twitter. Have a question for Dr. Coplan? Ask the doctor.


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