What Nazis Can Teach Us About American Police

In the wake of George Floyd's murder, everybody is talking about what to do next, how to overcome racism in this country. They argue about what laws to enact, whether or not to defund the police, how to invest in minority communities, etc. Frankly, I am much more interested in what makes white people hate people of color in the first place, which brings me back to the writings of Polish-Swiss psychologist, psychoanalyst, and philosopher Alice Miller.

Alice Miller
Miller made a career of examining the long-term effects of child abuse and the impact of repressed memories on the psyche. In her book For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, she examines German "poisonous pedagogy" as the cause of the rise of the Nazis and antisemitism. I will quote her for the rest of this blog, substituting the words "policemen" for Nazis, and "racism" for antisemitism. Her original writings were in German so I've had to make some adjustments.

"Every ideology offers its adherents the opportunity to discharge their pent-up [feelings] collectively while retaining the idealized primary object, which is transferred to new leader figures or to the group in order to make up for the lack of a satisfying [bonding] with the mother. Idealization of [the] group guarantees collective grandiosity. Since every ideology provides a scapegoat outside the confines of its own splendid group, the weak and scorned child [in oneself] who... has been split off and never acknowledged can now be openly scorned and assailed in the scapegoat."

Regarding police: "Someone who has learned at his peril to obey unwritten laws and renounce feelings at a tender age will obey the written laws all the more readily, lacking any inner resistance. But since no one can live entirely without feelings, such a person will join groups that sanction or even encourage the forbidden feelings, which he will finally be allowed to live out within a collective framework."

"Among the [policemen's] true motives we find:

The unconscious need to pass on to others the humiliation one has undergone oneself.
The need to find an outlet for repressed [anger].
The need to possess and have at one's disposal a vital object to manipulate.
The need to idealize one's childhood and one's parents...
Revenge for the pain one has suffered.

[Many policemen feel the need to] force the [victim in custody] to be obedient in order to satisfy his own need to be respected for the first time in his life.
A child who has been required to don the armor of 'virtue' at too early an age will seize upon the only permissible discharge; he will seize upon [racism] (i.e., his right to hate), retaining it for the rest of his life."

The fact that Trump rages and shouts and pounds his fists like Hitler did is no accident. People go into a trance when they are spoken to the same way an authoritarian parent spoke to them. White men are desperate to hold onto their false sense of superiority to others. What else do they have? 

Trump has also read and studied Mein Kampf. Melania said it was right on his night table.


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