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What do Republicans have in common with German and Japanese soldiers?

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There’s a German term, kadaverische Gehorsamkeit, that means “corpse-like obedience.” It refers to a supposed personality tendency of Germans to be docile and unquestioning in the face of authority. The idea is illustrated by a story Stalin described, at the Teheran conference in 1943, that was revealed by Averell Harriman in a memoir.

“He [Stalin] told of visiting Leipzig in 1907, when some two hundred German workers failed to appear at an important rally because, Stalin said, there was no controller on the railway platform to punch their tickets on arrival.” Without properly punched tickets, the German workers “were too timid to leave the station.”

That is kadaverische Gehorsamkeit–corpse-like obedience. (Incidentally, Hannah Arendt, in her little book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” refers to Kadavergehorsam [a shortened way of spelling it] as characterizing Adolf Eichmann’s “carrying out orders that are clearly criminal” due to his concept of “duty.”)

Why would anyone stand by someone advocating “orders that are clearly criminal”? I asked myself that question yesterday when reading this article, “Backers stay true to Trump,” in the San Francisco Chronicle. It describes how—despite Trump’s historically low approval ratings and “repeated contradictions and falsehoods”–his “hard-core supporters’ faith appears to be unshakeable.” Indeed, the most recent Pew Research Center poll found that a whopping 84% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters approve of him. (By contrast, only 8% of Democrats/Lean Democratic voters share that approval.)

What are we to make of this “stand by your man” obstinacy by Republicans? Kadaverische Gehorsamkeit–corpse-like obedience.

One of the Trumpists interviewed for the Chronicle article showed how far these people are willing to rationalize Trump’s erratic behavior. The man, described as “the former president of the Sun City Conservative Club outside Las Vegas,” dismissed the reports about Flynn and the Russian connection; he just doesn’t care. Another pro-Trump guy, a county Republican chairman from Ohio, echoed the White House/Bannon line: All the chaos and false moves, the slapdowns by the Courts and the embarrassing litany of lies, “are [coming from] people inside the administration who are trying to undermine him.”

This brings us back to World War II, and another example of kadaverische Gehorsamkeit. Members of my generation no doubt remember that, well into the 1950s, there were reports of Japanese soldiers still hiding out on remote Pacific islands, who refused to believe (or didn’t know) that their Emperor had surrendered (on August 15, 1945) and were determined to fight the war out. These “remaining Japanese soldiers” (Zanryu nipponhei) “continued to fight the enemy forces, and later local police, for years after the war was over.” They, too, were kadaverische Gehorsamkeit—obedient to the point of obstinate refusal to accept reality.

Such people by clinical definition cannot have their minds changed, or, if they can, only under the most difficult circumstances of therapy. Will these Trumpian Republicans remain obedient corpses, even unto the end? We can only hope they’ll wake up. Meanwhile, we—the sane—will continue #TheResistance.

TRUMP’S LIE OF THE DAY: from his @RealDonaldTrump twitter feed: “The repeal and replacement of ObamaCare is moving fast!”  #Lie. It’s hopelessly stalled. Even Congressional Republicans have no idea what to “replace” it with, if and when they repeal it.

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