In the early 1930s, Germany's Nazi Party presented itself as the new political option and Adolph Hitler rode to power on a wave of public dissatisfaction fueled by political instability and economic suffering.
Using military power, the goal was to establish a one-party totalitarian state. Opposing political organizations were banned and it became a crime to express a dissenting view. Political opponents were rounded up, detained in concentration camps or forced into exile.
It should be noted that in the early 20th century, Germany was one of the world's most civilized and technically advanced nations in the world, a hub of learning and culture. By 1938, the Nazi Party was admired for its economic policy, which appeared to have rescued Germany from the Great Depression and restore the nation to near full employment.
How then could a nation considered to be an advanced society open the door to one of history's most treacherous and genocidal regimes and maniacal tyrants in history? The Nazis were masters at public relations and Hitler was a master at manipulating an audience.
Thankfully, American society is no where close to the what the world saw and experienced under the fanatical Nazi leadership and their military state. But this year alone, some cracks have developed in our free society. The targeting of political opponents by the Internal Revenue Service, the tapping into personal telephone and email records and the suppression of individual rights are very troubling.
Last week, when President Obama appeared for a speech at the University of Central Missouri, another fault line to our freedoms surfaced. Ten College Republicans considered a security threat were refused admittance to hear the president, despite the fact that the students had tickets to the event.
Earlier in the day, the students, some wearing Tea Party T-Shirts and others with patriotic or Republican-inspired clothing, had protested the president on campus, but they did not bring their signs when security personnel denied them access to the recreation center. Courtney Scott, state treasurer of the College Republicans, said the group was told they weren't barred because of their politics but because the president's security and safety was at issue.
"It just didn't make any sense," Scott said later in an interview. "A lot of us traveled several hours to watch the speech. We were very disappointed not to be able to attend."
Some 2,500 other people who were not deemed security threats were allowed to see and hear Obama try to defend his sluggish economy.
Since it seems this administration is trying to explain its way out of a different scandal every week, trying to assemble a handpicked audience for the television cameras is not surprising. With the media in its pocket, the Obama team has become proficient in skating through the scandals.
A staged political event choreographed for the cameras is something we expect but when freedoms of individuals are sacrificed to make it happen, that does not reflect well on what is considered a free society. Seven decades ago, the world saw what can result when a controlling party uses its police powers to suppress or block out any political opposition.
By Jim Zbick