This film, created shortly after World War II, attempts to warn Americans against the same divisiveness that split Germany and allowed for the Nazi rise to power. The immediacy of this effort to counter the “this couldn’t happen here” mentality that many Americans had coming out of the war fascinates me, and it breaks my heart that this film is as urgent to Americans today as it was back then.
An American man named Mike comes across an agitator speaking to a crowd, a self proclaimed “American American”, accusing minority groups of making things more difficult for “real” Americans. He proclaims the benefits of “a country without” these minority groups, a country left for people like him. Mike is almost convinced by the agitator’s words, until a Hungarian refugee from Germany sits him down to explain the tactics that are being used against him, using Germany’s fall as a parallel.
A divided people are easier to conquer, and prejudice is the tool used to create the division. It’s as true now as it was then, and while the film’s message is to not “be a sucker” and fall for these tactics, it reminds us that these attacks are deliberate, that our division is actually our unity, and that when we stand together, as people, we are unstoppable. It’s a tough watch but a powerful one.
Here are some of the quotes that stand out to me.
“Mike’s got something, alright – he’s got America. And there are guys who stay up nights trying to figure out a way to take that away from him.”
“They used prejudice as a practical weapon to cripple the nation”
“We human beings are not born with prejudices, always they are made for us, made by someone who wants something. Someone is going to get something out of it, and it isn’t going to be you.”
“We must not allow the freedom or dignity of any men to be threatened by any act or word.“
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