Who the hell is he? I know many of you may be saying that, while some may readily know. (Others will Google and know the meaning of this post before finishing reading….millennials.)
But who he is—and more importantly, what he stood for—is of grave importance today. There is a sentiment that hate and racism will root themselves out, or that we can unite and soothe over the ills plaguing America today. But I counter with this sentiment: that exact point of view is the reason we are here. Yes, there should be tolerance and acceptance of difference, but I fundamentally believe that negotiation with evil is a win for evil. For evil knows its place as the outlier along the spectrum of humanity. Sympathy with evil from the masses allows it to grow and to eventually become the mass if unchecked.
Now back to August….
August Landmasser was a German who was the epitome of a MAVERICK. He is the lone dissenter amongst his cohort in a famous picture taken in Hamburg, Germany, in 1936. What the photo shows is chilling in hindsight: hundreds of shipyard workers and Nazi party members all heiling in unison to the almighty Fuhrer Hitler. August is the lone Maverick, the unorthodox thinker not subscribing to the idiotic doctrine of the Nazi party.
Though he had joined the Nazi party earlier, August had begun to realize the error in his choice as he learned more about the foundation on which the party stood. This is an important aspect to highlight. He realized he made a mistake and was brave enough to admit that to himself. The introspective ability to analyze his actions and what they enabled was critical to his revelation.
Germany’s persecution of Jews before and during World War II—its elevation of one race or identity over another, based on lies—has eerie parallels in the current age of the QAnon and Trump supporter’s platform.
The German machine lied about the Jews to separate them from the Germans. It built an image of German national pride that fed on the country’s need to regain its international standing, which had been shattered in the First World War. Its lies and hatred for anyone other than "aryan" were much like those that have been masked in U.S. political rhetoric and policy over the last four years.
Remember it was American Racism that influenced Hitler.
But it was love that enabled August to see. See, the linchpin of this story is LOVE, not hate. August was in love with a Jewish woman, but the newly enacted Nuremburg Laws made their relationship illegal. No marriage, no sex—August could not in any way act upon the desires of his heart, because of the lie permeating Germany about a sect of people.
But this is not about the Nazis, who are resembled today by elements of the Republican party under Trump who focus on alienation, persecution, and denial of “others” on the “outside.” This is about a man who, with one singular action, defined his legacy.
I don’t know too much else about August Landmesser besides this singular act, but I do know this act took courage, bravery and the confidence to dissent from the masses based on his belief.
Who knew back then that the antisemitic mindset would be the motivation behind the death of six million of our brothers and sisters? August more than likely didn’t understand the destruction this mindset would cause, but he knew it wasn’t right and needed to be opposed. The danger in allowing evil to breathe is giving it more life. Yet innocence is choked and kneeled out of those pleading for life today.
Those who want humane treatment are beaten, maced, jailed, and persecuted by people who cite laws with no foundation in morality. Our compass is calibrated to due south rather than due north.
More important than what we witness in this photo is what August was feeling. The heart often feels what can’t be seen; it’s strange how we are blessed with this intuition. Some of us will ignore it, and some of us will not. Those who do the latter are Mavericks. Those who act are August Landmessers.
For evil within will spill and good within will also follow suit.
I ask you, can a bad tree produce good fruit?
Where are we, that how we treat each other doesn’t tug at the heart? Is it cowardice to subscribe to something wrong to gain protection from persecution? I studied this belief in school when analyzing the Nuremburg trials and asking, were they evil, or were they complicit out of fear?
But what is there to be afraid of today in a free society? Maybe I am naïve, but I write this to open dialogue and to understand the motivations of others.
Will you be killed for stepping out and saying Black Lives Matter? Will you lose anything in allowing others to have the same experience? I don’t know that answer, because I don’t reside on that side of the fence, but I do know there is a community that will embrace and protect those that see and feel different in any circumstance.
I write this on the heels of January 6th, on which the world witnessed the violence of terrorists trying to overthrow our government, only to then see them supported by certain lawmakers and hollowed-out leaders heiling with them.
But who are the Mavericks of today? Where are the damn August Landmessers with courage to stand out from their peers and bring truth to society?
In my studies at Wake Forest, I personally was fascinated with the power of Joseph Goebbels and his masterful use of propaganda to control a nation, fueled by his ulterior motives and aspirations for power. He was strategic to the point of purposefully delaying Hitler’s speeches to let the crowd bake in the sun and stir up agitation. He put them in the perfect state to hear Hitler’s message. They say the devil is in the details, and boy, oh boy—diabolical is an intelligent trait. But more fascinating is the revelation that we have been here before. This isn’t new.
However, when our country faced the worst type of human treatment in the past, it placated and even rewarded those responsible. (For example, with the Missouri Compromise, or Andrew Jackson giving land back to slaveowners).
My intention was to write this as a motivational piece to inspire other Mavericks to have confidence in their dissent against what is being accepted in society. But as I write, I understand that TRUTH matters, and to only focus on the motivation will undermine the importance of explaining the truth of what we are experiencing.
We are living in history as we speak, and those ignorant of past transgressions will continue to commit them in the future. August Landmesser knew back then what a nation, a world, would come to realize much too late. Why?… Love for another seemed to be the catalyst for removing the cowardice and ignorance within his spirit, empowering him to be different. No matter the consequences or ridicule, the peace of his soul mattered more. The humane treatment of everyone was not a negotiation.
So, I ask again, where the hell are the August Landmessers in America? Where are they in everyday society, corporate America, the judicial system, the Republican and DEMOCRACTIC parties?!?!
Where are those who will stand defiantly, arms crossed, making a statement amongst their family, friends, coworkers and loved ones?
Where are the Mavericks? It’s time to DISRUPT🔴