Totalitarianism always starts with people who believe they know best and are willing to use government power to enforce their ideas.
- Ron Ball
Francesco was five years old when he traveled with his parents to the United States in 1905. His family relocated to California and immediately began work in the lush fields picking fruit.
When Francesco was six he joined his father in the fields and soon demonstrated an unusual level of ambition. As he aged he added a newspaper route and continually probed for new opportunities.
When he neared high school graduation, the young man applied to and was accepted as a student at the California Institute of Technology to study chemical engineering. He paid for his education by working in the campus laundry, waiting on tables in local restaurants and playing the banjo at campus events. He completed his degree and moved into the larger world determined to succeed.
When Francesco was 24 he filmed a brief documentary that caught the attention of movie executives at Columbia Studios. That, and his skill in chemistry (a valuable ingredient in early filmmaking,) opened the door to direct what were called “quickies”, short, silent films rented out to local theaters.
Francesco developed his craft until in 1934 he directed a movie that became a national sensation. It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, was the biggest money maker of the year and won the best picture, best director, best actor, best actress and best screenplay Oscars at the Academy Awards presentation, an accomplishment not repeated until 1975.
Francesco Capra, who had now changed his name to Frank, was suddenly the most powerful director in Hollywood. In 1938 he won three more Oscars including another best director award.
Frank then decided to make a film that would express his gratitude to his adopted country. He began to develop a movie idea about American ideals of freedom, integrity, personal opportunity, the danger of big government and, what he thought of, as God- given principles of individual liberty.
He recruited a young rising star named Jimmy Stewart and called his film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The movie tells the story of an honorable man who confronts a hostile and corrupt Washington establishment to return government to the citizens for whom it was created.
The movie was released in 1939, in what most film historians consider the “golden year” of Hollywood cinema. Even though it faced strong competition from Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and other legendary films it was nominated for best picture.
This is where the story moves in a surprising direction. Mr. Smith was exported to Europe and became wildly popular in France. When several liberal political leaders objected to the film’s uncompromising portrayal of the greatness of traditional American values and beliefs and wanted it withdrawn from foreign markets, even President Franklin Roosevelt stepped in and supported the film and its clear message.
In 1941, Mr. Smith was selected in a national poll of French moviegoers as their favorite film and continued to draw large crowds of repeat viewers.
By 1942 the Nazi invaders controlled France and were determined to destroy any influence that opposed their godless and oppressive agenda. They decided that Mr. Smith was far too dangerous to allow people to continue to see. They released an edict banning the film. The French were outraged and refused to obey. One theater owner in Paris defiantly screened the film every day for thirty one days to packed houses.
The Nazi government then confiscated all copies of the film that they could locate. Underground resistance groups retained a few precious prints and continued to secretly show the movie to resistance fighters for the remainder of the war. Many brave men and women drew inspiration and courage from simply watching Mr. Smith.
Why did the Nazi’s hate this movie with such intensity? What made them spend time and money, in the middle of a devastating war, to try to stop its influence and eradicate its presence?
The simple answer is that the Nazi’s feared ideas more than they feared guns and soldiers. They recognized that if the war of belief is lost there is no hope for victory. They feared Mr. Smith because Mr. Smith, honored American ideals of individual liberty and such freedoms as speech, assembly, the right to bear arms and the worship of God that the Nazi’s rightly realized would destroy their chance for big government domination. The Nazi’s knew that they could not completely control a world where Mr. Smith was popular and available and they hated it. The freedom loving French resistance also knew that the Nazi’s could not completely control a world where Mr. Smith was popular and available, and because of that, they loved it.
According to research published by The American Holocaust Museum (August 18, 2015,) information highlighted by Mark Weber of The Institute for Historical Review and historical facts presented by Edgar Feuchtwanger in his book From Weimar to Hitler, there were eight basic strategies the Nazi’s used to control Germany and other countries to advance their evil plans.
- Economic Dictatorship.
The Nazi government used wage and price controls, intensive regulation of business, high taxes and large scale government borrowing to create an economy where the government programs became the only hope of most people.
- Educational Control.
The Hitler led party insisted on a Nazi approved curriculum (especially in history) and indoctrinated children and teenagers in “total Nazi culture” through careful regulation of all schools.
- The Marginalization of Religion.
Hitler and his associates made clear that pastors and church leaders could preach and teach whatever they wanted as long as they stayed within the walls of their churches. They had complete freedom of speech only if they agreed to stay out of politics and not address people outside of their congregations.
- Shut Down Public Debate.
Public debate and discussion was not tolerated. Any individual who expressed any view in opposition to Nazi ideology was shamed and punished legally and socially.
- A Culture of Dependency Was Created.
Aggressive campaigns were executed to make as many people as possible dependent on the government.
- Attack and Undermine Sexual Morality.
The Nazi government was determined to promote sexually explicit film and entertainment so that traditional values would weaken; people would develop an obsessive interest in sexual experience and become distracted enough to control.
- Replace the Authority of the Family.
Nazi women’s clubs and Nazi youth organizations were designed to replace the central figure of the father so that people would shift their loyalty to the state.
- Rule by Elites.
The Nazi machine worked continually to persuade citizens that the Nazi leaders had superior knowledge and ability and “knew best” what people needed.
It is obvious that the message of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington represented the opposite of everything the Nazi movement desired and hoped for. People who believed that message were the Nazi’s greatest enemies.
Human sinfulness guarantees that certain people will always seek to use collective government to force other people into subjugation. Totalitarianism always starts with people who believe they know best and are willing to use government power to enforce their ideas.
I was told by a nationally respected pollster that large numbers of young Americans now believe that socialistic government control of business and personal life is the best model for a prosperous and safe future.
But this ignores three things.
First, socialistic economics don’t work. Second, big government never voluntarily becomes smaller. Unchecked, it always moves in a totalitarian direction. And third, government growth is always built on the loss of freedom. Our founding fathers recognized this when they created a system of government that is controlled by checks and balances and is held back by a Bill of Rights. They understood that true freedom is the gift of God not the permission of a government.
The lessons of Mr. Smith are needed now. The Nazis were right to fear the message of this movie. The forces that oppose freedom will always fear a message that upholds that freedom. That is why they fear debate. That is why they fear the lessons of history. That is why they fear the original sourcebook of freedom, the Bible.
What choice will you make? Will you be a warrior for liberty? If Mr. Smith went to Washington to fight for the necessity of the American dream, what will you do to win this war today?
A free America can continue to export Godly values to the world. A free America can continue to give hope.
Make the light of freedom burn bright. That light is needed now more than ever.
I encourage you to begin restoring America by five important actions.
- Know the issues and how to debate them.
You can receive excellent training in critical thinking from conservative resource leaders like The American Family Association and the Heritage Foundation.
Contact them today and find out what positive weapons are available. Don’t just shout ideas; give persuasive reasons for those ideas.
You can also access important information at ChooseGreatness.com
- Become involved in local government.
Either run for office (especially the school board) or, at least, attend city and community meetings and make your views known.
- Learn to present your beliefs and ideas in an appealing and attractive way.
You may be angry over the direction of America but develop the skill to not seem angry. You will win more people to your position when you are firm and clear and also friendly and respectful. Ronald Reagan is valuable example of the power of promoting conservative ideas in a way that makes people feel good about those ideas.
- Join networks of like-minded people to create more opportunity.
Meet people at conferences and retreats. Start independent businesses and create alliances with other business owners. Find effective ways to improve at your job .Financial freedom can give you a secure base to advance your cause.
- Pray and ask God’s help.
Join with other people to form prayer teams. The Bible says in Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” God is our hope, no one else.
What are you waiting for? You can do this. You can help win this war!