Thursday, April 13, 2017

Difference in Degree

Most people know about the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, but very few know about the 5 million “others.” And who were the others? Homosexuals,Romas (gypsies), the mentally or physically disabled, intellectuals, artists and political dissenters. (Yes, that’s 5 million others.) The Master Race was not messing around with anyone who didn’t look or act like this family.

Now fast-forward to America. Our President publicly mocked a physically-disabled reporter, is banning and hoping to register Muslims, is hoping to dismantle gay rights, hopes to build a wall to keep out those vagabond Mexicans, is defunding the National Endowment of the Arts and is publicly insulting artists (Meryl Streep, the cast of Hamilton) and is threatening the future of intelligence in America by appointing an incompetent to head the Department of Education. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the parallels with the political atmosphere in Nazi Germany.

Of course, things are not as extreme—yet—in America. But the difference between the two in more a difference in degree, not in kind. At the bottom is the belief that some people are the real Americans and the rest don’t belong. And the latter should be kicked out or kept out or have their civil rights reduced. The same-old same-old that happened in 1933 in Germany and look where that got us.

But to be fair, the difference in degree is significant. Hitler and his henchmen simply killed all 11 million that didn’t look like the family in the poster and Trump doesn’t seem anywhere close to that plan. In fact, Trump doesn’t seem to have a plan at all and that’s a relief. Hitler was a megalomaniac with a vision and one he was able to communicate to a desperate population in need of a savior. Trump is a megalomaniac with no plan except to get people to adulate him and earn some more money in the process. Yes, he’s mean-spirited and throwing around policies that already are causing harm, but it’s all entertainment to him, fodder for his pathologically narcissistic machine. Even the ones that zealously voted for him are discovering that there’s no promise that he won’t change in a minute if it feeds his ego. Like Hitler, he’s promising salvation to the disaffected whites who want to join the club and like Hitler, he won’t deliver anything but more pain and shame and suffering. But hopefully unlike Hitler, he won’t be building death camps and so far, our long-time history of freedom to criticize and resist is holding steady. Meryl Streep, Colin Kaepernick, Bernie Sanders and the like are not yet in jail and Facebook continues uncensored.

Trump aside, the part of American culture that elected him and is sustaining and carrying out his tomfoolery is that part that unconsciously believes in the Master Race that they think they’re part of. The good-ole-boys-club. It’s as American as your local country club, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Tea Party. Entry fee is straight-rich-white-male (with a Stepford-wife)-Protestant (but not Baptist)-Republican and the rest of you bastards can get off your lazy asses to work to get where we did, though we still will never let you move next door, Mr. Million-Dollar Rapper. Norman Rockwell already painted the Propaganda Poster and believe me, you’re not in it, no matter how wholesome your Thanksgiving dinner is.

Let us take heed. Compared to the Nazi terror, Trump’s gestures seem mild, but one thing can lead to another if not held in check. There’s a small comfort in the difference of degree, but no comfort in the parallel ideology, whether spoken or felt, that people who worship differently, look different, have different sexual preferences, have different ethnic backgrounds, are targets for institutionalized hatred and fear. History is begging us to learn a lesson here. Let us take heed. Let us take heed.

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