As a devout Jewish child who grew up attending synagogue and Hebrew School, from a very young age I was constantly surrounded by stories of the Holocaust – how Hitler took advantage of economic conditions, found an easy-to-identify “other” for a scapegoat, and rose to power by preying on people’s fear. Hitler started out with propaganda and ultimately built up to death camps that murdered millions of people. I studied the journals of Holocaust survivors, solemnly walked through the Holocaust Museum in D.C., and silently crept around Anne Frank’s secret annex in Amsterdam. I saw photos of the gas chambers, the emaciated bodies, the tattooed arms of the survivors. “Never Again” was burned into my psyche. My immigrant grandparents likely would have died in one of these Nazi death camps had their parents not already fled from the pogroms in Belarus around 1920.
As an adult, I had assumed that opposition to and rejection of Nazis, fascism, KKK, and other forms of white supremacy were so widespread and generally accepted that they would not be a threat in this country in my lifetime. Then last year, I watched Donald Trump take advantage of economic conditions and find easy-to-identify “others” for a scapegoat (immigrants & Muslims). I watched Donald Trump rise to power by preying on people’s fear. I watched in horror as Trump refused to disavow the support of KKK leader David Duke. I watched in horror as Trump demonized Mexican immigrants the same way that Hitler demonized the Jews. I watched in horror as Trump called for a ban on all Muslims, similar to Hitler’s ban on Jews. And I was stunned when millions of people nonetheless voted for this man who so clearly was stealing pages right out of Hitler’s playbook.
But for some reason, I still clung to a hope that Hitler’s playbook was just Trump’s election strategy, and that as President he would be different. To the contrary, Trump’s response to the domestic terrorist attack by a white supremacist in Charlottesville last week has shown once and for all what he truly is – an apologist, enabler, and incubator for white supremacism. If the driver of the car had been Muslim, Trump would have called it a terrorist attack. Instead, because the driver was a white supremacist, Trump says there is blame on “many sides” and “both sides.”
Trump has not once condemned the action as a domestic terrorist attack, but instead has insisted that there were “fine people” at the white supremacist rally where participants marched with torches and shouted “Jews will not replace us.” A president of a local synagogue in Charlottesville reports that “for half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them.” He further reports: “Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, ‘There’s the synagogue!’ followed by chants of ‘Sieg Heil’ and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.” He also reports that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn the synagogue so the congregation took “the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.” Worshippers were advised to exit from the back of the synagogue for their own safety. For all Jews who hear this story, there is a sickening feeling of déjà vu.
White supremacists have basked in Trump’s equivocation, stating in their propaganda website the Daily Stormer: “He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. . . When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” Likewise, KKK leader David Duke credits Trump as the inspiration for Charlottesville: “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” Duke said at the rally. “That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back. That’s what we gotta do.”
Trump’s equivocation and refusal to condemn and reject white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers, and the KKK demonstrate that he is not fit to be President.
Without a doubt, Trump and the white supremacists are still in the minority – confederate statues are being pulled or knocked down all over the country, business leaders are fleeing from Trump’s councils, charities are pulling their events from Trump’s properties, Republican leaders are distancing themselves from Trump, and all 16 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned in a letter that spelled out “RESIST.”
We too must continue to resist. We at CLDC will continue to provide legal support and education to all those resisting the dangerous racist and xenophobic Trump White House.