In September 2018 the Public Broadcasting System debuted a one-hour special which documented the rise of fascism in Western Europe in the 20th Century. It traced how fascism in Italy and Germany rose out of the aftermath of World War I.
Germany was blamed for starting World War I, though a lot of the responsibility belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm, the hotheaded eldest grandson of Queen Victoria. At the end of that war he fled to the Netherlands and lived there in exile until his death in 1941 at the age of 82, while Germany took the punishment for the war.
The documentary shows footage of both Hitler and Mussolini speaking passionately to huge crowds of people, and great masses of people cheering and waving.
People often bring up Hitler when talking about Trump, but after seeing news coverage of Trump’s first official 2020 campaign rally, and then seeing film of Mussolini giving a speech, I was struck by Trump’s similarity to Mussolini – the similarity of body language, the braggadocio, the hubris, and the self-satisfied smugness. Both stood back and smiled while their crowds cheered, Mussolini with his arms crossed and that huge chin in the air, Trump smirking and smiling.
Still, Trump’s rise has been Hitler-esque. First perceived as a clown, he astonished us and ended up president.
Hitler and Mussolini promised jobs and prosperity to their people, and those promises were key to their rise to power. In the early years of their regimes the German and Italian economies were gaining ground.
In 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Dachau was opened. It was a place to send dissidents. For some reason I always thought the camps came later, but no. They, or the intentions of having them, were in place right from the start.
America has camps now, for children, some of whom have died, all of whom are separated from family, and are living in crowded, unhealthy conditions.
Recently reporters were invited to tour a children’s facility, where the administrator of the camp said his feelings were hurt that people had said bad things about his camp. Three hundred children were shipped out before the reporters came, and the reporters said that the camp was clean, and not crowded, and the children were well-dressed and happy.
This story reminded me of Theresienstadt. Do you know what Theresienstadt was? Look it up.
I wonder how history will speak of us. Will America now be remembered as we remember Nazi Germany? America with a leader who gave speeches that got the crowds calling for, and sometimes shedding, blood? America making scapegoats of Hispanic families seeking asylum?
America with concentration camps.
You know, when I started writing this column back in 2002, I aspired to write humor. I still do that sometimes, and I will when I can, but it is impossible not to speak out now.
Trump is not Hitler. We are not Nazi Germany. We can stop making those comparisons. We have arrived: we are the same old evil in a contemporary package. We don’t have a short catchy name for our era yet, like “Nazi Germany,” but someone will come up with one.
There was a 7.1 earthquake in California last night (as I write). I was watching a live news report of first responders speaking about what happened, damage assessment, injuries or deaths, and as the video played, emojis flew up the side of the screen. Many of them were laughter emojis, which puzzled me. What was so funny about a huge earthquake, people losing electricity and water and gas lines fracturing and homes burning?
Then I started reading the comments scrolling at the side. Most were people saying, “Praying for you,” “Wishing you well,” and such sentiments, but some were, “This is God’s punishment on California,” and “The whole state should fall into the sea,” and “This happened because of the evil liberals in California.”
This basin in the Sierras, east of the San Joaquin Valley, where the earthquake took place, is hardly what I would think of as a liberal stronghold – we’re talking the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, farmers, working people, the Mojave Desert, and the routes to Death Valley and Mount Whitney.
The haters on the web page were part of the Trump base.
This era, this administration, is the culmination of years of propaganda (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News), hard times for working people, and the unenlightened self-interest of the people running the show.
Not to mention the unwillingness of a lot of people like me to believe that our political opponents would stoop this low.
For what it is worth, earthquakes are caused by the shifting of tectonic plates. If they were caused by God’s wrath, I think his (because you do believe God is a guy, right?) aim would have been better.