It is always a tricky business comparing events in contemporary America to Nazi Germany. It can often come off as insensitive, or as minimizing the horrific scale of the Holocaust. Yet, as my editor at The Typescript has often said, we study history in order to make comparisons with the past, and comparison is not equation. And the moment a whistle-blower came forward to report that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was forcing hysterectomies on detained migrant women, the comparison became obvious. This is Trump’s America – we have to speak up.
Groups like ANTIFA and other political activists on the left have been screaming “Nazi” at conservative Americans for decades. The accusation was often little more than attempts by self-righteous white saviors to silence anyone who disagreed with their political perspectives. But it turns out that they were onto something. We are long past the Godwin point in our national conversation.
There is deep-seated racism and antisemitism just beneath the surface of conservative and libertarian political discourse that white conservatives choose either to ignore or accept because, deep-down they agree with it. It is possible, of course, that many conservatives are simply too blinded by white-privilege to fully understand their own rhetoric, but either way, the hate that fueled conservative and libertarian politics has always been there, right in front of their faces.
Stories about the grasp of the Federal Reserve and how the “New World Order” is secretly undermining American society and culture have their roots in the century-old libel of the international Jewish conspiracy. In this narrative, shadowy Jewish elites are attempting to shape America in the Jewish image rather than the image of Christ (who, ironically enough, was Jewish). Even conservative Christian support for the State of Israel has antisemitic undertones: they advocate for Israeli control of all of Israel and Palestine because the that it will trigger Armageddon. At that point, they believe, Jesus will return and put Christians, and not Jews, in control of the “New Israel.” Conservative policies like the requirement of ID cards to vote are simply meant to prevent poor and brown people from voting. The conservative push for defunding public education is all about a desire to prevent black and brown upward mobility. The border wall is about preventing the “browning of America.”
The point is: conservatives know what their rhetoric is about. Whether they say it out loud is a different story, but they know.
They knew that Collin Kaepernick’s protest wasn’t against America, or the flag, or the troops, but they want black people to be silent. Trump supporters knew all along about children being locked in cages, endemic sexual assault at ICE facilities, the starvation, and the failures to provide children with medical care, but they don’t care. They know that the reports of forced hysterectomies – an actual act of genocidal crime – are true. But they don’t care because, like Trump minion Stephen Miller, the modern American conservative is happy to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent the “browning of America.”
We read about the atrocities of the Holocaust and we ask ourselves how could the German people not know what was going on. The truth is that they did. Look at their propaganda. Look at how and where the ghettos and camps were built. Look at what the German popular culture said about Jews at the time. The shocking thing isn’t that Germans didn’t know what was going on in the 1930s and 1940s, but that they most certainly did. They simply didn’t care, or they approved, because Adolf Hitler was restoring German pride.
That sounds ever… so… familiar.
German rhetoric and actions reflected both an acceptance and knowledge that the Holocaust was occurring. By the same token, modern conservative rhetoric shows us that conservative Americans are acutely aware of what is going on in the prison camps that house brown people on our borders, and they are okay with it.
Those Germans under the Nazi regime who did object mostly though not universally – kept their heads down and the mouths shut. They remained quiet out of fear and many, in the backs of their minds, even agreed with what the Nazis were doing, even if they didn’t admit it to themselves. The fact that some Germans, a tiny few like Sophie Scholl and the courageous young activists of the White Rose, did speak up makes their silence as deplorable as ever. There was no excuse for it but cowardice.
Neither is there an excuse for silence in America. We know what is going on. We know the end-game of the conservative movement. No one can. in good conscience, remain silent and hide behind the excuse that we “must respect all opinions”. No, we do not have to respect all opinions, especially when those opinions lead to the death and murder of others. I wish it was hyperbole, but sadly it is not: we are at the tipping point of falling into the same horrors of Nazi Germany. We have a chance to stop it, but only if we have the courage to speak up and call out hate as hate. We must save the soul of America because clearly it is on the verge of death.