I’ve found the recent letters decrying the comparison of Trump to Hitler highly amusing. Actually, they’re a sign of America’s decline into a second-rate power, but I figure we better laugh while we can, especially since people are so willing to humiliate themselves publicly.
Growing up in the 1950s after World War II, every American learned how Hitler came to power. It was unavoidable. WWII was the equivalent of a million 9/11s, and no political and military history had ever been so meticulously documented in film, photographs and print.
So what causes Trumpists to take umbrage at such comparisons? The first reason is their knowledge of history is non-existent. The second is that ignorance is willful.
To remedy this, a few suggestions: First is to read William L. Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Released in 1960, it sold in the millions, and to this day, I don’t think any single book has captured the full sweep of the Nazi rise in such detail, witnessed firsthand.
The second suggestion is to read Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer.” The Trump adherent will immediately recognize himself when Hoffer writes “the quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard for the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.” Or when it comes to acknowledging election results, “it is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.”
The third suggestion is a dose of Hannah Arendt, who wrote of the “Banality of Evil.” In wartime Germany, everyone—the clerk, the baker, the mechanic—not only could drive past nearby concentration camps with the windows rolled up, they could also pretend the stench of death that hung for miles did not exist but had no idea what was taking place inside them.
Just as Trump supporters today pretend the massive national effort to suppress voting rights doesn’t exist or the public calls to hang Dr. Fauci or execute General Milley “live on C-SPAN” aren’t coming from their own party. Or that appeals to treat the history of Nazism “impartially” in our schools isn’t coming from Republicans. Neither does the evidence that Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was actively organizing an overthrow of a duly elected government.
Or when Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” him enough votes to overturn the election and threaten the official with a criminal offense.
There are other voices, like the late architect Stephen B. Jacobs, who wrote that “America today is exactly like 1930 Berlin.” He should know. He survived Buchenwald. Then there’s Reagan’s former solicitor general who was born in Prague in 1936 and says today “he hears the same tunes.”
How can anyone look at pre-war footage of Hitler’s Brown Shirts driving their trucks through German cities, bedecked with flags and nationalist regalia, and not see a carbon copy in today’s “Proud Boys” and “Patriot Front” engaging in precisely the same intimidation?
The question to Trump supports decrying a comparison of Trump to Hitler is a simple one: How do you NOT see it?
Lastly is Frederick Bedell’s plea, where he writes:
“What the insurrectionists did by attacking our Capitol was appalling not to mention an assault on our democracy. The Jan. 6 attack was a sad day for our country, and we must not let this happen again. But what I don’t like is the attack, in my view, by Democrats on my fellow Republicans.”
Who does Mr. Bedell think is wholly responsible for the attempted coup? The Whigs?
Mr. Bedell would also do well to read the words of author A.R. Moxon:
“Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but because of a hope for restored patriotism or a sense of economic anxiety or a hope to preserve their religious values or dislike of their opponents or raw politic opportunism or convenience or ignorance or greed. That word is “Nazi.” Nobody cares about their motives.”
The Republican Party, to the last man, is a cancer on American polity. There are no exceptions. And if Trump wins again, they will all fall in with him like a heap of swords piled as delicately as jackstraws.