Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s an important reminder of where hate leads. It’s also a reminder of the consequences of silence by good people. The last thing we should do is “accept” a man who has embraced many of the ideological characteristics that made the Holocaust possible.
The week since Trump took the oath of office (has it only been a week?) was like a continuous cruel joke on this day that people around the world dedicate to remembering where hate leads.
The Holocaust didn’t just happen one day. It began with words and propaganda much like what we have heard and seen from Donald Trump since the day he announced his candidacy. The words and propaganda were followed by armbands, national registries, banning people for who they are, taking rights away one by one. All that happened before the camps.
Trump is utilizing propaganda tactics that are the life’s blood of authoritarian regimes – regardless of ideology. It began with the illusion of massive support, thanks to paid fans, the day he announced a candidacy that would shock and horrify people with two or more brain cells to rub together.
Trump has supporters who hang on his every word to the point that even when he is caught in a boldfaced lie, they still “believe” he tells is like it is. It was like that from the earliest stages of Trump’s campaign.
Gas lighting was a frequent feature of Trump’s messaging. One unforgettable example was Trump’s claim that he “never’ supported the war in Iraq.
This past week, Trump tried to gas light America on attendance numbers at the Inauguration vs. the number of attendees at the Women’s March. He went so far as to order the chief of the Park Service to find proof to correspond with Trump’s alternative reality. The crème de la crème of gas lighting came with the lie about voter fraud by “illegals”. It’s a lie that increasingly looks as if it will bring dire consequences to legitimate voters.
We saw Trump’s ongoing attempt to browbeat the media into submission – as dutiful stenographers – a mere propaganda branch of the Trump regime. Following Trump’s “press conference”, where he lied profusely and attacked the media for challenging his lies; Sean Spicer reinforced the Putinesque ideology at his first official briefing. He lied frequently while scolding the media for calling out Trump’s lies. That was followed by Steve Bannon’s “the media needs to “keep its mouth shut” remark.
The hatred directed at Mexico was about pandering to the pathological hatred among Trump’s base and humiliating Mexico. Trump’s tactic may have pleased his base, but in the real world, it proved that governing isn’t just like running a business. As a result of Trump’s “negotiation tactic”, the president of Mexico canceled the scheduled meeting with Trump.
Trump’s threat to invade Chicago and his lies about crimes rates in Philadelphia were more red meat to his base and another confirmation of his authoritarian tendencies.
Trump’s approach to policy was as shocking to those who said give him a chance but predicable to anyone who was paying attention. Trump took the first steps to take healthcare away from 20 million Americans, abandon the TPP, “renegotiate” NAFTA, build that stupid wall, (though I prefer Vincente Fox’s adjective), turn our backs on refugees and put hostility towards immigrants into policy. It’s possible he may reinstitute torture and dark sites, though not without some form of resistance from within his own party.
Steve Bannon, is Trump’s chief strategist. In his prior job, Bannon hired and published Holocaust deniers. This week he hired Julia Hahn, a Breitbart writer known for attacking Paul Ryan as a White House aide. Some observers believe Hahn is there to bring Republicans to heel, as a Bannon’s Bannon.
Jeff Sessions’ racist past was enough to stop him from becoming an appellate court judge but, it appears, it won’t be enough to stop him from becoming the next Attorney-General. Predictably, Sessions and Bannon get along very well.
The incoming Secretary of State was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin. It’s the award that Putin gave to George Blake – a British double agent.
We also heard Trump lay the foundation for restricting, possibly eliminating elections as we know them. It began during the campaign as Trump talked about the “rigged” election system. It continued when he said he would question the election results unless he won. He warned of wide spread voter fraud in “certain” places – aka where lots of people of color live and vote, when he urged his supporters to “monitor” the polls. For a brief moment, Trump’s big lie about “voter fraud” proved detrimental. That’s when his lawyers acknowledged there was “no evidence of voter fraud” in response to a challenge to his electoral college victory.
This week Trump announced an intent to order an “investigation” into the voter fraud his own legal team said was nonexistent – when it suited Trump. That was then. Now Trump claims voter fraud was pervasive enough to hand him the humiliation of defeat by 3 million people in the popular vote. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, confirmed the investigation will happen during a private meeting with Republicans.
“What I can tell you is that I would anticipate that the administration is going to initiate a full evaluation of voting rules in the country, the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election,”
Those words should send a chill down every American’s spine.
Free and fair elections tend to become casualties of governments where lies become “alternative facts” and the president orders an investigation into something that never happened.
Also this week, Trump gagged government agencies and the purges of non-ideological career civil servants are underway.
All these events are not listed in order of importance, but to illustrate that Trump’s actions are standard procedure in any authoritarian regime.
This past week confirmed the worst fears of anyone who was paying attention. It’s also a reminder of why days like today matter.
Remembering the Holocaust is about remembering what happens when good people remain silent in the face of a government trying to normalize the horrifying and the unjustifiable.