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The Carletonian

The unseen bearers of Trump’s legacy of hate

< many of you, am terrified of the imminent Trump presidency. I fear for a world where Muslims are derided for their religion, a right granted them by the First Amendment and by basic human decency. I fear for a world where immigrants are blamed for effects wholly out of their control, and become the target of unwarranted and undeserved violence. I fear for a world where African Americans are threatened based on the color of their skin, a fear that should have been eliminated with the Thirteenth Amendment and with the decades of social and intellectual progress since then. I fear for a world where young women must come of age under the auspices of a blatantly misogynistic President, and where women every day must continue fighting to break a glass ceiling that we all hoped would have been shattered already. I also fear for a community not explicitly targeted by Trump as of yet, but one that somehow persistently falls victim to oppression and persecution. I fear for my community, the Jewish community.

Donald Trump seems to bring the worst out in those that listen to him. His entire campaign was built around racially and ethnically divisive vitriol, which, as the election results unequivocally show, resonated with a large portion of the American electorate. Now, with fear, hatred, and scapegoating squatting in the White House, those tendencies have been given the green light to come out in full force.

The historical analogy that comes to mind is not one exercised lightly. I often lament the frequent comparisons to Nazi Germany made to policies and politicians the world over, yet here it seems applicable. In the early 1930s, the economic and cultural system set up under the Weimar Republic had failed the German people spectacularly. In an age of modernism and globalism, spurred by technological revelations and faster, more reliable communications systems, the traditionalists in German society saw their ways of life being eclipsed (sound familiar?) In response, they democratically elected a party built around blatantly fascist principles with a party leader who had a readily apparent agenda of ethnic partition (sound familiar?) It took only two months after this democratic election for the Nazis to assume total control of the state, creating for themselves a broad mandate to enact policies deemed necessary for the ethnic and cultural empire predicated on the Germanic blood that they so desired. With this mandate, the Nazis embarked on an intense propaganda campaign aimed at indoctrinating the German people into their ideology, eventually making it socially acceptable to persecute and discriminate against others based on their religious or ethnic heritage. And, to use a light phrase for a dark subject, the rest was history.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am not suggesting that Donald Trump will unleash the horrors of the Nazi regime into 21st century America. Perhaps it is my youthful naivety or maybe it is my optimistic perspective, but I wholeheartedly refuse to believe that the state-perpetrated horrors of the 20th century will ever be repeated in Western democracies. I am less optimistic, however, about relations among individuals.

Already, we have seen the manifestations of Trump’s hateful rhetoric. Minorities have indiscriminately been subjected to taunting, abuse, and “white-lashing.” Jews are no exception. Fueled by Trump’s implicit anti-Semitism throughout his campaign (most notably, but certainly not exclusive to, his powerfully anti-Semitic final ad campaign),  individuals across the country have taken up the charge of directing hatred towards Jews. As reported by Buzzfeed, a swastika was recently graffitied, accompanied by the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil,” on a closed storefront in South Philadelphia. In San Francisco, NBC reported anti-Semitic leaflets calling Jews “serpents” being distributed near a BART station, the Bay Area’s local subway system. During a campaign rally in October, Trump supporters chanted “Jew-S-A!,” with some asserting that Jews control the media (a theme we’ve seen before with the now-debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion).

I can’t help but think that this is just the beginning. Emboldened by Trump’s brazen rhetoric, I fear that latent anti-Semitism will continue to come out of the woodwork during his presidency. I fear that the legacy of Kristallnacht, whose anniversary fell on the day of Trump’s ascendency, will be forgotten.

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