William McGurn, one of the Wall Street Journal writers whose basic worldview seems to be in line with mine, did not cover himself with glory today. Though he had some valid points, …
Let us stipulate that Donald Trump is unique … Mr. Trump tramples on the expected norms for a president.
Some detect in Mr. Trump’s brand of vituperation an assault on the values and virtues that democracy requires to thrive. In this line of thinking, Mr. Trump is morally unfit for the Oval Office. Some speak even more darkly …
There is, however, a flip side to Mr. Trump’s speech and behavior. It has to do with the willingness of those who know better (or ought to know better) to look the other way so long as Mr. Trump is the target …
… he also sounded this false note:
Meanwhile, week after week, the same people who accuse Mr. Trump of lacking depth and nuance toss off allusions to Hilter, Stalin and a parade of murderous dictators ….
It is no doubt possible to “toss off allusions” flippantly or as mere tribal talking points. But don’t be hasty with that accusation. As Father Patrick Henry Reardon said in a recent homily,
I must tell you that the Shoah — I regard the Shoah as the major human experience of my lifetime.
I understand all the Russians and Germans and Poles killed in war. I understand that. This was not “killed in war.” This was something very different.
In my opinion, we have hardly even begun to understand the significance of the Shoah. Maybe in a hundred years. But I fear we’re largely forgetting it already. One must not forget it … The Holocaust should haunt the modern mind ….
Insofar as tossed off allusions trivialize or just wear out the listeners, they are deplorable. But insofar as McGurn is calling genuine concern, informed concern, “toss[ed] off allusions,” or assuming that “it can’t happen here,” shame on him.
If we want to avoid an American Hitler, we must be vigilant, even hyper-vigilant. It can happen here. And anyone who doesn’t see Donald Trump (whatever the legitimate grievances that brought him to office) as the likeliest North American perpetrator is operating on an entirely difference frequency band than I am.
Michael Gerson provides immediate illustration, even a foreshadowing, essentially casting ICE as Trump’s jackbooted thugs:
The attitude of President Trump toward federal law enforcement is, to put it mildly, mixed. The FBI refused to bend to his will. So the special counsel team is composed of “hardened Democrats” engaged in a “WITCH HUNT.” …
But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has passed the loyalty test. ICE’s enforcement surge “is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” the president tweeted. Referring to ICE acting director Thomas Homan, Trump said, “Somebody said the other day, they saw him on television. . . . ‘He looks very nasty, he looks very mean.’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m looking for!’”
This is territory more familiar in political systems of personal rule. The agency that defies the ruler must be discredited. The agency that does his bidding is viewed as a kind of Praetorian Guard.
Most of the professionals working in ICE would surely deny this characterization, pointing to an important legal role independent from any individual president. But they need to understand that their work is now being conflated with Trump’s nativism.
ICE is not an agency famous for its care and discernment. In releasing an immigration activist detained by ICE early this year, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest said, “It ought not to be — and it has never before been — that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust. . . . We are not that country.”
Accusations of abuse in ICE custody are numerous and serious, and they preexisted the Trump era. An investigation by ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer reported cases of racial profiling, fabricated evidence and warrantless searches — all given little scrutiny by overwhelmed immigration courts. During the past few years, there have been hundreds of accusations of sexual abuse, racial slurs, abusive strip searches and verbal harassment in ICE jails, prisons and detention centers. For an institution that claims “zero tolerance” for such practices, it seems to get a lot of serious complaints. One asylum seeker, Gretta Soto Moreno, has called the facilities worse than normal prisons because ICE “feels like it can treat immigrants any kind of way.”
This is the bitter fruit of dehumanization — in a facility, in a system, in a country. It is unclear whether Trump would even regard such a reputation as undesirable. He has effectively given permission for bullying….
Fr. Reardon has some recommendations of Holocaust literature for those who don’t want to forget. Start where the podcast countdown timer reads about -14:16 if you don’t have time for the whole thing, most of which has nothing directly to say about the Shoah. I’m buying three (skipping Primo Levi because Fr. Reardon didn’t call out just one or two or Levi’s large corpus).
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Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
(Philip K. Dick)
The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.
(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)