“Before Adolf Hitler took power, virtually no one understood his unthinkable evil. Since his suicide, no one has fully explained how a talentless crank was able to turn Europe into a charnel house.”
—From “Imagining Hitler,” by Christopher Hitchens’ for Vanity Fair
If you can, indulge me as I go deep, very deep, into the weeds. This post is not for those with short attention spans or the faint of heart. Its 5400 words may never get read by anyone but me. But write it I must, hoping that I am off-base and ultimately and spectacularly wrong, but fearing I’m not:
ost of us who follow the news saw all, or at least part, of Trump’s post-election “thank you” speech in Cincinnati last week. It was his first big event since he managed to win the election by losing the vote. Like all of Trump’s rallies and rally speeches, it was appalling, full of bravado, bluster, and bunkum that played well with the cultists in attendance.
But because the Cincinnati speech was given after Trump clearly knew he had lost the popular vote by more than two million votes, and clearly knew that tens of millions of people were trembling in fear at the thought of his presidency, the speech he gave was particularly dreadful and disturbing. Trump could have given us sobriety and humility, even if he had to pretend to be sober and humble. He could have delivered to us some dignity and thoughtfulness, even if had to borrow such qualities from a speechwriter. Instead he gave us more of the same, more of what he have seen, more of himself: a needy demagogue who may or may not have a coherent fascistic philosophy, but who definitely has fascistic instincts and impulses that rise from a disordered mind.
The speech last week was on my mind when I read Christopher Hitchens’ wonderful 1999 review of Ian Kershaw’s book, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris. Keeping in mind Trump’s Cincinnati rally, complete with “Lock her up!” chants that Trump didn’t bother to subdue or mitigate, here is Hitchens’ opening paragraph:
“What a piece of work is man!” says the Prince of Denmark. “How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!” Well said, but where, as Ron Rosenbaum so intelligently asks in his recent book, Explaining Hitler, do all the Jeffrey Dahmers come from? This is sometimes put, by nervous theologians, as “the problem of evil.” We often phrase it, colloquially, as the problem of Hitler. “His face in those early years,” wrote Arthur Koestler in 1942, “an unshaped pudding with a black horizontal dot, came to life as the lights of obsession were switched on behind the eyeballs.” And then those paragons of animals, those with the godlike and angelic faculties of reason and understanding, flung themselves down by the million and groaned great noises of worship and adoration. And this in the country of Beethoven and Goethe, where, to continue with Koestler for a moment, “the features of it retained their crankish ridiculousness, with the black dot under the upturned nose and the second black dot pasted on the forefront, but it now assumed the grotesque horror of a totem-mask worn at ritual dances where human sacrifices are performed.” A piece of work—no question about that.
An unshaped pudding with a black horizontal dot in the country of Beethoven and Goethe? How about a strangely shaped nest of florescent hair on an unnatural orange head in the country of Bob Dylan and Mark Twain? And we, we who have seen and experienced what is behind Trump’s eyeballs, now know all about the “lights of obsession.” And after countless rallies relentlessly broadcast on cable television, we have come to know those who figuratively flung themselves down and literally “groaned great noises of worship and adoration.” We can only hope that a line will be drawn before we get to human sacrifices.
Hitchens, who succumbed to cancer almost five years ago, asked:
Is it the insult to one’s integrity and intelligence—the shame of having still to cringe at the thought of such a person—that partly accounts for our continued fascination with der Führer? The maddening thought that, in other circumstances, he could have been such an ordinary bore and nuisance? The man’s opinions are trite and bigoted and deferential, and the prose in Mein Kampf is simply laughable in its pomposity.
Is that why we, in this day, have a continued fascination with Trump? Because he insults our integrity and intelligence? For all those out there who disdain the comparison with Hitler, we can see that der Führer and Trump have things in common. Their real opinions are trite and bigoted—and deferential to a certain idea: that their respective countries should be great again; that their lack of greatness has something to do with pigmentation or foreignness, which has diluted the superior stock. Their narratives are, indeed, laughable in their pomposity. But as Hitchens pointed out, “subversive or mocking wit” was not sufficient to discount and marginalize Hitler and, as we know today, discount and marginalize Trump.
One of the most depressing things about Hitchens’ insights is this simple statement:
It’s important to remember that many people, before the war, could look at Hitler and see a man with whom business could be done.
If that doesn’t sound familiar, in terms of what we are learning about the reaction to President-elect Trump both domestically and abroad, then you haven’t been paying attention. We are just now at the point in our history where we, as a nation theoretically opposed to authoritarianism, can decide what we see when we see Trump. Some people see an opportunity to cash in. Others see a path toward an ideological takeover of government and its institutions. But some of us see the makings of yet another regime of madness, scaled to Hitler’s Germany or something much smaller, and we can decide what we should say and do about it.
Hitchens reminded us of the historically chiseled, but nevertheless flawed, Winston Churchill, who said of Hitler (the version below is not the one Hitchens quoted from 1937, but the original from 1935):
It is not possible to form a just judgment of a public figure who has attained the enormous dimensions of Adolf Hitler until his life work as a whole is before us. Although no subsequent political action can condone wrong deeds or remove the guilt of blood, history is replete with examples of men who have risen to power by employing stern, grim, wicked, and even frightful methods, but who, nevertheless, when their life is revealed as a whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind. So may it be with Hitler.
Hitchens characteristically criticized Churchill’s assessment, made “after Hitler’s seizure of power,” as “a bit lenient.” Churchill went on to say (this part Hitchens did not quote in his review):
Such a final view is not vouchsafed to us today. We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilization will irretrievably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation and brought them back serene, helpful and strong, to the European family circle.
It is on this mystery of the future that history will pronounce Hitler either a monster or a hero.
Mystery of the future. Monster or a hero. How many similar, pre-holocaust or pre-administration Churchillian voices have we Americans heard since November 8? How many well-meaning folks have urged us to give Trump a chance, to give him time to rise to the occasion and be better than his rise to power? How many have urged us to contemplate the mystery of the future under Trump, to do business with him like he was any other newly-anointed leader?
Today, as people attempt to make the best of our new Trump-dominated world, we are exhorted, as Churchill went on to write about Hitler’s thinly-disguised intentions, to “never forget nor cease to hope for the bright alternative.” We are asked to respect what Trump has accomplished. In his day, Churchill offered the public “admiration for the courage, the perseverance, and the vital force which enabled [Hitler] to challenge, defy, conciliate, or overcome all the authorities or resistances which barred his path.” Are we to do the same regarding Trump? Churchill said that Hitler “was the child of the rage and grief of a mighty empire and race which had suffered overwhelming defeat in war.” Are we supposed to see Trump, champion of rage-filled and grief-stricken alt-right whites, in the same explanatory light? Or should we heed the warning now and not wait for the worst?
The New York Times ran a piece on Saturday titled, “Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin.” Those extremists turning to a fascist named Putin aren’t living in reactionary, refugee-resenting enclaves in Western Europe. They are here in Christian America. And they have a champion. Or two:
Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump mystified many on the left and in the foreign policy establishment with his praise for Mr. Putin and his criticism of the Obama administration’s efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But what seemed inexplicable when Mr. Trump first expressed his admiration for the Russian leader seems, in retrospect, to have been a shrewd dog whistle to a small but highly motivated part of his base.
What some call dog whistle politics, with its coded language, others call open and unapologetic demagoguery. When Trump began his campaign last year by asserting that Mexico was sending to America criminals and rapists, he wasn’t whistling. He was singing like the fat lady. And the fact that he went on to sing the praises of a fascist, Vladimir Putin, was another part of what motivated the alt-right:
Throughout the collection of white ethnocentrists, nationalists, populists and neo-Nazis that has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Putin is widely revered as a kind of white knight: a symbol of strength, racial purity and traditional Christian values in a world under threat from Islam, immigrants and rootless cosmopolitan elites.
The Times began its piece with a quote from the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, whose self-described mission “is defending Faith, Family, and Folk against the politicians and oligarchs who are running America into the ground.” The founder of that group is not ashamed of his love for the former KGB Colonel:
Russia is our biggest inspiration. I see President Putin as the leader of the free world.
The Times also quotes a white supremacist who used to be a KKK lawyer but who now speaks before alt-right extremist groups:
I’ve always seen Russia as the guardian at the gate, as the easternmost outpost of our people. They are our barrier to the Oriental invasion of our homeland and the great protector of Christendom. I admire the Russian people. They are the strongest white people on earth.
Last year this same man gave a speech at a far-right conference in St. Petersburg that “ended with a cry in halting Russian: ‘God save the czar!'” Thus, you can see that Trump’s singing in tune with Putin charmed the racist snakes who see Putin’s fascism as the salvation of White Christendom. But was Trump only pretending to hypnotize the snakes as part of his office-seeking performance? Or is he a true believer himself?
Trump had plenty of opportunity, both during the campaign and after it concluded, to openly and forcefully condemn Russia for its interference in our presidential election. He hasn’t done so. In fact, this past July he invited the Russians to get more involved and has never repented of that flirtation with treason. And while he remains silent these days on Russian aggression against American democracy, he has managed to tweet out his disgust at cast members of a popular Broadway play, and his hostility to an NBC comedy show. That he focuses on such things, while showing little or no concern for a foreign fascist’s attempt to meddle in our democratic affairs, has to tell us something important about him and his instincts. Add to all this a quote the Times offered us from Stephen Bannon, who will be Trump’s top strategist in the White’s House:
In a speech in 2014, he said that Mr. Putin ran a “kleptocracy,” but also that “we, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes.”
Traditionalism. Putin the traditionalist. For alt-righters, that word not only includes old, bigoted views on homosexuality—Putin is their bedfellow on that issue for sure—but an overt hatred for liberalism, which is seen as not sufficiently white and Christian and nationalistic and too friendly to “foreigners.” While Putin himself may not care so much about those issues because he cares more about destroying NATO and moving back into Eastern Europe and reviving a Russian empire, American white nationalists do care and are jazzed about Trump’s win and Bannon’s presence at the front.
One of those white nationalists—he disingenuously prefers the term “economic nationalist”—is Richard Spencer, now famous for his ugly, Nazi “Hail Trump” salute at a post-election conference in Washington, the same one where he characterized Trump’s victory as “the victory of the will,” a reference to a Nazi propaganda film. Spencer, who once worked as an assistant editor at The American Conservative magazine, now heads a racist-nationalist think tank, the National Policy Institute, and manages a website called AlternativeRight.com. He believes “the alt-right is going to change the world” and that it was “very hopeful for me that Bannon is at least open to these things.” According to NPR,
Spencer called Trump’s campaign “the first step towards identity politics in the United States.”
As far as Putin, Spencer is all in:
He said the group was encouraged by Trump’s foreign policy, particularly the way he praised Russia throughout the campaign and his skepticism for the U.S. commitment to NATO.
The Times reported that Spencer,
produced a video last year in which he claimed that “an understanding” between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin might bring together Slavic and American Caucasians and eventually “foretell a unified white world.” This summer, he echoed those remarks when he told The Nation magazine, “I think we should be pro-Russia because Russia is the great white power that exists in the world.”…“We can look to Putin as someone we can admire and understand.”
There is no ambiguity there.
All of this—Trump’s admiration for Putin, his appeal to or cynical exploitation of white fascist sympathizers like Richard Spender here in America, and his giving alt-right promoter Stephen Bannon a top administration post—leads me to believe, at the very least, his intuitions are severely and dangerously tilted in the wrong direction. Trump may, after a ridiculous dodge, reluctantly and unenthusiastically disavow white supremacists like David Duke, but he has an enduring affection for an increasingly aggressive Russian thug and what he represents. And lest you think none of this has anything to do with Hitler or Nazi Germany or fascism, think again.
Udo Voigt is the former head of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) and a current Member of the European Parliament. Oh, and Voigt is also a neo-Nazi. Yes. He is. A neo-Nazi. The NPD is a neo-Nazi party and Voigt was its leader for 15 years. He is, of course, a holocaust denier, believing the old Nazis killed “no more than 340,000 Jews.” Voigt has met more than once with a fellow holocaust denier and Trump voter mentioned above, David Duke. They took a couple of Nazi-nice pictures together, perhaps to show both how normal bigotry can look and how white supremacy can bridge the Atlantic.
The Times tells us that the NPD “views Chancellor Angela Merkel as a traitor because she opened the door to nearly a million migrants from Syria and elsewhere last year.” And echoing Trump’s (and Mike Pence’s) wretched criticism of President Obama for not being as strong a leader as Putin, Voight criticized Merkel—one of the few powerful voices of moral sanity left in the free world it seems—by praising the Russian despot:
We need a chancellor like Putin, someone who is working for Germany and Europe like Putin works for Russia. Putin is a symbol for us of what is possible.
What is possible is the resurgence of genuine fascism. Russian historian and philosophy professor, Andrey Zubov, lost his position at what is considered “the most elite university in Russia” for comparing Putin’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014 to prior Nazi aggression. Zubov wrote,
This has all happened before. Austria. Early March, 1938. The Nazis want to build up their Reich at the expense of another state.
An article in Newsweek (“Is Vladimir Putin a Fascist?“) this spring began this way:
A growing number of Russian analysts, in Russia and abroad, have taken to calling Vladimir Putin’s regime “fascist.” And they don’t use the term casually or as a form of opprobrium. They mean that Putin’s Russia genuinely resembles Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany.
That article informed us that Andrey Zubov,
argued that Russia’s president was building “a corporate state of a fascist type packaged in Soviet ideology, the ideology of Stalinism,” resulting in a Russia that closely resembles Italian fascism with its “nationalism and union with the church.”
“Soviet ideology, the ideology of Stalinism,” of red fascism. It is important to interject here something most Americans don’t understand about Russia and the way many Russians think about history and their place in the world. Max Hastings, British historian and author, wrote in 2007:
Stalin killed at least as many people as Hitler. In Berlin today, no one would think of displaying publicly an image of the late Fuhrer. Yet in Moscow, it is deemed perfectly acceptable for taxi drivers to stick a picture of Stalin in the corner of their windscreens.
“He made Russia great,” I have heard many Russians say. “In Stalin’s day, this country was respected.”
They do not care that such respect was forged from terror, by Russia’s ruthless willingness to inflict death wholesale in order to impose its will.
That is reminiscent of what Churchill saw in 1932: “bands of sturdy Teutonic youths marching through the streets and roads of Germany, with the light of desire in their eyes to suffer for the Fatherland.” We ignore these deep-felt emotions, and the people willing to exploit them, at our peril.
Thinking about the former Soviet Union and lost Russian greatness reminds me of a man named Arkady Shevchenko. While I was in college, I went to Wichita State University to hear Shevchenko speak. He had been a Soviet diplomat under the famous Andrei Gromyko. Gromyko was a towering figure in Soviet diplomacy and politics, having been involved in everything from the Cuban Missile Crisis to nuclear arms treaties to détente to the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev. Shevchenko was appointed Under Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1973, and not longer after that began working with the CIA. He defected from the Soviet Union five years later and became the highest ranking Soviet official to flee to the West.
Shevchenko published a best-selling book in 1985 (Breaking With Moscow) about his personal rise and experiences and about the inner workings of the Kremlin. In it he detailed what I heard him generally touch on during his lecture: the Soviet Union, a child of the Russian Revolution, was ultimately hell-bent on expansion and would use any means available to achieve it, including making fools out of gullible Westerners. Détente, for instance, was not really an attempt to “thaw’ relations between the two superpowers and make the world safer, but a means of achieving, first parity, and then military superiority. The Russians, presiding over a failing state, refused to accept ultimate failure as an option.
In that 2007 article, historian Max Hastings began with an account of his experience, as a member of “a party of British fisherman” on a charter plane to Russia, in 2005 (when Vladimir Putin was president of Russia). I will quote at length from the piece:
“There will be a slight delay,” the pilot announced over the broadcast system, “because the airport has lost our landing clearance.”
Two hours later, he reported: “I’m afraid we shall have to come down in Finland, because the Russians say that unless we leave their airspace immediately, they will send up fighters to escort us out.”
When the aged bus which eventually conveyed us from Finland to Murmansk reached the Russian frontier, we endured two hours of torment.
No one had told the border guards that the Cold War was over. They pored over our passports. They searched every spool of our fishing tackle.
Bitterness and resentment about our expensive possessions and their threadbare poverty oozed from their every pore. At last, grudgingly, stone-faced and without a smile between them, they waved us into their miserable country.
Those unhappy petty officials in the forests of the remote Russian north-west embodied the spirit of their president, Vladimir Putin, who on Sunday delivered a brutal broadside against the United States and Britain, avowing his country’s enmity for us.
Some 25 years ago, when the Cold War was still icy, I asked that great historian Sir Michael Howard whether it was inevitable that the Russians would always be our enemies. Yes, he said sadly, “because they will always resent our success and be embittered by their own failure”.
That remains as true today as it was in 1982. For all the oil and gas riches of Putin’s country, for all the Russian oligarchs jetting and yachting around the world with their billions, their nation is still characterised by brooding anger. They feel themselves victims of a huge injustice.
They have lost their empire. They have endured 20 years of perceived Western slights and condescension, since the economic collapse of the Soviet Union.
They see the Americans preparing to deploy missiles in their former East European satellites. They watch Russian dissidents flaunting their wealth and – as they see it – treachery from the heart of London.
And thus it is that they applaud Putin to the rafters for telling the West that he will stand no more of it.
Sound familiar? That same sentiment animates Trump’s rally-loving legions.
We have good reason to believe that Vladimir Putin is, as Hastings described him, “Stalin’s spiritual heir.” The old historian said of Putin,
He astonished the world, last year, by telling an interviewer in deadly earnest that the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union.
That famous Putin statement, officially translated by the Russian government as “the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century,” has been used as a club by both those on the right and those on the left. But most people don’t realize that in that speech in 2005, in which that statement was uttered, Putin draped a lot of rhetorical camouflage over his ambitions. He adorned his speech with Western-esque aspirations, with Trumpian deflection. He touted “democratic values,” but, he said, “developing democratic procedures should not come at the cost of law and order.” He championed “Success for everyone. A better life for all.” He wanted “all our law-abiding citizens to be able to be proud of the work of our law enforcement agencies” and noted that “we need principally new approaches to fighting crime in our country.” He had a lot to say about terrorism:
Eradicating the sources of terrorist aggression on Russian territory is an integral part of ensuring law and order in our country. We have taken many serious steps in the fight against terrorism over recent years. But we cannot allow ourselves to have any illusions – the threat is still very real, we still find ourselves being dealt serious blows and criminals are still committing terrible crimes in the aim of frightening society. We need to summon our courage and continue our work to eradicate terrorism. The moment we show signs of weakness, lack of firmness, the losses would become immeasurably greater and could result in a national disaster.
Our objectives on the international stage are very clear – to ensure the security of our borders and create favourable external conditions for the resolution of our domestic problems.
He even had an opinion on the news media:
I also wanted to raise another, very specific, issue here today, namely, what must be done to ensure that national television fully takes into account Russian civil society’s most relevant needs and protects its interests. We need to establish guarantees that will ensure that state television and radio broadcasting are as objective as possible, free from the influence of any particular groups, and that they reflect the whole spectrum of public and political forces in the country…I am sure that these proposed measures will improve the quality and objectivity of the information our society receives today…
He even tossed in a word about what we call the death tax:
Incidentally, I think it would be a good decision to abolish the inheritance tax, because billion-dollar fortunes are all hidden away in off-shore zones anyway and are not handed down here. Meanwhile, people have to pay sums they often cannot even afford here just for some little garden shack.
President Putin had ideas about immigration that sound a lot like Republican talking points today:
I also think that an increase in our population should be accompanied by a carefully planned immigration policy. It is in our interest to receive a flow of legal and qualified workers. But there are still a lot of companies in Russia making use of the advantages of illegal immigration. Without any rights, after all, illegal immigrants are convenient in that they can be exploited endlessly. They are also a potential danger from the point of view of breaking the law.
It turns out that Putin, who was only 53 years old when he gave that speech, had no intention of pursuing any Western-style reforms. He set out to enrich himself, and later, because Russians play chess, to engage in a long-game rehabilitation of Russian hegemony, which necessarily involves aggression against the West. He was rumored to be “Europe’s richest man,” and in 2007 the CIA estimated his wealth “at around $40 billion,” according to The Times of Israel. That same publication, in January of this year, quoted Adam Szubin, the acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury, as saying:
We’ve seen [Putin] enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets. Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption.
Corruption. Trump. Putin. Hitler. I’ll ask again: Is there something in the air that should really terrify us? Should we be so cautious as to not speculate about the similarities? Ignore the confluence of events that make it seem we are about to repeat an awful history? Is it better that we go on and hope against hope that the signs we see are misleading us? Should we listen to the 1930s Churchill who said we should “never forget nor cease to hope for the bright alternative”? Is that the stance we should take here in our time? After all, rather than impersonate a grotesque maniacal killer like Adolph Hitler, it is much, much more likely Trump will prove to be nothing more than a profoundly insecure grifter who duped his followers for wealth and worship and then lost interest in the affairs of state, turning the government over to others—deeply and disturbingly conservative others to be sure—to run. But even if our situation doesn’t evolve into a horrific holocaust, we have no good reason to believe things will otherwise turn out well, given what we have seen and our seeing.
Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer and chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, is a very conservative guy. A Mormon from Utah, McMullin ran as an independent presidential candidate this year, to offer an alternative for Republicans and conservatives who could see Trump was ignorant, bigoted, and dangerous. Needless to say, he failed miserably. Republicans, including members of the Religious Right, flocked to Trump and made him the president-elect. But McCullin isn’t done fighting. He is trying to start a new, Trump-less conservative movement and is still making people aware of the cultural calamity we may face. He penned an op-ed for the New York Times that appeared today (“Trumps Threat to the Constitution“). I will quote from it at length, in case you are a victim of the Times’ pay wall:
…his campaign rhetoric had demonstrated authoritarian tendencies.
He had questioned judicial independence, threatened the freedom of the press, called for violating Muslims’ equal protection under the law, promised the use of torture and attacked Americans based on their gender, race and religion. He had also undermined critical democratic norms including peaceful debate and transitions of power, commitment to truth, freedom from foreign interference and abstention from the use of executive power for political retribution.
There is little indication that anything has changed since Election Day. Last week, Mr. Trump commented on Twitter that flag-burning should be punished by jailing and revocation of citizenship. As someone who has served this country, I carry no brief for flag-burners, but I defend their free-speech right to protest — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment. Although I suspect that Mr. Trump’s chief purpose was to provoke his opponents, his action was consistent with the authoritarian playbook he uses.
Mr. Trump also recently inflated his election performance, claiming — without evidence — that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This, too, is nothing new. Authoritarians often exaggerate their popular support to increase the perception of their legitimacy. But the deeper objective is to weaken the democratic institutions that limit their power. Eroding confidence in voting, elections and representative bodies gives them a freer hand to wield more power.
As a C.I.A. officer, I saw firsthand authoritarians’ use of these tactics around the world. Their profound appetite for absolute power drives their intolerance for any restraint — whether by people, organizations, the law, cultural norms, principles or even the expectation of consistency. For a despot, all of these checks on power must be ignored, undermined or destroyed so that he is all that matters.
Saying that, “We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy,” McMullin adds,
We cannot allow Mr. Trump to normalize the idea that he is the ultimate arbiter of our rights. Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation. Others will need to offer hands of kindness and friendship across the traditional political divide, as well as to those who may become targets because of who they are or what they believe.
I would have never thought it possible, before the emergence of Trumpism, that I could so profoundly agree with someone so far away from me, so far across “the traditional political divide.” But I do. The resistance to fascism, or quasi-fascism, or any other form of authoritarian rule will necessarily have to include people, good people, from all backgrounds and belief systems. We can sort out and argue over the other differences later, when the threat subsides.
The Book of Proverbs tells us that “the righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.” Ah, but the 20th century especially saw the righteous removed in the most violent of ways, and the wicked did then and still do today inhabit the earth. But how can the wicked succeed in our supposedly enlightened times? Christopher Hitchens remarked, “no one has fully explained how a talentless crank was able to turn Europe into a charnel house,” a soulless place where corpses are piled up like firewood awaiting a long and frigid winter. Hitchens is still right of course. And my position is that because he is right, because we cannot explain such an incomprehensibly strange and unfathomably deadly twist of fate a mere two generations ago, we should do all we can to make sure that our own talentless crank, about to assume unimaginable power as the President of the United States, will not make us a part of another fascist nightmare.