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Armed men march with swastikas, Nazi flags fly high and racist and anti-Semitic White supremacist slogans are shouted without shame. This is not Germany in 1933, but Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Counter protestors cried out in opposition only to be crushed by the terroristic roar of an engine and the death of Heather Heyer. I sit here in Israel, writing from Tel Aviv, heartbroken. Heartbroken that this brand of vitriolic hatred is still a loud voice in my American home, heartbroken that the President of the United States struggled to condemn Neo Nazism and White Supremacy and heartbroken that the land of the free and home of the brave may no longer a home for me, an LGBTQ+ Jew.
I was of the lucky and unfortunate few who predicted President Trump would win on November 8th long before former FBI Director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton weeks before the election. As such, I had spent months preparing for the bitter reality I was to endure come January and when the left, center and principled conservative Republicans, like my father, were shocked by Trump’s historic win, it was hard to bite my tongue and not say “I told you so.” As my friends, teachers and family cried, I took the news better than most, having already done my share of mourning. Still, I hoped, after President Trump spoke on the night of his election about uniting our divided country, that he might begin to tone down his xenophobia and sexism. That when meeting officials such as French First Lady, Brigitte Macron, that he would not comment on her body. That he might begin to act Presidential and that the highest honor America could bestow, the Oval Office, would be treated with the respect and dignity it deserved. This time I was wrong.
What I believed was an act playing to the darkest tendrils of the human spirit simply to get elected, morphed into a frightening realization. This was no act, this was Trump’s truth.
As President Trump foolishly bumbles his way through the political world and fails miserably, it is difficult not to sigh in relief and watch him implode. Just to start, the President writes executive orders on whim and without due process, has emboldened white supremacists with his poisonous rhetoric and has made a failing of almost every bill he has supported. He truly is not a politician and while America deemed this an advantage during the election, it has proved to be quite the impediment for Trump. Even infrastructure, an issue Democrats might support him on, has still proved too difficult for Trump to accomplish. Moreover, his childish twitter tantrums, personal playground bullying attacks and fragile ego have made a mockery of my birth place, what I was taught was the greatest country on earth, the United States.
However, be forewarned, despite Trump’s baffling impulsivity, seeming lack of knowledge of basic American History and every action of his being political kryptonite, Trump is not stupid. In fact, Trump might be the most devious and cunning genius in modern history. The man masterfully manipulated the election, exploiting white working class frustration, Islamophobia, racism and more in order to gain the most coveted office in the world. Trump played American democracy like a violin and the country fell victim to his siren song.
In some ways it is easier to deny this, to believe Trump is a fool who “accidented” his way into the White House but this is a dangerous assumption. Remember, it was only 8 or 9 years ago where America, fed up with Wall Street and its careless wrecking of the American economy, elected a progressive, former President Obama, who promised to chip away at Wall Street’s control of the government and work on behalf of the American people. Now, Trump miraculously convinced the American people to bring Wall Street into the highest corridors of world power, as President, Secretary of State, head of the Treasury and the list goes on and on. As such, though it may be easier to brand Trump an idiotic zealot, we can only defeat him if we embrace that he is a more than worthy opponent, a megalomaniac who, in his quest for the White House, cared not about the consequences of his actions and has left a chaotic and ever more divided country in his wake.
As a child, I always used to wonder what possessed Nazi Germany to vote the Nazi’s into power. I suggest the reason was not because Germany was unique but rather that it wasn’t. Hitler saw behind the curtain of German progressivism, academia and science and found a vast swath of hate and frustration writhing beneath the utopian surface and he shrewdly understood it could propel him to power. Trump is no Hitler but he did follow the fascist playbook, promising jobs, preaching a national rebirth and scapegoating minorities such as Muslims and illegal immigrants.
Through Trump, it is clear that every country is equally susceptible to these hateful tactics, Germany, America and recently, nearly France. I question when humanity will learn from the lessons of history but I continue to hope that as Trump attempts to consolidate his power, our democracy does not die quietly under his thumb but rather shatters his web of deceit, heals our self inflicted wounds and lives to fight another day under the great American flag.