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April 1, 2016

Trump/Hitler/American Muslims

Arthur Kane Scott

Watching Trump campaigning is likeobserving a rerun of Hitler in the 1920s.They both use inflammatory language, over-simplify, repeatcatch-phrases, and appeal to dark nationalistic impulses by targeting vulnerable groups as responsible for their countriessocio-economicills.

Hitler often said: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

Donald J Trump picking up on Hitler has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering US.”

For Trump its Muslims, Mexicans and Latinos; for Hitler it was socialist and Jews, and those he considered genetically flawed: gays, gypsies, and handicapped as well asswarthy Slavs.

A dominant aspect of their rhetoric is its racist overtones. Trump and Hitlerpresent themselvesas White Supermen, leading anultra-conservative counter-revolutionwhichwouldsave their countries fromthe dark-skinned barbariansclamoring at-the-gate. Trump is a perfect caricature of Mr. America with his strawberryhair flying in all directions.

Trump’s response to immigration is to build a humongous wall,both physical and mental,by playing to the latent nativism of American xenophobia - a xenophobia tied to patriotic themes of Empire and American Exceptionalism.He furtherargues that American dominance has been undermined by “poor dealmakers” in Washington, who have given everything away to theChinese, Middle Easterners and Latinos.His stated goal is “to make American great again.”

Hitler, too, planned to rearm Germany, and through its military prowess tolauncha“Thousand Year Reich”with Berlin as the epicenter of the world.“Deutschland uber alles” was his refrain. He would avenge Germany’s embarrassing loss and betrayal in World War I. His belief was whoever controlled Eurasia controlled the world,and that it was his destinyto cleanse the world of inferior peoples, to createa Teutonic master-race.(http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/new-book-traces-the-rise-to-power-of-adolf-hitler-a-884568.html).

Hitler and now Trump found widespread support within the ranks of the middle/lower workingclass. Their economies were shattered by global policies that benefited primarily the Wall Street/Banking/Capitalist elite. Germany specifically by the Great Depression. America by expensive, endless Middle East wars, globalization which had gutted American manufacturing, by peak oil prices,and by an incessantmigration of peoples from poor to rich countries,as witnessed by Syrians and Latinos today.

For working class Americans their socio-economic declinerepresents a serious problem leading them to rallybehind Trump. They find themselvesshattered by a declining/stagnant income, increasing drug/alcohol use, obesity/suicide, and a rising mortality rate. (Cf., http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078).More significant is their realization that white American by 2043 will be a minority with the best jobs going to immigrants a la Silicon Valley. (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/13/18934111-census-white-majority-in-us-gone-by-2043).Trump promises to reverse this trend by portraying himself “as the ultimate greatest job creator.” 

Their social decline has made them fearful, angry and scary. They were the same group that Hitler used to establish the Brown Shirts to terrorize Jews and socialists. Preserving gun rights constitutes for them a major American priority. They are to be found primarily in “Red States” embracing the South, Appalachia, Texas/Southwest, and spilling into the Plain/petroleum States of the northern Rockies. These areas are undergoing profound economic changes as a result of climate change and a shift to a non-carbon economy.

Similarly, many come out of an evangelicalbiblical context whoviewmodernity as un-American with its emphasis on women equality, gays, and diversity. Likewise, theysee ISIS as a grave threat to American hegemony. Their own patriotism is based on a traditional WASP or White Anglo-Saxon Protestant perspective. They want to return to a perceived idyllic Jeffersonian past.

Making them bitter is their realization that the“Reagan Revolution”benefited primarily the1 percenters notthemwho enthusiastically rallied to the themes of the “Great Communicator.” The richmade enormous profits off of Reaganomics with its emphasis on privatization and “trickle-down economics,” by undermining unions, shipping jobs abroad, investing in Information technology and services,as well as eliminating their manufacturingbase. The recent collapse of the American automobile industry isa classic example of the growing chasm between the rich and working Americanscompounding their class sense of betrayal. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/21/opinion/21krugman.html?_r=0).

Strikingly, Hitler as he rose to power appealed to the same group: the unemployed, farmers, war veterans, the working poor, and nationalists who were convinced that Germany was stabbed in the back by a cabal of capitalists, socialists and Jews. The Wall Street crashof 1929 gave Hitler’s National Socialism rhetoric greater appeal as he promised to put Germans back-to-work and restore its greatness. Unemployed Germans were aware that many of the professional/uppermiddle–class positions were occupied by non-Aryan Jews, by outsiders. Hitler exploited this budding resentment by blaming Jews for the depression.

Muslim Americans today find themselves in the unenviable position of being the political patsy/scapegoat for everything bad happeningin America similar to the Jews in Germany. The fear mongering by Trump and Cruz around Muslims has escalated the “Green Terror” hysteria of post 9/11 and their conservative mouthpieces: talk radio, Fox News, and religious fundamentalists. According to them American Muslims constitute an enemy within, who because of religion, ethnicity and language are simply unassimilable?

Trump calls for a “total travel ban” on all Muslim, as well as surveillance of Mosques, and the creation of a homeland security data bank. In one debate Trump asserted: "They're not coming to this country if I'm president. And if Obama has brought some to this country they are leaving, they're going, they're gone."

Nativism explains why hate crimes against Muslims has skyrocketed, running the gamut from defacing mosques, harassing worshippers, public verbal abuse, and attacking women forwearing the hijab.In Germany, the atmosphere of hate, led to Kristallnacht in 1938, the night of broken glass, leading to the torching of Jewish synagogues, home and places of business. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust/peopleevents/pandeAMEX99.html).

Ironically,the PewResearch report shows that the American Muslim population constitutes about 1 % of the total American population of 300 million.Most are middle class, educated, well assimilated, and show little proclivity toward extremismwhich is more characteristic of European Muslims.Nevertheless, there is a growing concernthat life for Muslims in America has become more difficult as the political rhetoric escalates. Sensitive places are airports, police encounters,schools, public facilities: movie houses and department stores, compounded by a general negative media. Yet despite the adverse climate, radicalization so far has made little headway. Surprisingly, Muslims still continue to see America as welcoming. (http://www.people-press.org/files/2011/08/muslim-american-report.pdf).

In conclusion, hopefully the anti-Muslim rhetoric will run its course as the country moves form the primaries to the general election, and the danger of ethnic/religious cleansing dissipated. In his latest foray, Trump has succeeded inangering American women, more than half the electorate, by declaring that any woman who undergoes an abortion “should receive some form ofpunishment.” In all probabilityhe will lose the Wisconsin primary because of his misogyny and bullying, ensuring an open Republican convention in Cleveland. The politics of fear around Muslim should lessenas Trump unravels leading America to recovers its balance and decencyas it takes to heart the warning of Martin Luther King that “injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere.”

Let’s never experience another Japanese internment, or another national episode of “Jim Crow,” or worse another ethnic genocide of Native Americans as exemplified in the “Trail of Tears.”

Arthur Kane Scott is Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California and Fellow of American Institute of International Studies.