If We Believe in “Never Again,” We Must Stop Trump Now

A Memorial at the Dachau Concentration Camp
Memorial at the Dachau Concentration Camp Photo: Forrest R. Whitesides CC Licensed

When it comes to having Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. President, the list of horrors is such that one can easily become overwhelmed. What immediately may come to mind is how his own racist and misogynist actions and attitudes have given comfort and cover to those with similar views. Many of those holding such views are a part of the American minority that voted him into the office of President and who continue to support him.

This appalling situation is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent report states that U.S. air quality was worse over the last three years. Trump’s rolling back of various environmental protections and his general stance of denying climate change issues ensures that this downward trend will be continuing.

Meanwhile, the news from the Middle East has the world wondering if the U.S. is marching towards an unwanted and unnecessary war with Iran. This near-crisis situation is largely due to Trump’s childish need to rip up the Iran nuclear agreement put together by our 44th President, Barack Obama. Furthermore, Iran isn’t the only foreign policy disaster.

The American electorate has had to endure the sickening googly-eyed displays Trump puts on for murderous dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who is playing him like a fiddle while jeopardizing America’s safety. Likewise, he’s covered for Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the barbarous murder of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As for Russia, the list of issues is long. A summary of it would be to say that he seems more aligned with the aims and beliefs of Vladimir Putin than with what’s best for his own country.

Despite this pile of deplorable behavior, which doesn’t even include his corrupting the office of U.S. President, if one had to pick a single issue to declare as the worst for the nation it’s not any of the above. No, Trump’s single worst offense is the inhumane treatment of children and babies occurring at the child migrant camps. These camps and the horrific conditions found there, have come about as a direct result of the child separation policy that Donald Trump enacted and continues to allow — despite a court order to stop it.

Even if a person voted for Trump, these camps are unlikely what he or she had in mind. Trump voters wanted a wall that Mexico was going to pay for. There’s not a single Trump rally where you heard his supporters chanting for him to make U.S. concentration camps filled with children. Yet, we now have them. The United States of America is running concentration camps.

June 2018 photo provided by Custom and Border Protection to a reporter on tour of a “detention facility”

Why the Term “Concentration Camp” is the Correct One

Now, using the term concentration camp to describe the conditions these border crossers are being held in does not come without controversy. When Congressional Representative ­Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the centers “concentration camps” there was push back from some members of the Jewish community. However, others seem to agree that the comparison has merit. The saddest part about this disagreement is that the split in opinions seems to, like much else in the U.S., fall along partisan lines. This should not be about partisanship. Unfortunately, that’s the state of much of our discourse these days.

The latest skirmish in this debate among those of the Jewish faith comes from a letter signed by some 375 Holocaust scholars. They take the US Holocaust Museum to task for saying that it was wrong to compare the times of the Holocaust to what is happening on the border. One point these scholars make is the importance of noting similarities in current world situations before the circumstances become completely catastrophic.

“The very core of Holocaust education is to alert the public to dangerous developments that facilitate human rights violations and pain and suffering; pointing to similarities across time and space is essential for this task.”

In other words, if one’s goal is for it to “never again” occur, you have to catch it in the beginning, before it’s too late. This is why claiming that the term “concentration camp” is too extreme is simply wrong. Calling them concentration camps does not make light of the Holocaust. It is because of the Holocaust that we must be vigilant and call this what it is. The six million Jews murdered under Hitler didn’t start at six million. It started with one. …Thus far, six children have already died in U.S. custody at these “detention camps.”

An even clearer understanding of just how similar the situation at the border is to how things started in Hitler’s Germany can be seen in this definition of a World War II concentration camp from the website www.70.auschwitz.org. The site is run by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial And Museum. They are an excellent source because if anyone has the right to define what a concentration camp is, it is those directly responsible for preserving the memory of Hilter’s death camps so that it never happens again. Their definition differentiates between concentration camps and extermination centers.

“Concentration camps used as the main annihilation method hunger combined with physical exhaustion. The death of prisoners was also accelerated by other conditions of existence in the camps: the lack of proper clothes, rest and medical care, poor sanitary conditions, as well as insufficient living conditions. Unlike the victims of the extermination centers killed immediately upon their arrival in the gas chambers, the prisoners of concentration camps stayed there for shorter or longer periods (some of them managed to survive the war).

This report of the conditions at one US “detention center” certainly fulfills the terms of “lack of proper clothes, rest and medical care, poor sanitary conditions, as well as insufficient living conditions” that are used to define a concentration camp.

The Associated Press details grave conditions inside a Texas migrant detention facility where 250 infants, children, and teenagers were being held without adequate food, water or sanitation during a recent visit. “

Furthermore, despite the protests from some Trump officials, the most recent report from Homeland Security corroborates damning reports like the one in the video above. That report covers conditions for both children and adults. It is complete with photos of heavily overcrowded rooms where there is barely room for everyone to stand. One pediatrician who was able to visit the children where they were being kept reported this to CNN.

“The first thing that hit me when we walked in the door was the smell. It was the smell of sweat, urine and feces”

Remember, all of these conditions that the children are in stem from Trump’s child separation policy. So now, in America, we have both children and adults being held in conditions that you wouldn’t want for your dog.

“History Doesn’t Repeat Itself But It Often Rhymes”

People do not like it when one compares Trump to Adolf Hitler, in part because they mistake comparison with congruence. Hence, the use of the above quote to head this section. The words are attributed to Mark Twain, but he never actually said or wrote them. Nevertheless, the phrase has been used often of late to describe the connection between what Trump is doing and the early years of Hitler’s reign. Still, if the idea of history rhyming doesn’t make it clear, this actual phrase from Twain’s writing gives us a more visual metaphor.

History never repeats itself, but the Kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed out of the broken fragments of antique legends.

The picture of Trump’s presidency does, in fact, seem to be made from pieces of past autocratic and fascist governments — and Hitler’s is one of them. One painful point of similarity is that Hitler came into power with only 33 percent of Germany voting for the Nazi party. As we know, Trump became President without the backing of a majority of Americans — he lost the popular vote.

At the same time, we all know that circumstances in Germany that led to World World II are not being repeated and that there will never be another Hilter. His atrocities are specific to his time, and no one is suggesting that Trump has a secret plan to wipe out a race of people. (For one thing, Donald Trump is that not much of a planner. One of the more pressing fears with Trump has been that he will accidentally get the U.S. into a war with Iran or North Korea.)

More importantly, when history talks about the Holocaust, it doesn’t start with the death camps. The path to the Holocaust began long before. It starts with Hitler’s ideology of German racial superiority and the scapegoating of the Jewish people for all of Germany’s problems.

Hitler demonized the Jews and numbed the population to the acts of inhumanity against them by literally calling them “subhuman” and blaming them for all of Germany’s economic woes of the time. That constant pounding propaganda was the groundwork for him to: segregate them from German life, take away their means of making a living, encourage violence against them by the people, and eventually cart them off to concentration and death camps. The start of that propaganda can be found in the 1920 25-point Nazi Party Manifesto and in his own book Mein Kampf.

Reading the works of Hitler is not a pleasant thing, but it is informative. One of the first things is that his hatred of Jews was followed by a hatred of non-Germans. These are some of the points from the Nazi Manifesto.

  • German blood as a requirement for German citizenship. No Jew can be a member of the nation.
  • Non-citizens can live in Germany only as foreigners, subject to the law of aliens.
  • The state ensures that every citizen live decently and earn his livelihood. If it is impossible to provide food for the whole population, then aliens must be expelled.
  • No further immigration of non-Germans. Any non-German who entered Germany after August 2, 1914, shall leave immediately.

Hitler also had a way of laying out stories that played on people’s basic fears. This is a single quote from Mein Kampf — and the only quote you’ll see from that book in this article.

The black-haired Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end, satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood and removing her from the bosom of her own people.

In reading Hitler’s words, the similarities between him and Trump are painfully stark. Both men use their personal pulpits to convince a targeted audience that another group is dangerous, responsible for the people’s economic suffering and must be stopped from harming the “good people” at all costs.

Here, starting with the most infamous one from his campaign, are a few Trump quotes showing the false and derogatory narrative that Trump has been pushing about the undocumented population.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.They’re sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” — Candidate Trump, June 2015

“They’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our manufacturing jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re killing us.” Donald Trump, July 2015.

We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

President Trump, May, 2018

“Working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal immigration: reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools, hospitals that are so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.
President Donald Trump, 2019 State of the Union Address

With the above kind of talk, Trump is attempting to shape the perception of the Latino population that has been crossing the border much in the way that Hitler systematically worked to dehumanize Jews and to desensitize the rest of Germany’s people to his treatment of them. The fact that Trump’s goal isn’t genocide, but to deter brown people fleeing extreme violence and poverty from Central America and Mexico from coming to the U.S., doesn’t make his tactics less Hitleresque.

Like Hitler’s lies about the Jewish people, there is no truth in Trump’s words about undocumented immigrants. Statistics show that they are less likely than native-born Americans to commit criminal acts — including acts of violence. Yet, his claims that the people trying to cross the border are all rapists, drug traffickers, and murderers are the justifications given for taking children from their parents and relatives, locking them up in cages with little physical care, and apparently no care at all if they live or die.

Here’s another thing to consider. Trump and his administration have been very clear about their intentions with the child separation policy. He doesn’t want these people wiped off the planet — just kept in “their place” of origin. (After all, who would work in his hotels?) However, it makes no sense that punishing the children would matter if one thinks the people crossing the border are such soulless criminals. Only if you think you are dealing with good people in desperate situations would you think taking their children would give them pause. As such, Trump and his administration’s policy shows they are aware that most of the people crossing the border are attempting to come to America because they are desperately seeking a way to escape a world of violence and poverty. This president, and those surrounding him, simply don’t care.

Why We Shouldn’t Just Wait for the 2020 Election and Hope for the Best

It’s true that Trump may have no plan for a “final solution,” but his racism, plus his love of dictators and autocrats, could very well be stumbling America into enacting conditions that lead to massive losses of life. As mentioned earlier, there are already 6 children (that we know of) who have died in US custody due to inadequate care and concern for their well-being. Without an end to both the conditions in the camps and the Trump policies that have brought them about, there will be more. Those who do survive these concentration camps will be emotionally, mentally, and likely physically, scarred for life.

Making things even worse are the recently announced raids on undocumented families. Is this what America is all about now? What about the words of Lady Liberty?

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In the face of these raid threats, parents are having to drill their American-born children on what to do if mommy and daddy get taken away. On top of this, the New York Times reports that any undocumented persons that are around at the time of the raid — including children — could also be arrested by ICE. The emotional scarring, even if these parents don’t get caught up in Trump’s ugly net, has already been done.

Another thing to consider is this. Where are they going to be keeping all of these people? The operation leaders are talking about “hotel rooms” for a couple of hours. Lawyers though are more realistic. Julie Pasch, an immigration attorney in Texas said this to Time.

“There’s a possibility that people are going to be held for an extensive time, at least more than a couple of hours in local detention facilities. If people end up getting transferred to detention facilities outside the Houston area, attorneys are prepared to make the trip to wherever that may be.

Except for the fact that Trump’s roundup isn’t sending people to death camps, much of this roundup feels very much in the spirit of the French round-up of foreign-born Jews on July 16–17, 1942. Remember, part of the “rational” that was used for that sad moment in history was that these Jews weren’t French citizens. By now, you would think the world would be clear that a lack of citizenship is not an excuse for treating people as less than human.

This Could Be a Unifying American Moment

One may have voted for Trump because they believe we need stronger borders. Frankly, that is an assessment that both Republicans and Democrats agree on. Here’s the problem. It one thing to try fixing our immigration laws — and there are problems — but what is going on right now is not that. It is a racist and xenophobic mess that harkens back to some of the teachings and techniques of the Third Reich.

Have we, the American public, also been lulled into the acceptance of the unacceptable? Because we know history, decent people today would do whatever they legally could to stop what is happening on the border. It’s why there have been protests and lawsuits about this.

The thing is, not even the lawsuits have been enough to stop the child separations at the border. We can see that despite last year’s court order to end it, it is still happening — to the point that we now have these concentration camps filled with children. On top of this, the detention centers on the Southern border for individuals and for families are equally dire. Yet, Trump is planning this “roundup” of undocumented people and families. Where will they be kept?

What Trump is doing in regards to undocumented immigrants goes way beyond whatever high crimes and misdemeanors may, or may not, be in the Mueller report. The only question left for the House, the Senate, and for us as Americans, is this. Are we really decent people? History is waiting for an answer.

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