Historical echoes and present dangerBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Politically Aware Thursday, March 16th, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
Godwin’s Law, in original form, states: “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” Interpretations and corollaries include that a thread should end once this happens, and the person to mention Hitler loses the argument.
May it rest in peace, another casualty of President Trump.
In a 2015 piece for the Washington Post, law inventor Mike Godwin admitted “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler or Nazis when you talk about Trump.” Sadly, frighteningly, the comparisons that started in the campaign have only worsened.
The most recent, sneaky, and possibly worst example was highlighted in Trump’s address to the Joint Session of Congress. He announced the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office (VOICE) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to his executive order, DHS resources currently used to advocate for undocumented immigrants will be used to fund the office, and it is to issue reports on “victimization by criminal aliens.”
History shows that issuing reports on the activities of specific groups puts us in very dangerous, i.e. Hitler, territory. Nazi propaganda included lists of alleged crimes by Jewish people, including a feature in Neues Volk on “The Criminal Jew.”
That feature, much like Trump’s VOICE, came only after the groundwork had been laid with a series of discussions about who was and wasn’t a citizen, and who did and did not contribute positively to society. Sound familiar? It took President Trump two days to send White House press secretary Sean Spicer out to disagree with Congressman Peter King that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Trump’s alienation of groups hardly ends with immigrants. He has already rolled back federal rules protecting transgender students, supported a health care policy that would defund Planned Parenthood, and, lest we forget, failed to mention Jewish people in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. That he got around to acknowledging the threats and violence against Jewish Community Centers and cemeteries in his Congressional address hardly atones for his prior silence and the words of his advisors.
Recognizing the historical echoes and present danger is not just being some sort of “PC Police.” There are a variety of immigration policies that should not evoke comparisons to Hitler, and data collection on crime and assistance to victims are good things, as long as they are collected on and provided to everyone, not certain groups. Those data show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than other Americans, so singling then out in a DHS report is the only way to vilify their actions.
We should not be doomed to relive the few parts of history that President Trump seems to be taken with. To avoid that outcome, we must demand truth and fairness for every group Trump attacks, or risk the possibility that when he comes for us, there will be no one left to speak.
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