(Published on Medium)
Ever since I first became aware of the Holocaust close to sixty years ago, I have had a well-cultivated consciousness of the alarming behavior that preceded it and maintained its momentum. It was more than a cult of personality — though it certainly was that, too. The upending of decency in pre-World War II Europe was the empowering of supremacists who saw their leader’s trajectory as their own. Intoxicated by the removal of limitations on their scruples, they considered themselves divinely authorized to seize power — over government, and over people’s lives.
It is a political adage that “whoever says Hitler first, loses the argument.” And let’s be clear, I was not the first to say it. The significant numbers of t-shirts with Holocaust and Nazi references among the insurrectionists laying siege to the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday have that dubious distinction.
White nationalists in this country have long invoked the Nazis by name and philosophy, finding their analogue in the pathetic remnants of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan. All of them — the Confederates, the Nazis, the Klan — were the big losers of history. They remain an inspiration only to those whose moral character is lacking and who need the scapegoats of past losers to explain away why people of good will and higher principle, who value truth, ethics and generosity, will not acknowledge their self-proclaimed superiority.
And so, it is people with “inferior” beliefs — Muslims, Jews, atheists, Eastern practitioners. It is people with darker skin. It is people who speak a different language. And most of all, it is people who “win” when they “lose.” They are the enemy. And the person who will champion their cause will inspire them to loyalty.
A president who demands loyalty has a constituency that has only loyalty to give. And when both leader and followers are desperate not to be abandoned, the values they purport to represent become inconveniences. Among those values is religious freedom, freedom of conscience, free choice of belief. We saw those values abandoned in the burning of “Black Lives Matter” banners, in “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts, in the parading of the stars-and-bars through the Capitol. We saw those values abandoned by a president who responded to insurrection with the message to the perpetrators: “We love you.”
For more than a quarter of a century, Interfaith Alliance has warned that the real threats to this country are from within, from those who would deny the full protections of the Constitution to every citizen and who secretively train for domestic terrorism in militias and white supremacist groups. From those whose religious extremism corrupts the meaning of evangelical Christianity from a message of “love thy neighbor” to “keep that guy out of the neighborhood.”
Donald Trump has been an embarrassment as president, and it is a danger that he continues to hold the office. He must go.
Donald Trump is a loser, in every sense of the word.
And if you still support him, then so are you.