History is a resumé

posted February 26, 2016

History is an evaluation of the big picture. It omits the bulk of the little pictures that go into making up our lives. While there’s truth in an accurate resumé, it doesn’t really tell you much about a person.

Few remember Hitler’s rise to power. Most of us have only history to go on, but history has made Hitler about as real as Hannibal Lecter. He’s a character. Trump is inviting the comparison, but so have Obama and Bush. It’s a shameful case of crying wolf now, because not since the man himself has their been a political figure so similar to Adolf.

Understanding how Hitler became a monster is more important than acknowledging that he was one.

Hitler served in the army in the first World War. He volunteered. He was injured in combat, blinded later too in a mustard gas attack. He was a dispatch runner. So it’s not like he grabbed a rifle and threw himself on the front lines, but he was no coward. He was in the shit.

He was a patriot. He loved his country. After losing the war, he hated seeing Germany’s people suffering and humiliated. But Hitler also made jokes, was a visual artist, loved dogs, had friends, ate his lunch, got out of bed in the morning and went through a personal routine before work.

History makes us feel like he sprung from the ground, a fully-formed monster. That’s convenient and also a favor to us as everyday people. History creates a thing that is in no way like us.

Hitler was a real person though. If we had met him in 1933 or 1934, it’s unlikely we would have noticed anything especially peculiar about him. We might have thought he was an asshole, but most of us would have dismissed him as unimportant. We wouldn’t look at him and foresee the carnage he would later be responsible for. How could such an obviously hateful and racist person force the will of an entire nation? Never gonna happen.

Despite the cult of personality he has created for himself, Donald Trump is a real person.

He is as real a threat as Hitler. Trump is rising as ordinary citizens go about their ordinary lives. Hitler came to power in an environment where everyday Germans were busting their asses to try to rebuild their lives while collectively having to pay reparations to all allied countries involved in the first war.

Trump’s supporters no doubt feel a similar injustice. I couldn’t possibly list all their complaints. Marriage Equality is in there, which they believe is a threat to their values. The Affordable Healthcare Act has provided for millions of uninsured Americans, but it’s also meant that insurance companies have offset those costs by raising rates and cutting benefits for others. There’s also this notion of “the establishment” having absolute power and Trump being above it all because he’s super-rich.

Then there’s the Honky Elephant in the room.

There’s a ton of garden-variety racism. I grew up in the south with people still vocal about how unhappy they were with the way The Civil War panned out. That sounds like an exaggeration to a lot of people I meet who grew up elsewhere, but it isn’t. The racism I saw in the south growing up has not been equaled anywhere else in the world I’ve been. They may dress it up however they like, but when most Southerners rant about Obama they may as well be honest and say they’re pissed off an N-word has been POTUS for 8 years.

The nutshell is that like Hitler, Trump is rising in popularity and support because people are upset with their current leaders. Hitler used anti-government feeling and tons of rhetoric to take power. He was a master of propaganda, a genius at it actually.

In that respect, Trump makes Hitler look like an amateur.

I think Trump would be a catastrophic president, but I don’t think anyone is more adept at promoting himself as the greatest in the world. Hitler at least had a decorated war record, and (as horrible as this sounds) was a charismatic speaker. Trump has no history of service to anyone but himself, and his charisma is akin to a guy about to get in another bar fight. Oh yeah! I spilled your drink? Yeah, well, your mother spilled her drink at my place last night, you clown!

Too bad Trump isn’t doing all this to sell records. For what it’s worth, I think Kanye would make a better president. Still horribly unqualified, but thanks to Donald, it’s now not ridiculous to imagine any public figure making a successful run at being president. Kanye has hinted at it and we were all making jokes about Trump running not so long ago. Sure, President West would be better, but a President Swift would be the tiniest bit better than both, and a President Kaling? Damn, I might actually vote for Mindy if she ever ran. She’s smart, talented, and inclusive.

Why is that important to me?

The idea of exclusion is what Adolf used to motivate and inspire his country, which is exactly what Trump is doing. Instead of uniting the country, he is dividing it. Instead of taking the complaints of a struggling portion of our people and helping find answers, he’s finding enemies. He’s blaming Obama and Democrats and other Republicans. Which is effectively saying, you don’t have problems. Let me eliminate your enemies and your problems will go away.

He’s also sexist and racist, but I find that to be incidental. First and foremost, he is a raving narcissist. Everyone is beneath him. He’s only being an outspoken sexist and racist because it’s working. It’s what a lot of white men seem to want to hear.

Trump has the measured smugness one can only have when they have never had to fight in the trenches with everyday people.

He doesn’t care about the kids at McDonald’s making pennies, but he will get plenty of their votes. Why? Because frying burgers for minimum wage sucks. I’ve done it. I made it 6 weeks in my teens before getting a better job. It’s really hard work that results in very little money and even less respect. You do that for enough years and you’ll be pissed with no one to pin it on. Donald gives them someone to hate, and so despite getting nothing practical out of it, they’ll vote for him.

Make America Great Again?

This sort of rhetoric is reprehensible.

Donald, America is great.

We have a lot of work to do, but there will always be work to do. We need better and more affordable healthcare for everyone, we need jobs, we need income equality. We need a lot of things. We can accomplish them all, over time, working together. It’s a long, agonizing process, but we continue to move forward.

Every last white man in this country is an immigrant. The largest portion of the population right now is made up of people with European ancestry. Not thousands of years back, a couple of generations. Oh white man, the answers to your troubles are not demonizing other immigrants who, historically speaking, are not that much later to the game than you are.

White man, you have a voice, and you have a place at the table with the rest of us. But the time when everything belonged to you is over. You idolize Trump because he’s a dream of that. But you aren’t Donald Trump and you never will be. Not on his watch. He’s a white man who owns the world, who can be racist and sexist, who is untouchable because of his wealth. He doesn’t want a place at the table with us, he wants the table. His success is not out of the question, but his ultimate downfall is.

Trump will fall, as Hitler fell, but it’s up to us to decide how much damage is done before history regurgitates this man.

What the hell is my point? What can anyone do about this? Trump will no doubt continue to gain support. What he’s doing is working. It’s horrifying to watch, but we are all still watching. No one wants a train wreck to happen, but no one is turning away from their front row seat. I think it’s important for us to watch. We must remain horrified. We can’t, like so many baffled 1930’s Germans, become passively resigned to this man.

What can we do?

Though many of his supporters seem impenetrable, unreachable, they are not him. They have real concerns under all that anger and we owe it to ourselves to try to hear them out. Alienating them because of Trump is no answer, it’s part of the problem. It’s what he wants. Inciting anger is the only thing that has gotten him this far and it’s the only thing that could get him elected. Many of them, most of them probably, are not going to give you an ounce of respect. At their core though they’re more like you then they are like him. They just want a better life for themselves. Suck it up, and hear them out. Within reason, naturally.

We also need to make damn sure every last person we know is registered to vote.

What’s more, if we can help in any other way we should do it. If you know me personally, hey, I work from home. You need someone to babysit on election day? No problem. I’ll even go to work for you if I can. I’ll be right over after I cast my own ballot. It’s damn important this time. It’s Germany in 1934 important.

One last thing.

If you’re a Trump supporter and you’re reading this, you are not my enemy. Talk to me. Talk to the people around you. We may have different opinions about most things, but I would fight for your rights if someone threatened them. We don’t want to take your rights, or force you to live with our values. It would be easier, for all of us, if our opinions were enforced as absolute law, but that’s not what makes this country great. Granting our rights has never been about denying you yours.

Tell me about the things that you love, that are important to you. Do not, like Trump, define your strength by what you hate and what you are against. Talk to me about your kids, your spouse, your job, or whatever inspires you. Anger is not inspiration. Hatred is not strength.

You are better than he is.

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