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Friday, September 23, 2016

Hitlerian Thinking

This editorial by Richard Coehn in yesterday's Reading Eagle makes some good points.

The Economist magazine is rarely wrong, but it was recently in strongly suggesting that the casual disregard for truth that is the very soul of Donald Trump's campaign is something new under the sun. The technology--tweets and such--certainly is, but his cascade of immense lies is not. I'd like to familiarize The Economist with Adolf Hitler.
I realize Hitler's name has a distractive quality, and I cite it with reluctance. Hitler, however, was not a fictional creation but a real man who was legally chosen to be German's chancellor, and while Trump is neither an anti-Semite nor does he have designs on neighboring countries, he is Hitlerian in his thinking. He thinks the truth is what he says it is.
Soon after becoming chancellor, Hitler announced that the Jews had declared war on Germany. It was a preposterous statement since Jews were less than 1 percent of Germany's population and lacked the ability to make war on anything. In fact, in sheer preposterousness, it compares to Trump's insistence that President Barack Obama was not born in America--a position he held even after Obama released his birth certificate.
At the time, people tried to make sense of Hitler's statements by saying he was seeking a scapegoat and had settled on the Jews. I know of no instance where Hitler confided that his statements about Jews were, as we might now say, over the top. He remained consistently deranged on the topic. He was not lying. For him, it was the truth.
Just as Hitler's remarks about Jews were deeply rooted in German anti-Semitism, so was Trump's birtherism rooted in American racism--with some anti-Muslim sentiment thrown in. Trump's adamant insistence on it raised issues not, as some have so delicately put it, about his demeanor, but instead about his rationality. It made a joke out of the entire furor over revealing his medical records. I'm sure that Trump is fine physically. Mentally, it's a different story.
In a purloined email, Colin Powell called Trump's birther fixation "racist." But the former secretary of state has never done so publicly and his hesitation about Hillary Clinton is no excuse for being AWOL in this fight. Like some other GOP grandees, he has retreated to a neutral corner. They all have their qualms with Clinton, but not a single one of them can possibly believe America and its values wont' survive her presidency. A Trump presidency is a different matter.
It's a mistake to make the unreasonable compatible with the reasonable--to think, say, that Trump cannot be serious about this birther stuff or building a wall. That was the authentic Trump, a man totally unburdened by concern for anyone else.
There is no lie that cannot be believed. Even after Germany had murdered most of Europe's Jews, allied investigators at the end of World War II found that many Germans believed that their country's defeat only confirmed the power of world Jewry. Germany was not some weird place. At the advent of the Hitler era, it was a democracy, an advanced nation. It had unique history and cannot easily be likened to the contemporary U.S. But it was not all that different, either. In 1933, it chose a sociopathic liar as its leader. If the polls are to be believed, we may do the same.

"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts" (Romans 1:21-24).

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