My mom and I had been planning for well over a decade to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Since I am in DC this semester I had planned to fly her down from Boston and finally do what we had planned on doing for years. We did just that this weekend.
First, I suggest to everyone that you go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum while we are here. It is one of the most moving museums I have ever been to and it is worth remembering, and never forgetting, what a genocide on the scale of the Holocaust looks like.
That said, this was my second time visiting the museum. This time, my visit had a very different salience given the zeitgeist that is the 2016 election. We all know that Donald Trump is an authoritarian. This weekend we heard just that from Thomas Edsall and if you want a great primer on this Vox did the legwork.
What struck me was that the rise of Nazi Fascism (before the wholesale slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals began) is similar to some of the rhetoric of Trump. The blaming of other races for our problems (Mexicans and Muslims). This is very scary to me. Are we heading down this path? Could Trump’s predilection toward the authoritarianism lead America down a path to Fascism?
But we do not have to even look to Trump to see genocide and holocaust like behavior. Take Syria and the Syrian refugees. Much like Jews in the late 1930’s many nations are pulling the NIMBY card and refusing to take Syrian refugees, even limited numbers of them. Now the reasons are different as to why Jews were fleeing and why Syrians are fleeing; but, because Germany could not offload the Jews they were demonizing as the reason for Germany’s problems they enacted the final solution and began the wholesale extermination of millions of people. If Trump cannot build a wall could there be a final solution for Mexicans? Would my Puerto Rican husband be categorized as one because of his accent and skin tone? What happens to Muslims in the United States if Trump is President and there is a terrorist attack? Will Muslims be put in camps?
What about Darfur. The western world stood by and watched as one person attempted to cleanse their country of a race they saw as a threat or inferior.
This visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum has me thinking a great deal about whether or not it could happen again given recent events. Given the populist movements in America that see “non-American’s” as the problem? If globalization will raise people up to better lives around the world, which is arguably a good thing for humanity as a whole, how do we prevent those who are losing in the developed world from taking extreme measures?
It’s a hard thing to look at where we are and think that this could still happen, and in America of all places. Sadly, I think it could. Especially if the zeitgeist was just right. I have to then ask myself, what moral obligation do we have to fight back from this populist movement that we have in America? Does the RNC have a moral obligation to renounce Trump and his authoritarian populism? Can you be against Trump but still support the standard bearer of the Republican party and not de facto endorse the authoritarianism and populism and hate? Either way, we have to remember past atrocities and recognize when things may be going off course so we can correct things.
These are big questions. They are important questions. I wish I had the answers.