When I was growing up, one of my best friends was a little blonde haired moppet named Debby. Debby’s mom, Hedy was from Germany. Hedy was, well, interesting. In addition to being an awesome cook, as evidenced by Debby’s brother’s waistline, Hedy was most infamous on our block for being the mom who would put Mercurochrome and a BandAid on any neighborhood child unfortunate enough to skin their knee in proximity to her house.
Hedy was also prone to fits of depression. In today’s world, we’d probably correctly diagnose her with PTSD, but back in those days, the other parents just explained it as “She’s had a hard life”. One day, after being the recipient of the dreaded Mercurochrome/BandAid combination after being unlucky enough to take a bike spill in front of her home, I noticed that she had a tattoo of numbers on her arm. Being the fearless six year old that I was, I asked her about it. Her countenance darkened. She said “Hitler”. I asked who this “Hitler” person was (again, I was all of six). I will never forget her answer. In a very low voice, she said “He. Was. Evil.” And at that point, she daubed my knee with more iodine and the pain was too great for me to continue my line of questioning.
Later, when my eyes had stopped tearing and the smell of Mercurochrome had subsided, I asked my mom who this Hitler person was. Mom explained as best she could to a young child that he was a bad man and one of the reasons that our nation had gone to war. She told me that he had ordered people who opposed him to be killed or thrown into prison.
Fast forward to my school years. America had all too recently returned from WWII. My fourth grade teacher, in fact, had fought not only in Germany but also in the Pacific theater. Mr. R. wore a back brace and had trouble standing in front of the blackboard for long periods of time due to the injuries he returned home with. To a person, all of my teachers knew all too well the threats of a Hitler, a Mussolini, a Hirohito. Unlike today’s campuses where Che Guevera is chic and Mussolini made the trains run on time and Hitler was a nice guy with a funny mustache and maybe a slight anger problem, the underlying focus of my education experience was the reinforcement of the fact that totalitarian dictators always bring horror. Especially when they are cheered on by easily led populist, nationalist countrymen.
I’ve tried to resist the all too easy slide into Godwin’s Law – but with Trump, that’s a Herculean task. If his Alt-Rt followers weren’t enough, the mere fact that he refuses to disassociate himself with them is troubling at best. Perhaps because of my upbringing, or all of the not-so-subtle cues I see from Trump, I sense a greater danger in his authoritarian bent (and the willingness of his followers to obey him at all costs) than many of my younger compatriots.
After all, Hitler’s command to his soldiers to “Have no pity! Act brutally!” is not unlike Trump’s exhortations to his followers. One of his sycophants, a talk radio host, actually solicited opinions from his listeners on which of his unbelievers “President Trump” should throw in jail and/or execute as war criminals a few months ago. And don’t even get me started on the arm salute he demanded (and giddily received) from his followers along with an oath of fealty.
My parents, like other parents of the day, wanted to make sure that their children had all of the advantages they didn’t have. Perhaps, in their love for us, they made it way too easy on us. I vividly remember my dad working three jobs to make sure the four of us had everything we wanted. The thought of him having to say “no – we can’t afford that” pained him so much that he literally worked himself to exhaustion.
Likewise, there was an unspoken desire to spare their children from the horrors of war – and over the next decade, that coincided with the rise of liberal leftist Che t-shirt wearing teachers who replaced the WWII educators as they retired. So, I’m willing to give some of my much younger compatriots who’ve come begrudgingly to the conclusion that “Trump is better than Hillary” a bit of a pass on the basis that perhaps their history and early education doesn’t quite align with mine.
After all, I grew up with Tex Avery and Looney Toons poking fun at the Nazis and kamikazes – they grew up watching “Captain Planet” and worrying about corporations and ozone. But it cannot and will not stop me from sounding a warning on the oft chance that they still might be able to put their Hillary panic into better perspective. Yes Hillary would be disastrous, but with a united opposition, she’d be survivable for four years. Trump would get no opposition from the roundly criticized spineless republicans in congress. They’d make more excuses for him than the democrats did for Obama his first two years. And if a republican congress dared to oppose him, he’d simply make some of his famous “deals” with the democrats.
The ignominious few who are hardcore Trump disciples, however – those who, for example, petulantly demand that I unblock them on Twitter so that they can continue throwing insults at me and continue their inane diatribe solely in order to impress their followers – will get no pass from me. They are beyond warning. Their fingers are so solidly planted in their ears that no reasoning, no explanation is possible and, indeed, to them I am surely one of those unbelievers that should be jailed or worse.
You know when there’s that little feeling in your gut that something’s just not right? And every time you ignore it, you realize later that you should have heeded it? Everything in my senses tells me that Trump is a two-bit tinhorn dictator waiting to happen. Call me a fear monger if you must. Tell me I’m irrational.
Better yet, tell that to Hedy.