Right-wing Nationalism gets an all-American makeover

Donald Trump remains hugely popular among the Republican base, despite the fact that he advocates for forced deportation of eleven-million of our neighbors.

There is an odd disconnect involved in that popularity.

Republican extremists have grown almost casual about invoking the memory of Hitler’s atrocities when opposing Obama’s healthcare initiatives, sensible gun control or just about any aspect of government administration they’d like to eliminate; yet, these same people seem completely unaware of the uncomfortable parallel between Trump’s mass deportation plan and the Third Reich’s final solution to the “Jewish problem.”

His principle rival for the nomination, Ben Carson, insists that “religious freedom” must be protected for those who would obstruct a same-sex couple’s right to marry. That concern for “religious freedom” apparently ends abruptly when it comes to the rights of people other than Christians.

Carson has actually said that being Muslim should disqualify a candidate for president.  He doesn’t think mass deportation is such a good idea, but only because it would cause a “hardship”  for the employers of this cheap labor force.

Judging by Trump and Carson’s popularity, Republicans don’t particularly want their ranks to grow if it means accepting people who hail from different cultures and belief systems. That’s because we are the best country in the world and our ‘greatness’ should be  reserved only for the chosen elite.

Way back in my high school Sociology class, we learned all about “nationalism.” It wasn’t a nice word or a pretty story.

The Nuremberg Tribunals were still fresh in the horrified public consciousness. It was clear at the time that the German people had paid a terrible price for being susceptible to nationalistic overreach and xenophobia.

Where were people like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and their followers when those lessons were being taught?

(BTW: Does anybody teach Sociology in high school anymore?)

How is it that they can even think they have a greater right to live on U.S. soil than do the 11 million people who would be displaced? Europeans forcibly took this land from the indigenous peoples so recently that their great-grandchildren are still actively seeking redress.

I lived in West Berlin for a couple of years, barely thirty years after Hitler’s death. Older neighborhoods were still pockmarked from war, and rubble remained a common sight.

The towering walls of Tempelhof Airport, pride of the Third Reich, bore crudely chiseled scars where giant stone swastikas had been unceremoniously removed. You could almost imagine the rows of gigantic red, white and black flags swaying overhead.

Berliners whom  I met there (at least those who could be persuaded to talk about it) recoiled from the nationalism of their country’s recent past.  We heard young people wonder aloud about their parents’ past; and when the wine flowed freely the sad question of peripheral culpability was inevitable.

I learned to regard showy displays of patriotism with discomfort; and when I turned a corner recently in St. Albans to suddenly face a forty-foot American flag, I involuntarily shuddered.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the myth of American exceptionalism, with all of its nationalistic trappings, was dusted off and given a new coat of patriotic paint. We immediately forgot about our slave-owner history, Hiroshima, the McCarthy Witchhunt, Segregation, Wounded Knee, the My Lai Massacre and Watergate.  We were the good guys; anyone who wasn’t with us was against us.

Fourteen years later, what has all the neo-con swagger gotten us: an exponential growth in global enemies and the resurgence of prejudice, fear and ignorance at home.

If we are to believe the polls, at least a third of American voters are prepared, as German voters once were, to endorse the xenophobic ravings of a narcissistic sociopath who promises them greatness.

Terrifying.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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