The Republican candidate alienates many vulnerable minorities in the US. If he is treated like a joke that gives his noxious ideology room to grow
People who wouldnt dream of voting for Donald Trump still mostly perceive him as a joke with a platform far too outlandish and racist to win him the presidency. But Trumps candidacy is no laughing matter. Whether or not he has a chance at the White House, the racism and white supremacy that Trump is tapping into runs deep in the American psyche, and his incitement is strengthening a violent and racist undercurrent.
His latest comments, calling for unprecedented levels of surveillance of Muslim communities including a database to track them and possibly including special identification cards are appalling. But what really sends chills through my body as an American and as a Jew is the lack of serious and sustained public outcry in response.
Thus far in his run for president, Republican candidate Donald Trump has made headlines in his fanning of fears, xenophobia, racism and religious bigotry against immigrants, people of color and Muslims.
As Republican governors rush to keep Syrian refugees out of their states, it is clear that Trumps rhetoric is revealing and emboldening a revanchist nativist strain in the Republican party. Treating Trump as a joke gives his noxious ideology room to grow. The climate he is creating has very real implications for the safety and lives of people of color, Muslims and immigrants.
Im reminded of Hannah Arendts warnings that the worlds greatest tragedies are not just the result of leaders misusing their power, but also of average people who simply stay quiet and go about their business. This is a moment when all of us who find Trumps ideas repellent need to make our voices heard. He isnt funny. He isnt colorful. And he certainly isnt harmless.
Demagogues are quick to use the Holocaust as a prop to make their points, so like many Jews, I am hesitant to compare current day politics to the violence and virulent anti-semitism of the Nazis. But the parallels between what Trump is proposing and what European Jews faced in the first half of the 20th century are too blatant for me or the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to ignore.
In 1938, Jews were described as a threat to German national security. The German government forced all Jews to carry identification cards with the letter J to indicate their Jewish heritage. Jews with non-Jewish first names had to add Israel and Sara to their given names on their IDs. Each step further threatened their rights and safety; each was deemed necessary for the wider public good. And most average Germans failed to speak out in protest against these affronts to their neighbors.
Asked in todays interview whether he would support registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion, Trump told reporters that: certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. He added: Were going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.
Americans think that the tragedies of yesterday could never repeat themselves. But with each racist incitement, Trump is making the unthinkable more and more possible in our country. We need every American who rejects racism and the politics of fear to demand that Donald Trump and his ideas be marginalized and seen in the true depth of their racism and xenophobia. If we dont act now, we risk allowing a truly dangerous climate to develop one that we will regret for decades to come.