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Masking an overreactive impulsive nature to constantly deflect the narrative Trump’s enablers are busy concocting something magically approaching a strategic political rationale to justify his overt racism. In true form, the perverted form of attack so consistent in this Presidency, the leader of the free world resorts to the sophistication of a kindergartner.

Devious Donald Trump

As he spews forth vile and ugly invectives aimed at branding those who dare to take issue with his glaring ineptitude it is apparent that the sophistication of his attacks are strikingly comparable to the school yard retorts of a five-year old: “you are a racist, no you are.” What, that’s it? WTF, this is your defense? Whatever you call me, well, right back at you. C’mon man, you’ve got to do better than that!

And this is what is currently substituting for political discourse at this juncture in our devolution. If it were not so blatantly juvenile it would simply be unbelievable. But there is a seriously dangerous and sinister current also at work here that is so deeply troubling that it requires a sober, mature, and yes an ugly word here, bipartisan, examination of where we stand with respect to the nation and the world.

Donald Trump is not nearly as devious as he is cruel. He cares little for anyone beyond himself or anything beyond money. We are certainly better than this!

This President is ripping the country apart, plain and simple. It is happening in full view of all concerned, and that means not only Americans but the global village as well. Donald Trump is not nearly as devious as he is cruel. He cares little for anyone beyond himself or anything beyond money. We are certainly better than this!

His latest attack upon Congressman Elijah Cummings and the City of Baltimore, which he represents, carries all the hallmarks of a psychopath. Trump has exhibited a preoccupation with the notion that the most serious of all accusations seems to be equating people and places with vermin. His latest outburst accusing Baltimore of being a “rat and rodent infested mess” is particularly troubling to those who have any appreciation for the public relations efforts perfected in Hitler’s rise to power. This is certainly not intended to imply that Trump has any appreciation for history, which unfortunately makes it even more disturbing given the parallels between what occurred in the 1930’s and today.

It is a case study of dehumanization and cruelty. When I heard the Trump allegation this past weekend one of the first things I thought of was grainy black and white Nazi-funded films used to describe Jews as vermin. I also remember reading a book published 8 years ago by David Livingstone Smith entitled Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others, in which he argued that constructing a paradigm where labeling certain humans as subhuman made it easier to justify and execute genocide.

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Smith is a professor of philosophy at the University of New England where he co-founded and served as director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology. I pulled up an interview from 2011 he did with National Public Radio’s Neal Conan in which he talked about Nazis describing Jews as subhumans. He also references other instances in history, in ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Mesopotamian literature, the Rwanda genocide, sub-Saharan Africans and Native Americans where dehumanization paved the way for justification of atrocities.

Smith continues “the Nazis were explicit about the status of their victims. They were Untermenschen—subhumans—and as such were excluded from the system of moral rights and obligations that bind humankind together. It’s wrong to kill a person, but permissible to exterminate a rat. To the Nazis, all the Jews, Gypsies and others were rats: dangerous, disease-carrying rats.” The Holocaust represented a vivid manifestation of and justification for such dehumanization.

To me the most chilling observation Smith makes in his discussion follows: “it’s all too easy to imagine that the Third Reich was a bizarre aberration, a kind of mass insanity instigated by a small group of deranged ideologues who conspired to seize political power and bend a nation to their will. Alternatively, it’s tempting to imagine that the Germans were (or are) a uniquely cruel and bloodthirsty people. But these diagnoses are dangerously wrong. What’s most disturbing about the Nazi phenomenon is not that the Nazis were madmen or monsters, it’s that they were ordinary human beings.”

This contention is enough to steal one’s breath away. I have no idea if the conclusion qualifies as a definitive statement or a mere hypothesis, however, either way it is frightening and seems to comport with many historical readings of the rise of the Nazis to power, especially given the depth of the worldwide depression.

It is enough of a showstopper, in my humble estimation, to give us pause to consider where we are at this moment in history. With the inhuman conditions being exposed daily at the southern border, including forced family separations, the threat of mass deportations, mass incarceration, the rise of white supremacy and ultra-nationalism, foreign interference in western democracies’ elections, and the continuing institutionalized racism afflicting our nation, particularly in our large urban areas, we must be vigilant to ensure that our institutions act as a brake to prevent it from happening here. After all we are the home of the brave and land of the free.

Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here in 1935, a searing satirical novel warning against the rise of fascism here in the US. A powerful and charismatic politician wins election to the White House and under the guise of a populist agenda begins to unwind the fabric of democratic governance. Civil liberties like dissent that we take for granted are curbed, political enemies are placed in concentration camps, and military courts replace a civilian judiciary, all under the guise of a return to greatness. Are you scared yet? Well, you should be.

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But it can’t happen here? Right?

Lance Simmens

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