Letter To A Friend
Updated: Mar 22
I am sorry that you have decided NOT to maintain our political cyber-intercourse. Perhaps this letter will find its way into your hands and we can continue to discuss our various opinions regarding Mr. Trump and the “state of the union”. First of all let me suggest a great movie, The Garden of the Finzi Continis. The scholarly old Jewish patriarch refuses to believe that there is a danger to the Jews in 1940 Ferrara, Italy much less to his wealthy family estate. He refuses to allow any negative political talk around his elegant dinner table. The rest of the story is history, to coin a phrase.
You probably think it is foolishly alarmist to even speak about fascism in a sentence alluding to a president of the United States but, as you know, increasing numbers of leading thinkers far more sagacious than I, from David Brooks, Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman to George Will to former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright are discussing the direction of this administration in terms that evoke all the characteristics of classical Twentieth Century fascism. I would be very curious to know whose voice you listen to, that is, who do you think knows more than Brooks, Will, (Pulitzer Prize winner) Friedman or (Nobel-prize winning) Krugman? Whose research and credentials do you trust? From an historical perspective, I think it is safe to say that any form of charismatic authoritarianism is never good for minorities like gypsies, Jews, blacks, Hispanics or gays which is to say, none of us should be sanguine about Mr. Trump.
Fascism usually begins innocently enough. Mussolini certainly did not seem like such a bad chap early on; as a matter of fact, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Henry Stimson and other respected leaders were quite impressed with him. All the famous fascist leaders were elected legally and simply applied the time-proven formula to consolidate their power: scapegoat somebody, lie big repeatedly, honor the military, de-regulate business, vilify the press and change the constitution.
It began when Donald Trump led the charge about Barack Obama’s citizenship. I’m sure you never bought into that racist folly but I can promise you that the poorly educated people in rural Utah bought into that story hook, line and sinker. I’m sure millions of people south of the Mason-Dixon Line still think there is something un-American about Barack Obama. But, the question for you is; what sort of individual would promulgate such an absurdity; that a man born in Hawaii who attended Punahou Prep in Honolulu, went on to Columbia and Harvard and was a United States Senator. . .was not an American citizen? Do the names Wallace and McCarthy ring a bell?
A foundational element of fascists is their embrace of conspiracy theories and lies. Trump’s claims about Obama echo Hitler’s claims that the Jews sold out Germany at the Versailles Peace conference in 1919. It was a totally false allegation but when the Lehrer (teacher), Anwalt (lawyer) und doktor had to carry bags full of worthless Deutsche Marks to the grocery store for a loaf of bread in 1930, the Jewish sell-out theory began to take root. Somebody had to be to blame for the national penury and the roiling in his stomach and the rags on his once proud Gotterdammerung back.
One of Donald Trump’s key conspiracy theories (lies) is that “millions” of people voted illegally in 2016. There is not one shred of evidence for this but he keeps repeating it the same way he insists, against actual photographic evidence, that his inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s. He simply refuses to admit that Hillary got more of the popular vote and lies in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Go figure.
So, today, thanks largely to Trump’s tireless lies about the election numbers in 2016, more and more people are concerned about election security despite THE FACT that election irregularities are virtually non-existent in the United States. Tell a lie big enough and often enough people will believe it because, as Herr Hitler said, “the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it” (Mein Kampf). People don’t like to be duped, but when they are, they are loath to admit their gullibility and they will hang on to their belief in falsehoods with tenacity greater than the bite of a Pit Bull. “Once a con man cons somebody, there is a bias among the marks not to admit that they’re that stupid…they want it to go on and on. They love it.” (Rick Wilson, GOP Consultant). Trump could say, “The earth is flat” and his base would cheer, “Flat earth! Flat earth! USA! USA! Lock her up!
So, today, as I write, Mr. Trump perseverates with his (demagogic) big lie about election fraud claiming wrongdoing in Florida. He says derisively, just stop the re-counting and hand the keys over to the republican candidates. I say what? ANY state or federal election official makes it very clear: mail-in ballots are labor-intensive and time-consuming to count. The FACT that Florida is a 50-50 state makes precise ballot counting all the more important.
At some point Marvin, you Trump-supporters have to ask yourselves why you continue to support a man who lies SO consistently that we can anticipate at least several of the exact lies he will tell at every rally. He will lie about his election numbers. He will lie about his popularity in Europe. He will lie about “the caravan”. He will lie about the wall. He will lie about his tax plan and he will lie about all the new factories moving to the United States. It is claimed that President Trump is now lying, on average, about 30 times a day according to fake CNN (remember when you used to love CNN?) According to the New York Times, Donald Trump has dissembled 5,000+ times in the past two years. Remember when you used to subscribe to the New York Times? What is your source for “real” news Marvin?
Has it occurred to you that what Trump has achieved vis a vis the press is EXACTLY the same thing Hitler did (what ALL fascists do) early on in his administration and the only news that counted was the stuff that came out of the Volkischer Beobachter, today’s version of FOX News. FOX has become the de facto state news media.
Seriously Marvin, think about this fake news thing. The ONLY news agency that Mr. Trump does not pillory is FOX. I cannot forget that my history teachers emphasized over and over the importance of ”The Fourth Estate” in American democracy. It is not an exaggeration to say that a free press is one of the pillars of democracy. What happened this past week is unparalleled, a president embracing pundits on stage from his favorite news agency while insulting journalists from traditional media and then revoking the White House credentials of a CNN reporter. Yamiche Alcindor, an African American reporter from PBS asked a perfectly reasonable question about “nationalism” and President Trump pointed his finger threateningly at her and said her question was “racist”. How much of this brutish, infantile, narcissistic, racist behavior are you willing to dismiss as your portfolio expands Marvin?
ALL fascist leaders are name-calling, intimidating bullies. Little Marco, lyin Ted, low-energy Jeb, crooked Hilary, ugly Carli and bleeding Megyn. Is this really the way we want our president to talk? Are you absolutely convinced that tough talk achieves more than statesmanship? Why do all religions go on and on about compassion, love and forgiveness? I can think of only two American politicians who bullied and talked tough and they did not end up so well; Joe McCarthy and George Wallace.
Are you, a Jew, inspired by hate speech? The thing about bullies is that, as sociopaths, they have NO real friends so they are as likely to turn on YOU as the guy next door. Of course, ALL sycophants think that THEY are special in the bully’s eyes but they are mistaken (watch La Bella Vita to see how THAT poor bastard ended up). There were plenty of Jews in Germany who thought they could “get along” with this strutting, popinjay, nationalist corporal; how mistaken they were.
Has Trump stood by Flynn, Cohen, Page, Papadopoulos or Jeff Sessions? Remember, Jeff Sessions was the first senator to embrace Trump and what does he get? Think about it man. Do you really think Mr. Trump gives a shit about you Marvin?
Remember this little ditty you learned in school:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Bullies thrive on fear. Jeb Bush should have walked across that stage and punched Trump’s face for insulting his wife but he was scared of what Trump would say next. The bully calls you a name and however you respond the bully comes back at you twice as hard, “Oh look, he’s pretending to be a tough guy” or “Oh look, poor Jebby is crying”. I learned when I was very young in a crappy neighborhood in Syracuse that the ONLY way to deal with bullies is to take them down immediately because if you don’t they will see license in your passivity. Bullies get rid of their opponents one way or another once they are in power. One night it is Strasser and the next it is Rohm. One day it is Comey the next day it is Sessions. Hitler would NOT have gotten where he did without Rohm. Trump would NOT have gotten where he is without Sessions. Think about it.
Fascist leaders marshal (martial) their base. Trump tells his crowds to punch liberal attendees saying he will pay the legal bills. He calls upon his base to scream, “Lock her up”. He talks about rapists, murderers and job-takers to instill anger and fear. So far all they wear is red hats but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a growing, bullying sort of para-military uniformed base support group begin to turn up at his rallies. At his rallies they do everything but raise their fists saluting their leader. Notwithstanding the fact that Professor Blasey Ford’s testimony was unconvincing, did President Trump really need to stoop to Junior High schoolyard behavior and mock her at a rally? Was that presidential? You have a daughter don’t you Marvin? Do you think it would be all right for Donald Trump to grope her? Sure, de-regulation, tax breaks and trade deals make you richer but at what price? Your daughter’s vagina?… ANY woman’s vagina? The guys at Krupp, Volkswagon and Bayer made millions but was it worth it? Would you rather have freedom or a Porsche and an autobahn? You are a wealthy man Marvin. Is getting richer so important that you can ignore the Narcissistic, immature, bullying, tweeting, pussy-grabbing behavior of this president?
So, the fascist (leader, president, fuhrer) concocts conspiracy theories, cozies up to big business and the military, bullies enemies, assaults the press and THEN. . .talks about changing The constitution. They all float a trial balloon but when we don’t go out in the streets they KNOW they have license to pillage democracy. It is a formula Marvin just like one might make up a formula for getting into Harvard: get top grades, be class president, be a merit scholar, play violin in the symphony, wrestle varsity, make a film about Israeli/Palestinian musicians working together and climb the bloody Matterhorn. . .and you will get into Harvard. Why study history if not to learn something from the past? Why do you, as a Jew, want to keep embracing a guy who is already being compared to a couple other (legally-elected) megalomaniacs who were not very cordial to minorities?
Remember the Nuremberg Laws? 1935? Now we have a president who wants to do something similar to what Hitler did 80 years ago; change the Constitution so that SOME people whom he deems inappropriate, might have their citizenship revoked. Sure, the angry, jobless coal miner in Kentucky shrugs and says no big deal. A LOT of Germans thought the Nuremberg Laws were keine grosse sache. . . and then there was Kristallnacht! Now we have Pittsburgh. Even before Pittsburgh hate crimes against Jews were up 50% in the past year. European Jews are very concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. Like you, I NEVER imagined that these United States could ever embrace nationalistic, xenophobic authoritarianism but here we have a guy whose fascist tendencies seem to be held in check only by a fragile democracy.
Birthright citizenship has long been a marvelous symbol of the American democratic project. I remember reading about all the Turks who worked in Germany, in the fifties and sixties, raised families, paid taxes, went to school, became doctors and lawyers but never could become German citizens. It was disgusting; generations of people living in a country without recognition of their loyalty and participation in their democratic project. Happily that changed. But now your guy Trump wants to play his nationalist card with similar disdain for decency and humanitarianism. Don’t think for a second that anti-Semitism is not alive and well in these United States Marvin. Remember Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford? Trump is tuned into the alt-right (anti-Semitic) conspiracy that you Jews are paying for the food and transport of the rapacious, homicidal, terrorist caravaners approaching our southern border.
When Trump sticks out his chest and says, “I am a nationalist”, are you not embarrassed that he stupidly uses a word offensive to anybody with even a modicum of knowledge of early 20th Century history. Indeed, it is no crime to love one’s country more than any other country, but to throw this toxic word in our face with such brazen indifference to it’s alt-right, xenophobic, fascist connotation is simply terrifying (even if Donald Trump is unaware of the revised historical significance of the word “nationalist” it is scary that Mrs. Conway or General Kelly are incapable of disabusing him of his fondness for such poisonous language). In today’s vernacular “Nationalist” means one thing, make no mistake about it; remember, there were some perfectly good people among the neo-confederates, neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville. Right; and there were undoubtedly some good people working at Bergen-Belsen and Dachau. Jawohl mein Kommandant!
I don’t expect you to make some recherché gymnastic flip Marvin and come around to the democratic side of things; I respect your old-school fiscal conservatism, the Eisenhower, Rockefeller, John Lindsay brand of republicanism, but I do expect you to acknowledge that you might be uncomfortable if you knew that your daughter (anybody’s daughter) was alone in the oval office with Donald Trump and that you are uncomfortable with his embrace of multiple world-class bullies such as Duterte, Putin, Erdogan and MBS in Riyadh. I would hope that you would agree that, as an accountant, you are NOT impressed with Mr. Trump’s four bankruptcies and his sham “university”. Are you not the least bit unnerved by his quotidian dissimulations? I hated William Jefferson Clinton and not for one second would I have pretended otherwise but you and I could have shared our grievances; however today, you republicans seem loath to even talk about coal, climate change, pussy, prevarication, Stormy, bullying, fake news, nationalism or Russia. The money just keeps rolling in don’t it?
There’s a raggedy-ass bunch of several thousand Central American campesinos hitchhiking north through the oppressive tropical heat of southern Mexico carrying nothing but a change of underwear, a jug of water and some tortillas and the president of the United States gins up his base by calling this an “invasion” of rapists, druggies and Middle-eastern terrorists. These poor bastards just want to escape unspeakable narco-terrorism in their banana republics and flip burgers and mow our lawns but now we have to send in a division of armed troops to defend our southern border from this approaching “invasion”?
Were you not horrified when DHS separated thousands of children from their parents? If you were not horrified then I suggest you go to your Rabbi and hand in your Torah because no Jew could possibly see this atrocity without experiencing some sort of stomach-turning, spine-chilling deja vu. Separating children from parents is only slightly less atrocious than rounding up people of a certain ethnicity and sending them off to “work” camps.
You say indignantly, “You’re indulging in hyperbole Arthur. We don’t know who these people are and we have to defend our borders. It is unfortunate about those kids but the parents knew what they were getting into before coming here”. Au contraire. NOBODY entering this great country would have anticipated such barbarity Marvin. Separating tiny little kids from their parents? GMAFB (give me a f…ing break)
Let me be perfectly frank with you Marvin. I still believe that every single German was complicit in the Holocaust. They ALL knew what was going on. Silence in the face of oppression is complicity. Hitler began small; a Jew here, a Jew there. How many children did Trump separate from their parents? I think it was somewhere in the low thousands and still today 200 remain separated. Now he says we are about to be “invaded” by people who have all said they want to come into the United States as LEGAL refugees. There is no Commandante Eduardo Rommel at the head of this column my fren.
One final note; the death toll from the recent California fires will probably reach 100 and what does President Trump say? “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.” Jesus Christ Marvin, this is a man who doesn’t know the difference between deciduous and coniferous. The very likely reason for these increasingly horrific, deadly fires is called “climate change”. What thanks do the firefighters, first-responders and devastated families in California get from this president? Punches, sneers, shouts and blame. How about first of all, acting like a sympathizer in chief, SINCERELY lamenting this tragedy, and then quietly going to Ryan Zinke and Vicky Christianson, the head of the Forrest Service, to get some facts before sounding like a callous imbecile? (I’m not even going to comment on President Trump’s sophomoric, stupid, uncharitable tweets regarding France’s losses in WWI and WWII).
David Brooks of the NY Times had a good point the other night. He asked, “Why are the republicans so angry? The economy is great, unemployment is at an all time low, they got their tax break and they control all three branches of government. Why are they so angry”? Good question when all we hear from the republican president is anger, vitriol and Cassandra lies. Just the other day he went on again about “crooked Hillary”. Wouldn’t you have thunk that by now he would be over her?
Thousands of mental health professionals have written about Mr. Trump’s deteriorating cognitive functioning in addition to a condition called “malignant narcissism”, first described by Eric Fromm, a Holocaust survivor. YOU can see it for yourself if you watch interviews with Trump from twenty years ago where he is debonair, calm, articulate and smart. Do you really think that Harvard and Yale mental health professionals are incapable of making a reasonable evaluation of a man after analyzing hundreds of speeches, tweets and interviews? Donald Trump is THE most transparent president in United States history. He really is a bully. He really does grope women. He really does watch TV all the time. He really does tell lies. He really does love to call people names. He really is a racist. I think the shrinks have a pretty good handle on Donald J. Trump.
I recommend watching this interview:
Is this really a guy who should have the nuclear codes?
Tell you what Marvin; if, in six years these United States are better off both in the standard economic, brick and mortar assessments (GNP, housing, education, health-care, the environment, employment and foreign policy) and, perhaps more importantly, that we a friendlier, happier, non-partisan, post-racial society. . .then I will apologize and pay for dinner at Le Grenouille and a Broadway show for you and your squeeze. You can eat Bœuf bourguignon and I will eat crow.
On the other hand…