Trump’s long-awaited platitudes mean nothing if his administration continues its propaganda wars
At my Hebrew School, every day felt like Holocaust Remembrance Day.
My first teacher in my first year of Bar Mitzvah preparation was a survivor of a camp, I never found out which one. We’d seen her tattoo and I noticed her occasionally brushing her fingers against it. That was usually followed by a promise to tell us what she been through, and who she had lost. But she was waiting to tell us more until Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. When it finally rolled around April, she began class stiff and somber, determined to fulfill her promise. She got to the part when her family was told to pack one thing before she had to leave the room. A woman from the office wandered in a minute or two later, finding us still silent. “Mrs. Gluck will be back on Monday,” we were told. On Monday afternoon, she was back and neither she nor we mentioned the Holocaust in that classroom again.
Donald Trump gave a boilerplate Republican remembrance of the Holocaust Tuesday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. This is supposed to be remarkable given the stink of antisemitism that has emanated his campaign from near its inception. He specifically called out Holocaust deniers and antisemitism, which has mysteriously risen dramatically since Trump’s emergence into presidential politics. Good.
But he didn’t back off his recent tacit endorsement of Marie Le Pen, the daughter of a Holocaust denier who continues to whitewash the role the French played in rounding up Jews. He didn’t demand the resignation of Steve Bannon, a man who called his site “a platform” for openly antisemitic groups. Nor did he explain why he’s copacetic with allegations that his top anti-terrorism advisor has a long-standing connection to a Nazi-allied group.
These things are apparently still too much to ask from the president of the United States.
I always fall short of the awesome responsibility of Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’d suggest we all do. We fell short in Rwanda. We fell short in Syria. And the retrospective clarity that comes from studying the Nazi’s attempt to exterminate European Jewry rarely extends into the present. Even today, we still haven’t fully reckoned with America’s knowledge of the camps in real time.
In a letter sent last week, the Attorney General attacked sanctuary cities by conflating undocumented immigrants with criminals. Sessions said that sanctuary cities — including New York City, the sanctuary city the president’s wife refuses to leave — were crumbling under the “weight of illegal immigration.” Of course, this is exactly what Trump did in when he first announced his presidential candidacy in a speech when he slurred immigrants as rapists and criminals, with the winking qualifier that “some, I assume, are good people.”
This is a lie that Sessions, like Trump, continues to repeat shamelessly. Studies continually show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes.
When you continue to repeat a lie that slurs a minority group for political gain, even as evidence mounts that at least one member of your administration may have committed crimes and Sessions himself may have committed perjury, you are engaging into the sort of purposeful manufacturing of hate that makes atrocities possible. And at the very least, the constant regurgitation of lies testify to an agenda that seeks to feed the embers of prejudice, division and despair to drown out reason.
I don’t expect much from a man who waited to well into his 70th year to make his stand on Holocaust denial clear. But all I ask from President Trump and his administration on this Holocaust Remembrance Day is to stop behaving like fascists.
[Photo by Jona Park | Flickr]