Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Anti-Semitism in America

Anti-Semitism.  A subject that, unfortunately, has been recently politicized (against you know who) but still deserves comment, especially with these recent damnable Jewish cemetery desecrations.

Having spent last summer visiting many very old cemeteries in New England for Mary Beth's ancestry research, I can tell you that few things outrage me more, as I get older, than cemetery vandalism and desecration. To me cemeteries are a sacred place, no less so than a holy place of worship. And to damage or desecrate these places is a terrible, degenerate thing.

I am something of a amateur history buff, particularly concerning WWII, and so I've read a considerable amount about Hitler, the rise of Nazism with its extreme form of anti-Semitism, and the consequent experience of the Holocaust.

Also, when I was preparing for my role as Tevye in 'Fiddler on the Roof' a few years ago, I did a study of Jewish life in Christian Europe over the last two millennia, along with the accompanying anti-Semitism.

Finally, in my research on Islam over the last 2 years or so, I looked at the Muslim views of Jews and the widespread anti-Semitism to be found in the Islamic world today.

So I think I can safely say that I know a thing or two about anti-Semitism, at least from an historical perspective.  Furthermore, I think I can make an assertion here without fear of contradiction that, aside from Israel, the United States is the least anti-Semitic country in the world today. As a ethnic and religious group, Jews are more welcome in America than anywhere else, again except for Israel, the Jewish homeland.

Of course, that hasn't always been the case. Prior to WWII and the Holocaust, Jews were somewhat frowned upon in American life, much like they were in Europe. Despite that, however, millions of Jews emigrated to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries and made a life and a home here.  And since WWII, anti-Semitism has largely been pushed to those tiny nooks and crannies of American life where a few neo-Nazis hide away.

Now, in the last 6 months or so, claims have been made that President Trump is anti-Semitic, or that he has staff around him who are anti-Semitic, or that he has a significant group of political supporters who are anti-Semitic. These claims has been made, of course, by political opponents and (not too strong a word) enemies of Trump.

Of course, some of these critics are the same ones who were ready at the drop of a hat to call a good quarter of the US population (in the case of Hillary's 'deplorables') "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic--you name it".  (I'm actually surprised that she didn't add 'anti-Semitic' to her list, maybe because she knew it wouldn't sell?)

Needless to say, I'm not particularly inclined right now to give much credence to those accusations against the Trump administration, unless there is some significant evidence to go along with them. And frankly, there really isn't, at least that I've seen. To the contrary, from what I can see, the Trump administration is the most pro-Israel, pro-Jewish administration since the Reagan years.

Speaking now as a (somewhat reluctant) Trump voter, I can honestly say that I have only run across one other Trump supporter whom I would consider to be anti-Semitic. It was a young man who we met on the plane flying out to Colorado a year ago January. Sitting next to us, we got a chance to talk about things, and though he clearly was a 'country boy' from rural North Carolina, he was very smart and amazingly well-read, particularly in theology, which surprised me greatly. (Incidentally, he was on his way out West with a few friends to do some big-game hunting of elk.)

When I got back home, I friended him on Facebook to continue our dialogue, which we did. And then, all of a sudden, a few months later last spring, I started seeing some videos show up on his FB wall that were clearly anti-Semitic, and almost crudely so. (He had become a Trump supporter by this time, though separately from what I was now seeing.) So I messaged him to inquire about what I was seeing, to make sure he understood what he was posting, to make sure he wasn't being hacked or something, and, frankly, to express my distress at what I was seeing.

Turns out that indeed he had been posting the anti-Semitic videos and that he had been sucked into the anti-Semitic ideology they were pushing (and believe me, you know it when you see it, it's so obvious).   I was shocked to put it mildly and tried to persuade him that this was a very wrong direction to go. But that didn't work, for whatever reason, and so I told him that I could not be FB friends with a dedicated anti-Semite. So we parted ways and I've lost touch with him.

All this to say, I KNOW that there are susceptible individuals out there who can get sucked into an extremist ideology like neo-Nazism, and who can also support a conservative political candidate like Trump. BUT if my personal experience is any guide, these kind of people are very far and few between in America.

Whoever is committing these anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries and synagogues needs to be caught and prosecuted. I hope law enforcement is committing resources to track them down.

Clearly, there are extremists on the Left--as we've seen with a number of 'black-bloc' anarchist riots--and extremists on the Right. Both extremes need to be condemned and corralled.  What we don't need to do is politicize these extremists and use them as weapons in our political and media campaigns against our public officials.





Monday, February 6, 2017

On the Comparison of Trump and Hitler

The picture below shows some of my collection of books on Hitler, the Nazis, and the Second World War. I think it's a pretty good collection, considering I'm neither a scholar on Adolf Hitler nor an historian of the Nazi era in German history.  Though you may not be able to make out the individual titles, they include several outstanding biographies of the F├╝hrer, along with an old copy of his primary manifesto, Mein Kampf.


I started gathering and reading these books decades ago, of course, but my interest definitely peaked after my father, Lennart Lindquist, died in 1998. At that point, my appreciation of what Dad had done in WWII--piloting a B-17 on 35 bombing missions over Nazi Germany--grew immensely, as did my interest in learning more about Hitler and his Nazis, the target of my Dad's 500 lb. bombs.  So I committed myself to learning as much as I can about those topics (again as an amateur), along with a similar interest in Communism and the Soviet Union, the other great totalitarian threat of the 20th Century.

My Dad in front of his B-17 Flying Fortress, 1944.
As I mentioned a few days ago, all this talk of our new President being a new American Hitler has led me back into rereading some of the books on that shelf.

Which leads me to say this: anyone who thinks there is any significant resemblance between Hitler and the Nazis on the one hand, and Trump and the Republicans, on the other, is talking sheer nonsense. And not only is it historical and political nonsense, it also is symptomatic of a political hysteria, an hysteria on the liberal-left which is not only quite offensive to everyone who ended up voting for the Republicans this year, but in its own extreme way, it is very dangerous to the country.

Though I really wouldn't need to do this in a country that had even a rudimentary understanding of American and world history, since that seems clearly not to be the case, let me share just a few of the distinctions and differences between Herr Hitler and our President to make the basic point here.

First, are there any similarities?  Well, yes, it is true that both men have German-sounding names, given that they both are of German ancestry:  Hitler/Trump.  They both abstain(ed) from alcohol and tobacco.  They both were interested in buildings: designing and building them (Hitler loved talking architecture with Albert Speer, his chief architect).  They both were effective public speakers (much like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for that matter).  And they both managed to become the primary leaders of their respective countries, through a legitimate electoral process.  That's about it, in terms of what they might have in common, it seems to me.

Oh, and they both wrote a best-selling book, which described their larger goals.  Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and Trump wrote The Art of the Deal.

In Mein Kampf, written in the early 1920s (about a decade or so before he gained power), Hitler described the basic elements of his worldview: Aryan Supremacy (his Racialist Doctrine of the Master Race), the sub-human and even Satanic nature of the Jews, and the need for the German people to conquer the lands to the East (slavic lands including Russia) in order to achieve continental, and eventually world, domination.

All this was to be achieved by eliminating parliamentary democracy in Germany and consolidating all national power--political, economic, and cultural--in the Nazi party.  And once Hitler gained power as Chancellor on January 30, 1933, over the next 12 years, he carried out the goals of his vision almost without deviation.  Fortunately for us, he was only defeated by the combined armed forces of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, (including my brave father).


Now, Donald Trump's book, The Art of the Deal, gives you an insight into his life goals.  Which has been to make great business deals, to build great buildings, and get rich.  That's about it.  And he was successful in fulfilling his goals in life.

While Trump talked occasionally about running for President over the years, it never seemed to be a serious ambition, until, it is said, President Obama goaded him into it by making fun of him in public, at the 2011 White House Correspondents dinner.  And even then, the campaign seemed totally quixotic until, well, against all odds he actually won.  And then half of America lost their minds.

Actually, I think I've made my point.  If you want to read more about Hitler and the Nazis, you can find dozens of biographies/histories around.  I recommend a very readable biography by John Toland, entitled simply Adolph Hitler, but there are others by Ian Kershaw, Alan Bullock, etc.

Or, on the other hand, if you want to continue to listen to political fools like Ashley Judd, with her moronic rantings about Trump's Nazi inclinations, well, it truly is a free country where a person can get up onstage within a mile or so of the President and make fun of him, and there are simply no consequences.  Madonna can even ruminate about wanting to blow up the White House, and yet no one is sent to jail, beat up, or put in a concentration camp.  God bless America.

Now, obviously none of what I have said here is meant to say that we all can't criticize Trump for his words and actions as President.  Of course we can, and I have routinely criticized every President, including our current one.  That's normal politics and that's good.  Free speech and assembly, checks and balances, frequent elections: all that good stuff that we all love about this stable constitutional republic we call the United States of America.

But the kind of apocalyptic rhetoric I'm seeing from the (hopefully) loyal opposition in our country is out of control.  People, get a grip, please.