The grief and shock I am feeling today, after the mass shooting by a madman in Orlando, is such that I find it difficult to write. As our nation reels and howls from another hail of bullets fired into a group of innocents, we immediately wonder What Can We Do to Stop This From Ever Happening Again? Blame others, of course!
One orange haired bully congratulates himself “for seeing that radical Islam is dangerous.” Duh. He spouts off invectives and blame and points to himself as the sole answer. The problem is that he is as dangerous as any man with an assault rifle. His mouth fires off bullets repeatedly at people who can’t or won’t fight back. He is a coward who never defended anything but multiple lawsuits against him.
The pattern I see in Trump’s behavior so echoes that of Hitler’s ways in the early days–you know, when he was just an author and a speaker who knew how to galvanize a crowd.
He started entire nations on paths to genocide by calling the Jews names–belittling them in speeches and flyers and encouraging violence against them. He blamed them for Germany’s economic problems. He said he wanted to make Germany great again. He then began to rank people according to how Germanic they looked. Dark haired gypsies were not 10’s in his book.
Disabled people cost the state money to support.
I remember being shocked at an exhibit at the Mauthausen concentration camp that showed an actual math problem in a child’s elementary school book. It read something like this: “If cripples cost the state $1,876 reichsmarks per year to support, and there are 375,45 cripples in Germany, how much could the state save by eliminating them?” I could just see multiple blue eyed, blonde haired girls and boys sharpening their pencils and beginning to play with the numbers, never realizing that their pencils were now dipped in poison by the very nature of the question their young minds were pondering.
This exhibit was one I saw in person at the concentration camp in Mauthausen, Austria. My dear friend Linda knew of its existence, and insisted that we take time from my speaking events in Austria to make an effort to go there. It was not easy to get to. When we asked multiple Austrians how to get to Mauthausen, to a person they turned even paler than they were, grew tightlipped, shook their heads, and walked away. They did not want to acknowledge its existence in their midst, now, as then.
And who can blame them? Who wants to admit that their parents got sucked in by a thug with strangely parted hair, who spoke in short syllables, yelled a lot, pounded the podium, and somehow convinced an entire nation to pack people up like cattle and ship them off to be slaughtered? In all fairness I must divulge that I am of German descent on my mother’s side. Thankfully, my relatives immigrated to the United States long before the war. But sometimes I wonder, would they too have been caught up in the frenzy had they stayed?
The exhibit was titled “How An Entire Nation Got Convinced to Participate in Genocide.”
One display after another showed the slow drip drip drip of acid from Hitler’s mouth and his pen that began to infect the mind of a people who were angry about their economic situation. Hitler commissioned and then published false “scientific evidence” that Germans were superior in every way. He said the Jews were like rats crossing the borders into Germany and Austria, so they could steal money.
One display showed a group of young people jeering and taunting while Jewish youth were made to sweep the streets, in front of the very shops their parents used to own.
Hitler began with an axe to grind, and spoke and wrote words that, repeated, began to take on a life of their own. Or perhaps I should say a “death march” of their own. His words, unchallenged, started a fireball from hell that rolled across all of Europe and nearly destroyed the world.
Yes, I am mad that a so called Muslim man was able to legally buy an assault rifle and fire into a crowd. And I was mad that an Anglo American child was able to do the same at a schoolhouse in Connecticut. And I was mad that two Anglo Americans bombed the buildings in Oklahoma. Once you start labeling every act of violence by the physical characteristics or religion of the perpetrator, the reptilian brain thinks “Oh, if I therefore get rid of said Muslim, Mexican, African American, disabled person, then I would be safe.” (Nobody in our culture actually says something like “A Lutheran leaning Anglo American caused this crime,” for example, but perhaps we should. Just add any religion in there. Or in the case of the Columbine shooters, be sure to mention they worshipped Satan.) (PS. I only chose Lutheran for the alliteration. I love Lutherans.)
So I too weep when another mass shooting takes place. But I shudder to see the similarities between our country now and Austria back them, when Hitler was speaking at rallies, and getting great crowds to march in lock step with him, all in some maniacal quest to make himself their leader, so ultimately he could destroy all his perceived enemies. Judges. Reporters. Women who shout. You name it.
One exhibit at the Mauthausen camp showed two life sized mannequin couples talking at a coffee shop. A spot light came on them and then audio could be heard. “Surely, this madman will be stopped. He can’t be taken seriously!” The other replied “Don’t worry. Sanity will prevail.”
At another table two men in business suits were talking–one of them urgently. “I’m telling you, we all need to leave now!” The other man replied “This too will pass. This is where my family is. We’re not going anywhere.” And then the stage light goes dark.
The next exhibit is a collection of shoes–children’s shoes, women’s shoes, men’s shoes. Piled high like firewood. Like the bodies were when my uncle Joseph Jones and the V Corp he served helped liberate the prisoners at concentration camps. I have seen pictures he took, discovered when we were going through his belongings after he died. He won so many medals he never talked about. True heroes are humble. It’s the cowards who brag.
Genocide. Mass killings. Incited and inflicted by mad men–and the women who went along with them, standing off behind the podium. Window dressing. Silent.
The one common thread in all of this is someone was allowed to freely use their power to terminate the lives of others. Which came first, the bullets, or the words?
So I weep for our brothers and sisters and children and nieces and nephews who were killed in Orlando this week. It was a hate crime as well as an act of terror.
Looking down the road, my red level alarm is that Trump will be allowed to continue to infect our culture over this tragedy, releasing his verbal poison into the air. The notion that others are going along with him, hoping he will change, is astounding and disturbing to me. It is like playing Russian roulette with a live bullet, thinking “Well, I’d say my odds are pretty good.” Every media cycle, every national event is a spin of the chamber.
Giving Trump a microphone is like giving him an assault rifle times one million. Remember how he boasted that he could shoot someone dead on a city street and people would still vote for him? And he still wins a major party’s nomination for the highest office in the land!?
The similarities remind me oh too much of another mad man with a very strange part in his hair, who loved to blame others with labels and hand stabs, all bubbling up from the cauldron of hatred at his core.
Who are we to have allowed someone like Trump to have come this far?
Can you say Mauthausen?
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By Laurie Beth Jones