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TRUMP, HITLER AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

March 21, 2017
  1. TRUMP, HITLER AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

    The following is another response I have made to IUPUI professor Sheila Kennedy’s blog inviting commentary which I have deemed blog-ready. She points out in her post that an academic has suggested that we stop using references to Hitler when describing Trump for fear that we will overuse such a designation and lose the effect of such reference. Assuming that such an academic is not a front for Bannon and Trump telling us to shut up, such advice nonetheless got my First Amendment dander up and I wrote the following response to her offering with one of my own undergirded by my theory that if we do not make robust use of our First Amendment rights (as we should will all our rights) we will lose them. (I added a paragraph to the following  slightly edited response.)

    The First Amendment gives us the right (so far) of comparing our present regime with Hitler, Idi Amin, Richard Nixon or anyone else we please, but unlike Trump’s aversion to apology for calling Obama a felon, I concede that we must have evidence to support such a contrast. Look around. Evidence abounds in Bannon World.

    The Authoritarians are clearly in control of a clueless Trump (who we can only hope is awaiting removal under the 25th Amendment) and evidence of such is so abundant that it is useless to cite here. Suffice it to say that if it acts like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

    Comparisons to Hitler’s power-grabbing conduct are perfectly apt and I for one will not give up my First Amendment right to make such comparisons because of the twisted logic of some of the academic class who posit that I have abandoned other grounds for my position(s) by making such comparisons. Thus I can decry Trump’s budget proposals while at the same time comparing his conduct in office to that of anyone I choose, including Hitler, Genghis Khan, or Hun and Ottoman politicians of another day and age.

    In a democracy we can criticize Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ if we please to do so as citizens, and while those two are not on my list, Trump and Hitler have qualified, and anybody who doesn’t see the parallels with Miller’s recent pronouncement that Trump’s orders are not to be limited by the courts to Hitler’s pronouncements in Mein Kampf is not paying attention, and those who are not paying attention are not defending democracy, our most important asset held in common. As the ancient Athenians found as they were gobbled up by Roman legions, democracy is fragile, so let’s pay attention and pursue our democratic rights in robust fashion against anybody and everybody before they evaporate for disuse.

    Freedom isn’t free nor is democracy assured survival with authoritarian forces such as those of Trump and Putin apparently arrayed together for its destruction. Democracy must be nurtured day and night and we must boldly confront those who would cause its demise in their own lust for power and profit. It is by far our most important asset held in common and, as I frequently note, one of the last few things left worth dying for, as millions have in its defense, so let’s boldly and robustly use the rights granted to us by our Constitution and the First through Twenty Fifth Amendments in defense of this precious asset against one and all and anyone who would attempt to bring fascist rule to our country, and let’s not be deterred by threat, propaganda and even academic niceties such as the one posed in Sheila’s blog today. Nothing is more important than preservation of our democracy, tattered as it is. Not fame. Not fortune. Nothing, since without democracy’s bedrock principles we don’t have a country fit for human habitation.    GERALD        E

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2 Comments
  1. Niel Johnson permalink

    Unfortunately, there are some parallels between the rhetoric and psychology used by Trump and that employed by other demagogues and dictators. In the case of Hitler, one can note the Fuehrer’s use of simple, harsh, and libelous words about supposed enemies, including scapegoating minorities such as Jews and liberals, and stirring up base emotions of resentment, rage, and revenge. He aroused in his growing base-audience a sense of hostility toward legislative or judicial checks on the powers of the executive, and exploited the fears of those who were losing jobs and were facing unemployment or reduced pay and and lower social-economic status. He promised to lead an “erwachen,” or awakening of Germany and make this world power great again. Much of the same can be said about Mussolini, who pioneered the process of creating a “corporate state” in Italy in the mid-1920s. Both movements came about in the wake of disgust with parliaments that seemed disorderly and unable to solved a range of social, economic, and cultural problems.

  2. Could not agree more. There is a time and place to call out what is true. History (for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear) teaches us the disastrous consequences of not speaking out either soon enough or not at all (as Niel Johnson speaks to in his comments). As one who regularly speaks from a pulpit in a church setting, I would not be fulfilling my ordination rites if I did not clarify, teach and, proverbially, “speak truth to power.” Thank God a person need not have any high brow credentials to do this. I don’t recall reading in scriptures how John the Baptist or Jesus of Nazareth completed undergrad and graduate degrees to name and call out the evils of the world. It is simply the human ability to recognize a wrong and making it right.

    As democracy is an evolving experiment with no guarantees of survival, I would say the same about humanity. Our species is still evolving with no guarantee of making it to the next decade much less millennia. It is crucial and, indeed, a matter of life and death, that we speak clearly, openly, honestly with passion and compassion of the life-giving values that hold the human family and this world, in totality, together. I often feel I am living in the belly of the beast (to steal from Martin Luther’s take on Babylon).

    In a culture and world that is drowning in the cyber-world of 24/7 “information,” it is profoundly important that we o our best to let our voices be heard. Thanks again, Gerry and Niel, for adding your voices to what is morally and ethically right!

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