Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Monster in the Mirror Reflects Us All

 (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
11 years ago, new pictures of Hitler, taken in the 1920s before he came to power in 1933, came to light. They were found in the vault of one Heinrich Hoffman, who was more or less Hitler's official photographer back then. It was a long photo set showing the future Nazi leader posing for effect while pretending to give a speech and, later, he'd pick and choose which poses he'd wind up using in his actual speeches.
     Nowadays, with Hitler long dead for going on 79 years and us living in an age when political idolatry is on a definite downswing, it's easy to laugh off these pictures as the histrionic convulsions of a man who plainly lusted for power and would stop at nothing to obtain, and cling, to it. So, yes, let us laugh at Adolph Hitler, a man who was long ago parodied in his own lifetime by comedic masters such as Moe Howard and Charlie Chaplin.
     But it would be a grave mistake to laugh off the fascism that was pioneered by Mussolini and perfected by Hitler.
     We're seeing the rise of a far right political party named the AfD in the unified Germany that's not very dissimilar to the Nazi party in that same country 90 years ago.
    We're seeing right wing American reactionaries putting up antisemitic messages on the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and some goober from Texas thought it would be a good idea to steal part of the train tracks from Auschwitz in Poland. Both the Anne Frank House and Auschwitz-Birkenau used to be, until recently, considered holy ground second only to Yad Vashem regarding the Holocaust.
     At that same Yad Vashem, Trump left a bizarrely cheerful inscription in the guestbook that reads like something one would write at Disneyland. “It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!” It stands in stark contrast to the sober and reflective paragraph President Obama left in that same guestbook.
     Granted, Trump knows what side his bread is buttered on, at least in the Middle East, so he never became the vicious antisemite that Hitler and all his top aides were. But occasionally, the Jewish community gets a tongue lashing from Mango Mussolini, like last weekend when he rang in Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, by excoriating American Jews for not being sufficiently loyal to him back in 2020.
     It's perfectly in line with the megalomaniacal world view of an individual who thinks the world revolves around him and will give you props provided you give him the tongue-laden tribute to which he things he's entitled.
 Once an Asshole, Always an Asshole
Donald Trump always was an asshole, an insufferable asshole, a professional, card-carrying, dues-paying, platinum-plated asshole who'd in civilian life been mired in countless thousands of lawsuits as both a plaintiff and a defendant for things ranging from unpaid bills to breach of contract. He was a racist, a tax cheat, a draft dodger, a rapist, a philanderer. But, in the grand scheme of things, that only made Trump a stereotypical Republican.
     The presidency, as we saw between 2017 and 2021, made him a monster.
    The presidency gave Trump the world-altering power that Hitler craved, and got, that gave him unlimited Secret Service protection from which he bilked millions, a 1000 watt megaphone from which to broadcast his ideas from the ridiculous to the murderous, a Justice Department that was only too happy to be degraded into both his personal law firm and PR apparatus.
     Trump started out in life preventing Black people from renting his father's apartments, He ended up trying to overthrow the government even if it involved the execution of his vice president and the Speaker of the House.
    Or maybe Trump always was a monster. The presidency, after all, comes with an electron microscope that mercilessly scrutinizes every syllable, every facial tic of the Commander in Chief thanks to an erstwhile prurient press that always seems more interested in sensationalism than in being the first draft of history, a guardian of democracy or a bellwether of things to come, good or bad.
     Whichever way one looks at it, Donald Trump is in more legal peril than at any time in his life. For the first time, he's under indictment in four jurisdictions, each indictment coming with an arrest, not to mention a quarter of a billion dollar case brought by NY AG Letitia James and several other smaller pending civil suits. And he was impeached twice, another record, for crimes he committed while in the Oval Office.
     So maybe Trump was always a monster going back to when he kicked the shin of his music teacher when he was seven years-old or when he was at Wharton. But the peril he's in now has almost exclusively come from criminal acts he'd committed while in the White House and afterward.
     And that brings us to Adolph Hitler from a century ago.

The Revolution Will Be Televised But Only After Rehearsal
Anyone who knows the first thing about Trump knows that Trump rehearsed that baleful scowl in advance of his mug shot being taken at Fulton County, the only jurisdiction that had released any mug shot taken of him. Yes, we can take it as an article of faith that Trump practiced that scowl every bit as much as Hitler mugged for his photographer with his comically histrionic convulsions.
     But the rage in his beady little eyes is real. Trump's as lousy an actor as he is a standup comedian but when he shows his rage, he's very good at it and we'd be stupid not to take it at face value. After all, this is a guy who'd told a right wing audience in Waco last March, "I am your retribution". Countless times, Trump has promised full-bore retribution for the indignity to his person in the form of lawsuits and prosecutions for his lengthening list of crimes. Policy positions? Nothing in the way of substance. It's all about the revenge and retribution, which is why his latest and, hopefully, last campaign is called "the revenge tour".
     Hopefully, it'll also be his farewell tour, the kind a dictator would embark on after being bloated and made sick with meaningless honors, that is, if dictators didn't cling to power for life until dropping dead or getting arrested and executed for war crimes.
     But, like the old saying goes, when someone shows you who and what they are, believe them. After Trump came down that escalator, he promised retribution against Mexicans for some unspecified transgression and he did just that. He promised a wall that he did try to build but didn't, not through lack of trying. One of his first acts in office was to enact a Muslim travel ban that just coincidentally didn't involve any nations in which he held a financial stake.
     And yet, despite two impeachments, four indictments, 91 criminal counts, four arrests and a massive civil suit that could cripple his core business, the pundits and polls are still saying the race would be a toss-up if the election was held today. With a capable president unfairly saddled with a 39% approval rating and Trump leading the GOP primary polls and within the margin of error in head-to-head matchups with Biden, that makes the obligatory horse race more of a neck and neck affair than it ought to be.
     And, granted the primary poll numbers aren't indicative of what the election day exit polls will be any more than the wedding is the marriage but don't forget one thing- Hillary was a shoe-in even on election night. The polls, historically, get more accurate the closer one gets to election day but recent trends have proven that to be a lie. The tea leaves aren't as infallible as they used to be.
     And we can't rely on an ossified fear of Trump to save the day like it did in 2020 when Biden got 81,000,000 votes. Trump was still in power on election day 2020 and the fear of what he'd do in an uninterrupted second term was what propelled a bland centrist Democrat in the White House.
     And whether he runs as Donald John Trump, former President Trump or #P01135809, it would be a grave mistake to laugh off or disregard his last hurrah and bid for "public" service as it was in 2016. After all, as the Governor of Landsberg Germany wrote in 1924 during Hitler's incarceration for his role in the Beer Hall putsch of 1923,
     "When he returns to freedom, he will do so without entertaining revengeful purposes against those in official positions who opposed him and frustrated him in November 1923. He will not agitate against the government, nor will he wage war against other nationalist parties. He is completely convinced that a state cannot exist without internal order and firm government."
     A paragraph that, obviously, didn't age well.


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