There’s a “rule” of sorts out there that if an argument goes on long enough someone will inevitably invoke Hitler. This rule or adage is called Godwin’s law and according to Godwin himself, the intent of this rule is that those who would just casually toss out Hitler references pause and think a bit more critically about the situation. Godwin’s law, generally, seems to be meant to be a way to be more intentional about arguments than just resorting to hyperbole.
For the past several weeks, even in the lead up to Inauguration, I kept applying Godwin’s law to myself. There were so many times when the thought blipped into my head that Trump is Hitler and similar such things. I kept convincing myself that because I was angry I was lapsing into hyperbole. Being angry, I reasoned, did not justify me shouting that someone is a fascist. I needed to think more critically.
Then yesterday, Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the admission of all refugees for at least 120 days. The order also gave priority entrance to the United States to Christians, the implication being that Muslims are bad people. This is no longer hyperbole. This is no longer a worst case scenario. This stopped being a bad dream several exits back. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live in the run up to Nazi Germany you have your answer now.
This is not exaggeration. Last night, migrants and refugees who have valid, active, and appropriate visas to enter the United States were stopped at JFK and San Francisco International Airport and denied entry. In other parts of the world, legal US permanent residents and green card holders who have been outside of the United States and who have legal right to return have been banned from flights heading back to the US. These cases, of detainment and denial, include people who have worked to aid the US Army in Iraq and were given status and visas because of the work they did to aid our nation. America made a promise to protect these people and now, after they’ve risked their lives to help us, we’re reneging on our promise. He’s also calling for total bans from countries he says are the source of terrorism. However, none of the countries banned are Saudi Arabia, which happens to be the country that formerly classified documents state assisted the 9/11 hijackers. In fact, not a single home country of any of the 9/11 hijackers appear on Trump’s list. This ban isn’t about protecting America. It’s about being a racist piece of shit.
But Nicole, you might say, how does any of this make us like Nazi Germany? Glad you asked. Earlier this week, Trump said that he was going to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants living in so-called sanctuary cities. This list is an echo of the records and files kept in Nazi Germany about crimes committed by Jews. And Trump still wants Muslims to register, just like Hitler did the Jews. We also shouldn’t forget the censorship that Trump is imposing on various agencies as well as his attempts to discredit the free press. These things are all parts of a greater playbook circa 1930s Germany and unless you’ve been living under a rock or are from another planet we all know how well that went, not only for Germany but for the world.
The thing that haunts me the most, though, is that because of Trump we are turning our back on those desperately seeking help and safety. People do not flee their homes, nations, countries, and cultures lightly. They do it because even the risk of death on the journey or hardship where they go is better than the hell they are living through. They don’t do it to take from the system. They don’t do it to cause trouble. They do it to save the lives of themselves and their children. They do it for the same damn reasons our grandparents and great grandparents and others before us came to the US: they come for the hope of a better life and by turning them away we are condemning them, sometimes to death. We’ve done it before. Anne Frank and her family were refugees. They fled Germany to the Netherlands in an attempt to escape Hitler and then, from the Netherlands, tried to get to the United States as refugees for safety. We turned them away, leaving the majority of the Frank family, including Anne, to die in concentration camps. Wait, let me rephrase that. The majority of the Frank family, including Anne, were murdered by the Nazis. Not enough for you? In 1939 the German ship St. Louis arrived in the United States with 936 Jewish refugees seeking safety. We turned them away. Other nations ended up taking in these refugees, but unfortunately among those welcoming countries were several that Hitler’s Nazi forces also took over. By war’s end 254 of those refugees had died either in concentration camps or in hiding.
We’ve gone down this road before and where this road ends is horrific. And perhaps the worst and most awful part? None of this actually helps protect the nation. Germany and the Germany people were nearly destroyed because of their actions and World War 2. Nationalism doesn’t protect. Nationalism kills. It’s a long, disgusting form of national suicide that strips us not only of our freedom, our lives, and our decency, but it takes our souls and anyone standing near us down with it.
This has to stop. We’re Americans. We’re supposed to better than this.