In the summer of 1936, a cleanup campaign was launched in the city of Berlin. “Fur Juden verboten” (for Jews forbidden) and other signs were taken down. Thuggish violence against Jewish citizens was all but outlawed. Some eight hundred Gypsies were arrested and kept hidden. Friendliness, cleanliness and the facade of hospitality were the order of the day, and visitors from around the world were treated to the apparition of a model city for the modern Games of the XI Olympiad.
Thus are served up the optics of totalitarianism. The tyrant’s concern for how his image plays on the world stage exceeds all other considerations – uber alles. It goes without saying that it exceeds the human consideration of individual rights and comforts.
In a surreal interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump named so-called “sanctuary cities,” specifically New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as places where “police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat,” and homelessness there started “just two years ago.” He went on to say that the same situation was beginning to happen in Washington, D.C., when he first became president, but, “I ended it very quickly, I said, ‘You can’t do that.’ When we have leaders of the world coming in to see the president of the United States and they’re riding down a highway, they can’t be looking at that. I really believe it hurts our country.” Then he added ominously, “We have to get that whole thing cleaned up. We have to take the people and do something.”
Since Tucker Carlson lacks the integrity to challenge Trump with even softball questions about this gobbledygook, we can’t say with complete certainty what Trump was actually talking about. Unlike President Barack Obama, who spoke in whole, beautiful sentences organized into meaningful paragraphs, Trump speaks in half sentences, incomplete thoughts and incoherently joined ideas that frequently ultimately say nothing definite.
My best guess is, Trump was trying to suggest that homelessness is on the rise in sanctuary cities due to immigration. That these “new homeless” are in reality immigrants, and because sanctuary cities are operating in defiance of Trump, they are suffering the consequences of disease and newly minted unsavory homeless characters wandering their streets. It started to happen in Washington, D.C., but trump stopped it by uttering the magic words, “You can’t do that.” The solution? Trump is going to have to “take the people.” Where? What will his solution be? My guess is it will be the same solution Hitler had for Gypsies in 1936. Only this time it’s going to be permanent.
If you think this is all moonshine and paranoia, ask yourself this question: three years ago would you have believed that the children of asylum seekers would be separated from their families and institutionally abused and deprived of basic human comforts as a matter of routine policy of the president of the United States? Would you have believed that Nazi hate groups, the Klan and bigotry would all come out of the closet and parade down the street out in the open again? Would you have believed that, as a matter of policy, the American president would turn his back on America’s best and oldest allies to collude traitorously with and seek favor from the very worst dictators in the world today? It’s happening now, and many people in the world are happy to see it happen, I’m sorry to say.
The history we are once again failing to learn from, and appear to be doomed to repeat, is the history of the Third Reich. Only this time it’s not the Germans, it’s us. Only this time we have nukes. Only this time we are in the middle of an Extinction Level Event that we might forestall or even prevent if we act swiftly. Failure is no longer an option.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.