When the Nazis’ herded women and children into the concentration camps, they separated children from their mothers by telling the kids their mothers were just taking a shower and would rejoin them shortly. And it’s true, they did take a shower, but without water…
When Ron DeSantis herded petrified immigrant families onto planes destined for Martha’s Vineyard, they were told they were going to Boston where a job, housing, and food awaited them.
Am I comparing the Nazi death camps to Ron DeSantis’ stunt? No. What I am saying is this: both have the same mindset, which is an inhumane level of cruelty.
The eternal battle between Democracy and Fascism is being waged in this country now, and for Fascism, its DNA is soaked in cruelty. Cruelty is the point.
Trump’s campaign to install fascism, while knee-capping Democracy, has deep roots, guiding principles, and mentors. Slaveholders, the Third Reich, and Donald Trump all embraced and executed these principles in their relentless, maniacal quest for power and money.
The prominent DNA strand of a Fascist is cruelty. Cruelty is the mask that camouflages their cowardice, their deep-seated hidden fear of others. They have no shame, no moral strand, and are incapable of empathy. You can’t argue with them, or appeal to their conscience. Their insecurity, their lack of self, breeds their cruelty.
In this essay, I will examine the machinations of fascism and its fundamentals, its instruments of implementation, its frontal assault on Democracy, which we are fending off now. It will show the parallels between slaveholders, the Third Reich, and our former President.
The foundation of Fascism’s infrastructure is propped up with lies. Lies and disinformation serve as weapons to divide and secure power, using scapegoats to tenderize their lies.
“By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” Adolf Hitler
Slaveholders in the South saturated the land with lies about Afro-Americans, as well as poor whites. The basic lie was that Afro-Americans weren’t human, and therefore naturally suited for slave labor. The disinformation of Afro-Americans has deep roots. Thomas Jefferson weighed in, stating that separation from loved ones mattered little to African Americans.
Destitute whites were included in this broadside propaganda. Preachers, as dictated by slaveholders, promulgated this false concept, and even cherry-picked, out-of-context Bible passages, to justify Afro-American bondage and cruelty.
“White ministers eagerly promised that they would henceforth work harder than ever to make Christianity into a toll that would help enslavers govern their society.”
“But he should not suffer. God had created some people unfit for freedom. Slavery was God’s will. To worry about slavery was to doubt God. To oppose it was hearsay.” Page 210 The Half Has Never Been Told” Edward Baptist
To keep the lie aflame, slavery viable, slaveholders manipulated poor whites into thinking that their degradation, ignorance, and poverty sprouted from Afro-Americans.
“By predicting that poor whites would be massacred by the “black plague,” masters tried to scare white laborers into supporting the institution of slavery—regardless of what it did to their jobs or wages.” Page 83 Masterless Men, Kari Leigh Merritt
We see this played out today: poor whites elect politicians who vote against programs designed to help their communities: infrastructure, healthcare, global warming, voting rights. They sabotage their quality of life because they fall prey to the disinformation that assaults their news airways.
“When asked to vote on a specific issue, Missourians chose the most progressive options. But when asked to vote for a politician, over half of Missourians chose Republicans who sought to strike down the very ballot initiatives for which they had voted.” Page 46 Hiding in Plain Sight, Sarah Kendior
Degraded and suppressed by slaveholders, poor whites took the bait that their degradation stemmed from their partners in decadence–Afro-Americans. To maintain their tyranny, slaveholders kept both races ignorant. It was a crime for Afro-Americans to read, punishable with hanging. Slaveowners forbid public education for both poor black and whites; schools were only available for the offspring of white landowners. Keeping whites ignorant and illiterate enabled slaveholders to keep a chokehold on black and white workers. Destitute whites were kept in line with threats of slave labor, and later on slaveholders played black and white laborers off each other, disabling their power, thus constructing a wedge between two groups who had common ground.
“Meanwhile, the northern press and Republicans in Congress charged that Democrats had adopted the idea that “the subjugation of white freemen may be necessary that African slavery may succeed in Kansas.” Page 374, The Half Has Never Been Told, Edward Baptist
Despite the manipulation of poor whites and blacks, they often connected, shared resources, despite threats to maintain the racial divide. During slavery, there were many stories of slaves sneaking food to starving whites, who had no way of competing with slave labor, and therefore remained destitute with no job prospects.
The source of poor black and whites’ degradation was not each other but the slaveholders, and later the landowners, who evolved another stratagem—sharecropping, a different shade of slavery, and convict leasing, a more sinister shade of slavery.
“There is but one way for the oligarchy to perpetuate slavery in the Southern States and that is by perpetuating absolute ignorance among the non-slaveholding whites.” Page 143 Masterless Men, Kari Leigh Merritt
Slaveholders, and later, landowners, kept industry out of the deep South. They were making so much money with slave labor that manufacturing posed a threat to their monopoly. Manufacturing in the South would have proven to be a boon to the Southern economy, an alternative to plantation work, and would have benefitted both poor black and white laborers.
“For virtually all white Americans were now interested, almost all profiting in some way—financially, psychologically, or both—from slavery’s growing empire.” Page 137, The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward Baptist
Assaulted with the propaganda that blacks were the source of their degraded condition, poor whites carried the torch of racism, a false doctrine meant to exploit the working class. It begs the question: why would they have sabotaged their own well-being?
“And importantly, thus has it been possible to make poor and working-class white people believe that their interests lie in making common cause with their political leaders and economic betters. Common cause in whiteness, the idea that they might eventually share in the spoils, and the understanding that the discomforts and anxieties of their own precarious lives were due to-are due to-those below them rather than those above them.” Page 6, The Broken Heart of America. Walter Johnson
The Third Reich was constructed on lies and disinformation, mimicking the slaveholders’ business plan. Hitler and his enablers studied America’s suppression of Afro-Americans, marveled at American Jim Crow laws, how it kept Afro-Americans shackled and powerless. They even sent a delegation to America to study America’s blueprint for the suppression of a race. The lessons learned were applied in their genocide of Jews.
We begin to see the stark reality of fascism, the maniacal cruelty that coursed through the bloodstream of the Nazis as they systematically sought to exterminate an entire race. Here are some of the fundamentals the Nazis sought to implement:
- Cancelled treaties with other nations that promoted harmony. But wait, didn’t Trump pull us out of NATO, cancel the Iran Nuclear treaty, etc., etc.
- Attacked the free press, all opposition voices were silenced. But wait, didn’t Trump rant that the press was an enemy of the people?
- Purged the government of officials who tried to expose the corruption. But wait, didn’t Trump continually purge his administration of people he deemed disloyal to him: Comey, John Bolton, Dan Coats, Rod Rosenstein, James Mattis, John Kelly, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Healey, Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe; and this is just a tip of the iceberg. There’s not enough bandwidth to absorb the names. Let’s just say—it was a lot.
- Prodded police to attack peaceful protesters. But wait, didn’t Trump attack peaceful protesters in Portland, and then there was the incident where his henchmen cleared a path through peaceful protesters, including the minister, so he could hold up a Bible upside down?
- Hitler courted white nationalists and targeted racial, religious, and ethnic minorities for persecution, and in the case of Jews, execution. But wait, didn’t Trump align himself with white supremacists and not only attacked minorities, but incited violence against the marginalized? And least me not forget his famous quote from Charlottesville: ‘very fine people on both sides.’
- Hitler attacked labor unions, accusing it an enemy of capitalism while enriching far-right industrialists. But wait, didn’t Trump fight for that massive tax break for his rich friends…and not to mention, Trump was a beneficiary of that tax cut. How fortuitous.
Hitler, relying on the big lie, was able to convince Germans that the reason for their World War I defeat, their economic devastation, was the Jews. Hitler didn’t invent anti-Semitism; he exploited it. The landscape of anti-Semitism had been nourished and tilled for over a hundred years by pastors throughout Europe. Germans, having been groomed from the pulpit for over a century, readily embraced the cruelty, the disinformation, the conspiracy theories of the Nazi party. Ordinary citizens, your baker, butcher, cabinet maker. Your civil servant, schoolteacher, engineer, etc. all participated in the genocide.
The SS would roll into Polish towns, call a town meeting for the entire town, and the SS would ask for volunteers to aid them in killing all the Jews in the town, including women and children. And except for a few squeamish citizens, all would participate in the pogroms, having been infected with disinformation all their lives. A police chief’s statement about the executions:
“I would also like to say that it did not at all occur to me that these orders could be unjust. It is true that I know that it is also the duty of the police to protect the innocent, but I was then of the conviction that the Jews were not innocent but guilty. I believed the propaganda that all Jews were criminals and sub-humans and that they were the cause of Germany’s decline after the First World War. The thought that one should disobey or evade the order to participate in the extermination of the Jews did not therefore enter my mind at all.” Kurt Mobius, Police Battalion
Disinformation is a powerful tool of fascism. Disinformation is so powerful that it can make one execute children or storm the Capital.
And this brings us to the reign of Trump, who uncorked the full arsenal of fascism: lies, inciting violence, misdirection, racism, scapegoats, etc.–fascism’s greatest hits.
When caught with his hand in the cookie jar regarding confidential secret documents, the propaganda juggernaut went into full misdirection mode. Joseph Goebbels: “Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty.” Our former President is a Zen master at the smokescreen. He first claimed they were planted, then blamed the FBI for Gestapo tactics, then said he reclassified them as non-confidential just by thinking the thought, then had his enablers offer even more bizarre explanations like Mark Rubio who stated it was just a storage issue. It’s hard to keep up with the misdirection.
And of course, of course he did, pulling the GOP’s favorite weapons from its holster: whataboutism, and false equivalents. And you knew this had to come: what about Hillary’s emails?
All these sleigh-of-hands were designed to take the focus off the fact he stole highly classified, confidential documents, including nuclear documents.
And the question looms: why?
Fueling the insurrection was the BIG LIE, a lie he knew to be a lie. “Trump at times has appeared to admit to losing the election. In June, he told Fox New’s Sean Hannity that he “didn’t win”. Kelsey Carolan 4/5/22
“Former White House aide says she heard Trump in private blurt out ‘Can you believe I lost to this guy?’ while watching Biden on TV” Aylessa Farah
By promoting the Big Lie, a lie he knew to be a lie, Trump commenced his assault on Democracy, adhering to Goebbels playbook:
“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself…The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.” Joseph Goebbels
I really believe, at this point, Trump believes the BIG LIE. He has repeated it so often that it has seeped into his unconscious, his bloodstream. It has served as an excuse to fund raise, hold rallies with his cult followers who lavish him with adoration. He lives for these rallies, as did Hitler, like old rockers who perform concerts in order to have their egos stroked.
While in office, Trump told over thirty thousand lies; adopting the BIG LIE proved seamless.
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984
As a nation, we find ourselves at a tipping point. Our former President, a narcissistic psychotic, intends to pile drive the bedrock of Democracy, voting rights. Sixty-five courts, many manned with Trump judicial appointees, have ruled there was no election fraud. His attorney general, Bill Barr, stated there was no election fraud and he was fired; Chris Krebs the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was fired after stating the 2020 election was the most secure in our history.
There is no question who won the 2020 Presidential election, and despite that truth, Trump has unleashed a tsunami of voter suppression barriers, blatantly targeting communities of color and the disenfranchised. They never hide their intent. Voter suppression was a staple for slaveholders and the Third Reich. It’s how they consolidated their power. As Trump stated: it’s not how many votes that are counted, it’s who counts the votes, which has always been his insidious intent, laid bare during the January 6th hearings.
Let’s review the sobering similarities between Hitler and Trump:
- Both labeled the press an enemy of the people.
- Hitler vowed to make Germany great again. Trump vowed to make America great again.
- Both used racism to rise to power.
- Hitler was anti-Jew; Trump was anti-Muslimism, anti-Hispanic, anti-Afro-American.
- Hitler had his secret police that arrested anyone who opposed the regime. Trump sicced Cops, their identities hidden, on peaceful Portland protesters. And you could say that the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were Trump’s stormtroopers—they certainly demonstrated quality on January 6th.
- Hitler packed the court with extremist judges. Trump packed the court with extremist enablers, resulting in the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. And here is what Hitler had to say about abortion.
“I’ll put an end to the idea that a woman’s body belonged to her…Nazi ideals demand that the practice of abortion shall be exterminated with a strong hand.” Adolf Hitler.
So there you have it.
We are fighting the eternal battle, but we are armed with invisible, powerful weapons, time tested, ready to be unleashed upon the merchants of disinformation. These weapons are truth, kindness, love, a moral imperative, and courage.
Democracy is on the ropes, but history has shown that when a country flexes its invisible muscles, change occurs. Look no further than Martin Luther King and Gandhi.
Truth trumps lies seven days a week. Or should I say, truth trumps Trump.
Curt Strickland is one of the principal owners of Great American Art, an art and design company located outside Boston. Founded almost 40 years ago, Great American Art designs, manufactures and installs art throughout the country. Curt is also one of the principle photographers for Great American, specializing in landscape and cityscape images. His philosophy as an artist is embraced in GAPCO’s mission:
“Art should serve to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge and to offer hope – but most of all to connect… to remind us of our common humanity.”