Open letter to Trump supporters and everyone else who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
(August 30, 2018) There’s a movie out right now — Operation Finale — about bringing Adolf Eichmann to justice. Adolf Eichmann was the logistician of the transportation part of the Holocaust. He set up the system of rounding up Jews all over Europe, putting them in ghettos and holding camps and transporting them by cattle trains to the concentration camps, where the Nazis murdered six million Jews between 1942 and 1945. He wasn’t a monster; he was a regular, pencil-pushing German bureaucrat, doing what he did best — creating a bureaucratic system that worked as efficiently as possible. But this post is not about Eichmann or about the new movie.
Eichmann was brought to justice in Israel in 1962. The Nuremberg Trials had taken place some six years earlier, in Germany. During those trials twenty-two top-level Nazis were accused of crimes against humanity, defended, declared guilty and convicted. Several got the death penalty. Eichmann, like many others, had evaded the Nuremberg trials. He lived in Austria until 1950 and then hid out in Latin America. Eli Wiesel, a Jewish Holocaust survivor himself, made finding and bringing these murderers to justice his life’s work, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The war criminals at Nuremberg and Eichmann all had a similar defense for their actions: They claimed their actions weren’t considered crimes at the time. In fact, they were just following orders. They firmly believed at the time that they were doing what they did for the good of their country. However, the verdict was that people have a personal responsibility for their actions, regardless of orders or being told that something was for “the good of the country,” and that the defendants surely knew that murdering innocent men, women and children was wrong. They should have refused. They didn’t, so they were guilty of crimes against humanity.
Let’s hope that the American nightmare we’re living right now ends before it gets anywhere near as bad as Nazi Germany. Still, any life lost is one too many. Any child permanently traumatized is one too many. Any person bullied in public for no other reason than being black, brown, LGBT, Muslim or able to speak more than one language is one too many. Any person living in fear right now because of the current political and social climate is one too many.
So even if this all ends tomorrow, even if Trump is indicted, arrested and carted off to jail tomorrow, even if his presidency is annulled and new presidential elections are announced tomorrow and all Trump’s damaging executive orders are undone, plenty of you have done plenty of damage, and you have been loud and proud about it. Whenever this ends, you suddenly won’t be in Trump Country anymore. This post is addressed to you, Trump supporters; to you, Fox and other Trump-supporting media and media personalities. It’s not addressed to the current GOP, because it’s clear by now that there’s nothing they won’t live with in return for some more conservative judges, and it’s clear we can’t expect any meaningful, stands from them. John McCain is dead.
When Trump leaves and the current enabling GOP is outnumbered if not completely replaced, there will be a reckoning. I think the first to be called to account will be you, right-wing media. Fox and Rush Limbaugh and everyone of you who created this fantasy land where Mexicans are all drug dealers and rapists, where it’s better to be a Putin fan than a democrat, where blacks are taking over and killing every white person who can’t defend himself and his family with an AK-15, where the regular media are the enemy of the people and where the sky is green with purple polka dots if Trump says so.
At some point Trump Country will come crashing down. Then even you, Fox and Friends, will no longer be able to deny that Trump is indeed guilty of multiple crimes, tax evasion being the very least and treason not unlikely. Even you will no longer be able to deny that he did get elected president at least in part due to Russian interference in the election, and that Russia has been playing your “president,” using him to weaken NATO, the EU, the TPP and anything else Russia wants weakened. It will become clear, even to you, that the journalists of the mainstream media were right — that they were simply doing their work, which is asking questions about issues that are relevant to people’s lives, finding factual answers and presenting them to the public. Because democracy depends on an informed public. It will become clear that, in contrast, you at Fox and you other talk show persons, have made absolute fools of yourselves all this time.
Except that it’s worse than that. You worked hard for at least the last two decades to create this alternate America where facts don’t matter to begin with. You paved the way for Trump. And now you follow his lead and spend every day keeping his hating base misinformed and worked up. That has real-world consequences. In the process of making complete fools of yourselves, you get journalists, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, LGBT folks, Indians, refugees and journalists killed.
Next to be held to account will be you, Trump followers. You let yourselves be led by the nose by Trump and by Fox and co. You would rather believe the crazy rants of a delusional egomaniac than your own eyes. Look around you, folks: not all Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists; you don’t need an AK-15 for self-defense against marauding blacks; all of us white folks who don’t have one are still alive and well; there is no war on Christmas; and people speaking a different language with one another is not killing anyone either. On the other hand, Russia definitely is a hostile nation, Putin is definitely not fine, and it definitely is not better to let Russia take over the country than to be a Democrat.
You could have known all this, Trump voters. Okay, to know about Russia’s role in world history and Putin’s agenda you’d have to consume some mainstream media or at the very least look some stuff up on Brittanica.com; the rest doesn’t even require that much. It requires a lot more of your effort to avoid reality and rationalize your continued support for a know-nothing, ego-maniacal, amoral, pussy-grabbing criminal. Unless you’re no better yourself, of course. Either way, you have no excuse.
You have no excuse for harassing a mother and daughter because they speak Spanish to each other in a store. You have no excuse for punching a Muslim woman in the face in the subway for wearing a head scarf. You have no excuse for shooting a black girl dead who rings your doorbell at night because her car broke down, or a black teenager who stops to help you when your car breaks down. You have no excuse for calling the cops on a black kid for selling lemonade in front of his house. And you, ICE man, you have no excuse for pulling a toddler from a mother’s arms and then gleefully telling her she’s never going to see her child again.
When this is over you will turn and point the finger at Fox, claiming that they lied to you, that you had no idea that they weren’t providing fair and balanced reporting. You’ll point the finger at Trump, and say that the American president told you that you could trust Fox News and that you shouldn’t trust the mainstream media. That he was the president, so why wouldn’t you believe him? And you will be reminded that the only reason he was the president is that you voted him into office. That’s the only reason.
It wasn’t his intelligence. He claimed to be smart because he went to Wharton and because he was a successful businessman. But he did terribly at Wharton — one professor said he had never had a dumber student — and he went bankrupt three times. The reason he was in so deep with the Russians to begin with is that nobody here would finance him anymore after he screwed over three American banks.
It wasn’t his knowledge and experience or his ability and willingness to acquire any knowledge. It was painfully obvious any time he opened his mouth that he knew nothing about American government and that he wasn’t the least bit interested in learning about it. Hell, he’s halfway through his first term and he still doesn’t know what the American flag looks like.
It wasn’t his morality. “When you’re famous you can do anything, grab ’em by the pussy.” It wasn’t his honesty. He lied about things he had said on tape or on video, things that could be retrieved to prove, almost in real time, that he was lying (which is also pretty darn stupid). You knew all this. It was all on display every day of the election campaign. Despite this or because of this — who cares at this point — you voted for him.
You voted for him because, in your own words, “he says what we think”. He spouted all the racist, bigoted filth you have always thought, and you loved it. And you felt emboldened. Especially when he became president and he brought white supremacist Steve Bannon into the White House. Like the second-tier bullies who take the leader’s cue in the schoolyard, you thought you could now also start harassing folks in a way you hadn’t dared to before. You now dared to lower your window at a traffic light and yell racist slurs at the African American in the car next to you. You now felt the urge to send white parents images of their adopted black child in a gas chamber with Trump at the release button. You drove your car into a crowd of people who were protesting your bigotry.
You are responsible for all of the above. You are all adults who could have known better. The truth was literally staring you in the face at Trump rallies, and you loved it, applauded it, joined in with it. You yelled “Kill him!” when Trump ranted about whichever scapegoat he was in the mood for at that moment. Trump spoke like a dictator, a mob boss, a really bad second-hand car salesman, an eight-year-old, but never like an American president, yet you roared your approval at his every utterance. The normal media was holding the mirror up to your face, and you chose not to look, you chose to instead parrot Trump: “Fake news! Lies! Witch hunt!”
You can allow Trump to stay on. You can allow him to fire Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, and you can allow him to bury the investigations into the Russian interference in the presidential election and into Trump’s possible financial crimes. You can follow all his voting advice to the letter in the midterms and you can continue to applaud his every move. In that case things will definitely get worse.
If you do what Trump’s bidding in the midterms, you give him a mandate to continue eroding the checks and balances of the three branches of government. You give him free rein to go after immigrants even harder. The child separations we saw in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas will have been a mild introduction to the next step. Already he’s even going after Hispanic-American citizens. People who were born in America, but near the Mexican border. (My children were born in McAllen, too, and they’re part Hispanic. Fortunately for them, in the current climate, they have a very English last name and lighter hair, so if they needed to have their passports renewed, they wouldn’t have a problem, but the vast majority of their former schoolmates might.)
The ICE men who enjoyed telling parents they would never see their kids again will have a mandate to be even more sadistic. Trump told the police in Boston in the beginning of his presidency that they shouldn’t worry about hurting people they arrested. Imagine the mandate some cops will feel they have if you decide Trump is above the law? How many more unarmed black teenagers and men are they going to kill? When you decide that democracy isn’t that important, or when you believe that democracy is a given, that it doesn’t need any maintenance, it will die. Even in America. And it will become like Nazi Germany.
And that will all be on you. You will have allowed it to happen. It will have been your choice. ICE man, you will say afterwards, “I was just following orders.” So will you, officer. Trump supporter, you will say that it wasn’t your fault, that you got carried away in the moment when you were in those enormous rally crowds, or that Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones got you seeing red and you just weren’t thinking anymore. But whenever this country gets back to relatively normal — be it next year or ten years from now — those excuses won’t be accepted.
At some point in the future this — or whatever you let it get to — will be over and you will be held to account. By your kids, by history books (real history books, not high school textbooks), and by society in general. Historians and film makers will use footage of you to show the worst in people; they will use you as examples of how easy it is to manipulate people by plugging into your tendency to think in terms of us and them, your readiness to fear and hate the other; they will use you to illustrate the gobsmacking human capacity to ignore what’s right in front of your faces when your idol tells you it’s not there.
Unless this isn’t you.
Unless you never did any of this. Or unless maybe you did, but now you have come to your senses; you now see that Trump was not just playing dumb as some mysterious election tactic; you now see that what you saw is what you actually got. Unless you’re a decent person who doesn’t want to be associated with any of the above things that Trump, Trump followers and Trump-supporting media and politicians have already done, or with any of the many times worse things that they will inevitably do if you allow Trump to continue.
If this isn’t you, prove it.
If you voted for Trump but now you’re sorry because you don’t like what’s happening to the country, prove it. If you’re one of the Trump voters who voted for him despite his bigotry and sleeze because he promised jobs, and you now see that he has no idea what he’s doing. If you’re a devout Christian and you only voted for Trump so you’d get some more conservative judges, but it’s exactly your Christian moral compass that puts limits to how low you’ll go for the sake of some judge appointments, prove it. You decide to either stop this or let it continue and worsen.
The midterms are in November.