About two months ago I posted some thoughts on the above topic on Facebook. Now I would like to expand on them. First, who, you might ask, was Reinhard Heydrich?
Heydrich was the poster boy for the Nazi party: Aryan looks, superb violinist, athletic, smart and charming. How did a bright intellectual like him fall for the rhetoric and antics of Hitler? Well, just like many Americans we know fall for Trump. There is no difference. We all know intelligent and charming people who think Trump is wonderful. If you met Heydrich out of SS uniform in a café, you could easily be swayed by his intelligence and talent. But then there comes the matter of his ‘day job’. Having found him charming, would you then make excuses for him? “He’s a good father, after all. And a superb violinist! Let’s not cloud the issue with the fact that he chaired the committee that designed the final solution to the Jewish question.” Now there will be those who shout “Unfair!” as I compare Heydrich and Trump (and his ilk), but everyone knows that Covid is hitting minorities harder than Caucasians. Is this not a form of ethnic cleansing? And we have our version of the Reichstag fire, which led to Hitler’s “special measures”, disregarding the legislative processes. Absurd, you say? Well how about convicted felon and presidential confidante, Roger Stone, telling Trump to declare marshal law if he loses the election and to arrest his political enemies? And Trump has already extolled the white, racist militias, who are America’s answer to the Brownshirts.
Case in point: Like many white people, Trump has created a division like no other president in American history. I had a friend of 40+ years, a fellow clergyman, whom I knew to be a Republican. But as we had a shared faith, I let that override his political leanings…until Trump. It all came to a head when Trump was calling white militias to “liberate their states”. Never mind that these clowns were carrying Nazi and confederate flags! In effect Trump was calling on his version of the Brownshirts to get rid of legally, democratically elected state governments. (My father and my uncles who fought against facism must be turning in their graves!)
My former clergy friend and I had been emailing one another concerning the above events. When I asked him what he thought about the militias and Trumps appeal to them, he remained silent. Emailed him again–nada. So I sent him a one-liner: “Can you not unequivocally condemn the actions of these racist militias.” The reply: “I am not going to parrot some slogan just to make you happy.” I had not wanted to accept that about him, although I had had some doubts. Like Heydrich, my ex-friend is handsome, smart, athletic and speaks several languages. “He’s too smart to fall for Trump’s rhetoric,” I told myself. And then the penny dropped. Yes, my ‘friend’ was not only a racist, but also a closet facist. After all, I had seen his post about “The Myth of Systemic Racism in America.” And then I had written to him and mentioned the Three-fifths compromise in the constitution. (Drafted in 1788/89 to appease Southern slave-holding states, and giving black people the status of 3/5 of a human being.) I never heard from him again.
My former friend is ‘intellectually’ too bright to fall for Trump’s rhetoric–but not his instincts and prejudices. They are deep in the gut, where fear lives. And that is where Trump’s rhetoric excels. He has loosed the fallen angels of white human nature. And then I think about those with whom I have spent much time, shared meals, etc. and who support, not just Trump, but Trumpism, and I think I might as well have been having tea with Reinhard Heydrich.