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Fighting Ignorance With A Quiet Call For Peace

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Fighting Ignorance With A Quiet Call For Peace


As a general rule, I loathe both Holocaust and slavery comparisons.

Sadly, such comparisons have become more common in recent years even though, almost by definition, they trivialize two of the greatest crimes in human history. When GOP senatorial candidate John Raese declared that having to place “smoke-free environment” stickers on buildings he owned was the “same thing” as Jews being forced to wear yellow Stars of David and when eventual GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed the Affordable Care Act “in a way … is slavery,” what was revealed was not some new insight on stop-smoking campaigns and healthcare reform, but, rather, the historical illiteracy, incapacity for reverence, and utter imbecility of the two men and anyone dumb enough to believe them.

So yes, ordinarily I loathe such comparisons. Yet I’m here to make one. Because, as more than one observer has noted, the parallels between the rise of Adolf Hitler and that of Donald Trump have become too neon to ignore.

Like Hitler, Trump has watched approvingly as his followers use violence to silence hecklers, dissenters, and protesters.

Like Hitler, Trump offers few real plans or strategies for confronting the nation’s challenges, giving voters instead the assurance that he, by force of personality alone, will defeat them.

Like Hitler, Trump has presented the electorate a scapegoat for its fears and vulnerabilities. Hitler gave his people the Jews. Trump has given his the Muslims.

Like Hitler, Trump proposes to register, surveil and restrict the scapegoat populace. Nor, like Hitler, is he overly concerned with the niceties of civil or human rights. “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” he has said.

It is in that context that Rose Hamid stood up last week in South Carolina.

Hamid, a 56-year-old Muslim flight attendant attending a Trump rally in Rock Hill, came to her feet and stood silently as Trump equated refugees from Syria with ISIS terrorists. She was wearing a hijab and a blue T-shirt that said, “Salam, I come in peace.” Several others stood in solidarity.

This passive protest was enough of a provocation that the audience began chanting their leader’s name like a mantra — “Trump! Trump! Trump!” — and a police officer escorted Hamid out. She told CNN that while some Trump followers apologized to her, others pelted her with abuse.

“Get out!” one person shouted.

“You have a bomb?” another cried.

It all brings home something that has become glaringly obvious: While many of us have lamented Trump’s improbable rise to political prominence, the real problem is not him and never was. Rather, the problem is that thing deep down in some of us that responds to him, that small, primeval thing so filled with uncertainty, fear and fury that it will suspend both logic and compassion to worship a man whose very name has become a symbol of all that is hateful and violative of American ideals.

No, Trump is not Hitler. Hitler was a singular figure who committed a singular crime. Nor do I believe Trump will even be president. But his dominance of the Republican field is instructive just the same, offering vivid evidence of the depth of alienation on that side of the political spectrum. The rest of us ignore or underestimate that alienation at our own peril. The threat it poses to our hopes for a just and inclusive America is real and grave and should be treated as such.

To read of how fascism stole over Germany is to repeatedly ask yourself how an enlightened nation could have fallen for such transparent garbage. Well, the answer is unfolding before us in real time and it ought to horrify good people into taking a stand.

One woman already did.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.) (c) 2016 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: Audience member Robin Roy (C) reacts as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets her at a campaign rally in Lowell, Massachusetts January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Polana January 13, 2016

    When elephants fights the grass suffers. OMG when this will stop????
    I could care less who humping/humped who. NONE of them is innocent most of all TRUMP.

  2. I of John January 13, 2016

    Signs are clear.

  3. stcroixcarp January 13, 2016

    Trump is evil, but Ted Cruz is even worse. He seeks to impose his twisted notion or religion on us. Trump attacks the body, but Cruz rots the soul.

  4. David Reno January 13, 2016

    A good column. I suspect the police officer escorting her out may have done his professional duty in protecting her from possible assault.

    Trump is not A.H. He merely uses the same tactics as you point out.

    A warning should be headed. Some years ago there was a documentary American Nazi, about American who followed the former Nazi party. I recall before the credits ran there was a document, an editorial from The New York Times, if my memory serves me well, comparing Hitler to a funny Charlie Chaplin cartoon, an amusement not to be taken seriously.

    He is the sound that has capitalized on the fury of the 99%. You may hate the sound, but ignore the fury at your peril.

    I have heard people say “The American people will not elect Trump.
    Translation: “I have the American people will not elect Trump.”

    There are only 301 day to go until the election. Let’s drown out the Trumpeteers.

  5. S.J. Jolly January 13, 2016

    Trump is far more a Mussolini than a Hitler. More mean-spirited blowhard than outright evil. Trump’s plan to make America great again isn’t likely to succeed any better than Mussolini’s plan to make Italy great again, by reviving the Roman Empire.

  6. Otto Greif January 13, 2016


    1. Insinnergy January 13, 2016

      Sad. (Troll)

      1. Charles van Rotterdam January 13, 2016

        He probably lives up to his avatar (the goat);
        eats everything in sight,
        stinks to high heaven
        less intelligent than a sheep
        and bleats a lot

  7. wilty707 January 13, 2016

    The people who go to Trump rallies are just like the people who went to see Hitler at the same such, i.e the Nuremburg rally, made so famous in pictures and in newsreels. These same good Germans are the ones you see just a few years later, with the faces of god awful disaster on them. I wish the so called “Good ‘Murkans” could put themselves in these degraded souls’ shoes and wake up to such a warning, before the god awful could actually happen. This enlightenment will not happen, for they are so taken up in their grandiose love affair with Herr Trump; and as history has a habit of repeating itself, or runs in scary variations of things past, these same souls could very well have these brief euphoric facial grimaces being wiped off them, sooner or later, if that bastard gains entry into the White House!

  8. dpaano January 13, 2016

    I applaud Hamid for her stance…..myself, as a Jew, would have joined her in standing! It’s pretty sad that she was treated to abusive language and comments….this is America, people, we don’t do that here!!! The fact that this happened is very sad! It shows how the country has turned into something that it never was intended to become! What happened to compassion, honesty, politeness, etc. Did we let a few wayward terrorists turn us into idiots? Not all Muslims are terrorists, but apparently that doesn’t coincide with what Trump and his ilk are trying to put out there….again, lies and scare tactics are the food of the GOP nominees and used to motivate the people who still are so ill informed that they believe their BS!!! As for Hamid, I hope that she never loses sight of the fact that not ALL Americans are like the ones she encountered at Trump’s rally! Most of us haven’t stooped that low!

    1. iamproteus January 17, 2016

      dpaano, it is true that not all Muslims are terrorists. It is also true that not all terrorists are Muslims.

      1. dpaano January 18, 2016

        I DEFINITELY agree with you on that one!


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