I have a lot on my plate today and these days in general, so this is going to be short and sweet.
Last night in a speech defending himself against new accusations of sexual harassment and assault, Donald Trump lit into the press. But now the press was not just biased, but part of a conspiracy. As his paranoid rant escalated, he went to a place that somehow he was bound to come to, eventually:
“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.”
The rest of the speech included accusations of how ‘they’ control the media in general and the New York Times in particular.
Do newspapers across the English-speaking world this morning display the headline “Trump Makes Anti-Semitic Speech”? Apart from a couple of left-ish outlets, they do not. Are the major social media aflame with this story? They are not.
Yes, totalitarianism is a threat. But the willful ignorance of the populace, in this case the ability not to see anti-Semitism when it rears its ugly head (yes, on the left, too, but that is a rant for a different day), is what enables that threat. Civil rights activists often are forced to argue how blanket denials that racism exists or is important are themselves a form of racism. Ardent feminists have to fight just to get people to see misogyny in all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways it weaves itself into everyday life. The cricket-chirp this morning is another example of that. Before evil can be fought, it must be named. Publicly.
How can I label that ignorance ‘willful’? Surely most non-Jews have not had occasion or even much opportunity to educate themselves about anti-Semitism? Why should they know about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or any other of the shape-shifting forms that slander has taken over the centuries? Simple. In living memory, when anti-Semitism was used as a tool to gain political power, the end result was a Europe bathed in blood. Something like seventy million people dead, all told, and a civilization annihilated. People have a duty to inform themselves.
This has been building, of course. The Trump campaign has long been re-circulating anti-Semitic social media messages, and has been silently accepting the universal support of neo-Nazis and white supremacists across the board. But we now have an escalation, and straight out of the candidate’s mouth.
My mother and her husband have a device on their patio that emits a sound they cannot hear. When my children come over, this sound causes them not just aggravation, but discomfort. If the sliding door to the patio is open, the device has to be shut off before we can even have a conversation. People talk about dog-whistle politics. This is squirrel-repellant politics, and we are the squirrels. Yes, he is energizing and mobilizing his bigoted base, all invisible to the majority. But he is doing something else. He is hurting us.
As much as I loathe Nazis, at times like this, it is the Not-Sees that really have me worried.