You guys, this Donald Trump thing, with the Jewish star superimposed over the bed of money calling Hillary Clinton the “most corrupt candidate ever”? That thing Trump himself said wasn’t anti-Semitic because it was actually a “sheriff’s star,” what—like a badge, with the little balls on each end? Luckily for us, we know that Trump is full of it because an expert on anti-Semitic matters, KKK leader David Duke, PhD, has assured us that yes, in fact it is a Jewish star (hallelujah!).
Furthermore, it came from a Twitter account called @FishBoneHead1, the stuff, apparently, of great retweets. Sad!
Well, it seems like stuff isn’t going away anytime soon. Much of this has to do with Trump himself, a narcissistic, appalling man who I would posit is severely mentally ill, incapable of genuine self-reflection or forming deep and fulfilling emotional relationships with others. He is therefore a person to be pitied, as well as feared.
In Cincinnati on Wednesday, Trump, in yet another fit of severe injury, addressed the Jewish star controversy by mentioning the word “star” an unbelievable 28 times. He also tweeted an image of a Frozen (as in Elsa and Anna) coloring book that featured a six-pointed star on the cover, asking where the outrage was towards Disney. (To be fair, that star advertised “50 stickers,” which I think we can all agree is a good thing, as opposed to referencing corruption, bribery, and shadowy “global elites.”) Poor Donald. He just can’t seem to let it go.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2016
Donald Trump having a bizarre meltdown like desperate old baby is obviously nothing new. But what’s interesting about this episode is how it’s finally succeeded in drawing attention to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a fellow real estate mogul who publishes The New York Observer and also an important cog in Trump’s chaotic campaign machine.
Kushner, we are told, is an Orthodox Jew (in the sense that people often confuse attending an Orthodox synagogue with being observantly or visibly Orthodox in public, another proposition altogether), and thus, the reason for Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism/why Donald Trump couldn’t possibly, possibly have an anti-Semitic bone in his body. Dana Schwartz, a journalist and writer for Kushner’s own paper, wrote an open letter to her boss in the Observer, detailing the hateful harassment she has received (as has been received by countless other Jewish journalists), as a result of her criticism of Trump. (While were here: one thing I don’t get about the neo-Nazis is how they can simultaneously deny the Holocaust yet constantly use imagery of it in their campaigns against Jews? Not smart, guys.) She asked him: “Well, Mr. Kushner, what are you going to do about this?”
So Kushner wrote classic “nice boy” response defending his father-in-law, calling him “an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife,” adding that he “know(s) that Donald does not at all subscribe to any racist or anti-Semitic (sic) thinking.”
In a more extensive defense, he dragged out the examples of his Holocaust-surviving grandparents—the grandmother who lived with the Bielski partisans; the grandfather who survived living in a hole in the forest—in order to… what exactly? To claim he knows anti-Semitism when he sees it? To highlight the differences between a nascent dictator not yet in power, and the workings of a transcontinental genocide committed in the name of a decade-old government in the midst of a World War they started?
I don’t think Kushner convinced too many people, most certainly not his own family, who are royally pissed at his attempt to use the murder of their relatives to score political points for a deranged Cheeto-colored mental patient who looks like he puts his hair on with a defective soft-serve machine every morning. “I have a different take¬away from my Grandparents’ experience in the war,” Marc Kushner, a New York City-based architect and first cousin, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday morning. “It is our responsibility as the next generation to speak up against hate.”
Agreed. And I would also add it’s our responsibility to recognize certain alarming signs when we see them, and to call them by their right names. Which is why I was found myself up at 3 a.m. the other night, reading this excellent piece by George Saunders in The New Yorker about Trump’s followers; Saunders being one of the few journalists who seems to have actually turned his eye away from the candidate and onto those who are so inflamed by him. (If you’re going to read one thing about Trump this week, let it be this.)
It made quite an impression on me, in terms of clarifying what is and isn’t happening in America right now. It’s often said (by his own wife, no less!) that Trump is not Hitler—and that’s true! Hitler, beyond his own grandiosity and narcissism, had a vision, however terrifying, that Trump does not possess (not to mention a slightly bigger vocabulary, although a similarly tortured syntax).
However, between Trump’s followers and the rank-and-file members of the Nazi Party, there’s not a fingernail clipping’s worth of difference. A great disservice has been done to the world over the years in our “Other-ing” of the Nazis: that they were somehow uniquely cruel, unimaginably evil, irreplicable and inhuman. But they were anything but. The early(ish) members of the Nazi parties, the people you see changing and heil-ing in all those black-and-white newsreels in 1932, were people very much like those in this Saunders piece: angry, frustrated, feeling that they had somehow been cheated out of what was theirs by right. Wishing to return to an imaginary time before the war, before Versailles, before the emancipation of women and the entry of minorities and immigrants into public life, before cosmopolitanism, before compassion, before, before, before.
Because there is no measurable distinction between the 70-year-old man slapping at and ridiculing at a 17-year-old girl in this article and, say, the passerby in 1938 Vienna jeering at a sobbing Jewish woman as she is made to scrub shit from the streets with her toothbrush. And if you had been there, and taken one of those jeerers aside (as Saunders does) and asked them if minority groups deserve this treatment, no doubt they would have grown thoughtful, as these Trump supporters did, and said, no, of course not, at least, not those people; obviously there are exceptions, but most of them, well…
And then, as these Americans do, they would go right back to shouting and mocking and hating, because that’s what makes them feel powerful and righteous and right. It’s no longer a question as to whether fascism can take hold in America. It’s here. The question, Mr. Kushner, is what we’re all supposed to do about it.
Previous: Like a Good Boy, Jared Kushner Deflects Any Personal Responsibility for Trump’s Symbolically Anti-Semitic Tweet
Ivanka Trump and Double Standards for Jewish Converts
Trump in the White House? Sounds Like a Reality TV Show to Me
Is Jared Kushner Helping to Refine His Father-in-law’s Social Media Presence?
Related: Trump Watch [Tablet series]