Letter to the Editor of Scholardarity
My name is Nathaniel Bates. As a grandson of Holocaust survivors, I never fully understood as a child why members of my family were killed. My mother explained to me what tyranny was, what is meant, and how it murdered millions of our people. She told me the story of how vicious dictators arose that exploited fear and hate. Like so many sons of Scots-Irish fathers (my other side of the family), I was taught “a hatred of tyranny at my mother’s knee.” My mother’s unawareness of continuing in a long tradition of historical story-telling among the Scots-Irish, that of a people not her own but one consistent with the traditions of her own, is an irony that is poetic and beautiful.
Growing up, I made the study of totalitarianism and Nazism a priority. One of the aspects to the rise of Nazism that I found chilling was the fact that the Nazis did not begin by killing Jews. They began by killing those deemed “unfit” under eugenics laws that paralleled laws on the books in the United States also. The Germans did not resist the killing of children, a lack of national will that encouraged them to go much, much further.
We are at the same stage in America now. The imprisoning of children in concentration camps is the very stage that the Nazis arrived at when they killed children with disabilities. Few resisted, just as there are sparse protests now. The regime in power, which extends much further than Donald Trump and includes a vast public and private security apparatus that emerged fully after 9-11, has arrived at a level of comfort in the fact that the public is desensitized to children in cages. There are few visceral responses. From where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I see few to no protests. I can only imagine that the response in the rest of the United States is largely subdued. For all the condescending talk in elite media of “populism,” the authentic populism of working people uniting and creating a better planet is desperately needed and in short supply. Nothing in the Trump agenda is “populist” in any genuine sense.
Donald Trump may have reversed some aspects of his policies as of the date of this writing, but there is no plan to release those children already detained in “tender age facilities.” What is most dangerous, however, is not that Donald Trump is issuing orders putting children in cages. What is dangerous is that those orders are being followed. They are being followed by judges. They are being followed by police, by military. They are being followed by social workers. They are being followed by transport workers. They are being followed by truckers. They are being followed by teachers. They are being followed by security guards. They are being followed by Federal bureaucrats. They are being followed just like the Nazis “followed orders.”
Trump voters turned to Donald Trump because the political elite class ignored ordinary workers. Those same voters once listened with respect to Eugene Debs, Edward Bellamy and Norman Thomas speak of a better future of equality and justice. To fight back against the emerging evil arising on our nation and on our planet, humans who are working people must be unified. Jobs are not being lost because of “illegal aliens.” They are being lost because of automation and outsourcing. Trump’s working voters must be made to understand this fact, and must be made to see that their only hope for a better world is in alliance with Black and Mexican workers, not against them.
Human problems are complex, and defy easy answers. But I do know that the answer does not rest in repression. Extremists peddle hate to control the masses through simplistic narratives, be they Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, Valerie Solanas, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or any number of their ilk in every religion and culture. Too often their opponents answer them with the familiar trope that “reality is complicated.” Though well intentioned, this response is a mistake that has contributed to the relativism of our age. The problem with “complexity” is that it does not reach the masses. Those who believe in love must also cling to simple truths. We must cling to the truth that love is stronger than hate. It was the motto of my College, San Francisco State University. It is a motto that I still remember.
“Love is stronger than hate” remains a simple truth that appeals to the broad masses of humanity. It is a simple truth that everyone should know, like don’t throw children in to cages. If we cannot unify around such simple truths, then a slide in to Nazi Germany is a very real possibility.