There may not be a public need for another analysis of D. Trump and his terrorism, but I feel the need to write one. This is very specifically an analysis of one of the most recent ways that Trump has rhetorically set the foundations for his ban on non-citizens entering the United States as refugees or from Muslim-majority countries.
This ban was issued via executive order on Friday, January 27, which also happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Day. He gave a statement earlier in the day about Holocaust Remembrance Day and noticeably did not mention Jewish people (or any of the other groups targeted by the Nazis, including LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and people with disabilities):
It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror. Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.
Many people have already criticized him for not failing to point out that Nazis did not target “innocent people” indiscriminately, but rather that anti-Semitism and extermination of Jewish people specifically was a central part of their ideology.
This quote scares me for another reason, too. The rhetoric of “innocent people” that Tr*mp employs in this statement implies that there are also guilty people who were targets of the horrors to which he refers. Innocent people can’t exist without people who deserve what they get. His statements imply that you must be “innocent” to be worth saving.
This reminds me of a tweet thread from Elliott Lusztig that has gotten a lot of attention about Hannah Arendt’s “The Origin of Totalitarianism.” The tweet that stuck with me most was, “What the Nazis were doing [when making Jews scapegoats for all of Germany’s woes] was not describing what was true, but what would have to be true to justify what they planned to do next.” I see this happening in DJT’s above statement. He is describing a reality in which innocent people should not be subject to genocidal governmental regimes, but in which there also exist guilty people who need to be controlled, surveilled, regulated, and killed. His statements make the morality of state-sanctioned murder negotiable, dependent on the innocence/guilt of the victim, rather than absolutely morally wrong.
Elliot Lusztig ends his tweet thread by saying, “No harm ever came from overestimating the danger of a political situation. Whole civilizations have been lost from underestimating it.” We don’t know exactly how far the current administration will go, or how much Congress and the courts will step up to obstruct their efforts (or, conversely, how much they will aid and abet the development of fascism in our governments). Be that person who is freaking out about this and annoying all the people you know to donate to the Council on American Islamic Relations or go to a protest or call your congresspeople or stop doing business with Uber! You’re not paranoid! You are fighting fascism. Be annoying, be obnoxious, be loud, be rowdy, be safe.