I read this quote in a Smithsonian magazine article that looks back on the news stories American journalists wrote about Mussolini and Hitler before World War II. The article notes that until things got really bad, journalists tended to write positive things about the dictators either because they admired them, or as time went on, because they were afraid for their lives.
Although both men used violence and suppression of the press to take power and control their people, they were represented positively as "tough guys" who said what was on their minds and got things done. They promised to help their people get back to better economic times. Sound familiar? Maybe some of the things they said were a little wild or offensive – but that’s just man talk. Right?
Benito Mussolini is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of about 400,000 people. Under Hitler’s command at least 11 million people were rounded up and systematically tortured and murdered. Well over half of these people were Jewish, with the rest being anyone else the Nazi’s deemed "sub-human" – Romani’s, Poles, Russians, Serbs, any person of color, LGBTQI people, and the physically and mentally disabled.
Some journalists, and many people who voted for Trump, have dismissed or made light of the countless racist, sexist, clueless, narcissistic, cruel, and anti-constitutional things he has been recorded saying his ENTIRE sordid life and on the campaign trail.
When we are considering electing someone to a very powerful position, it makes no sense to dismiss the dangerous things they say as "just talk". They talk (or tweet) and tell us who they are and what they want to do. It is criminally irresponsible to dismiss racist, sexist, anti-democratic, and unconstitutional talk as meaningless when it comes from the mouths of the powerful.
Mr. Trump is indicating with every red flag possible that he is not fit to lead a nation that values liberty and justice for all. His Twitter attacks on Representative and Civil Rights leader John Lewis were not only embarrassingly childish (which is common for him), they were misinformed and racist. A simple Google search could have told him that Mr. Lewis’ district encompasses most of Atlanta and its wealthy suburbs, and that it is not any worse off than the rest of the state of Georgia.
He might have responded with dignity and asked to meet with Mr. Lewis to discuss his concerns – which many Americans share. He might have realized that when John Lewis takes action there is just cause for it. The majority of Americans who consider themselves white did not approve of the civil rights movement that Mr. Lewis sacrificed so much for in the 1960’s – yet he chose to stand up despite their disapproval.
John Lewis was on the right side of history then, and he is on the right side of history today. Silent Inauguration Protest at the Centennial Park in Nashville on January 20th at 11 AM. Women’s March January 21st at Cumberland Park in Nashville. Write letters. Talk to your neighbors. Cause good trouble – and always remember to call your Representatives!