I have a friend who grew up in the aftermath of Hitler’s destruction of Germany. She and her family lived in East Germany under the thumbs of Communist rule. Ironically, during some of those years the head of Russia’s feared secret service, the KGB, was none other than today’s Russian President Vladimir Putin, our own president’s favorite among world leaders.
For my German friend, last week’s murder and injuries in charming little Charlottesville brought back memories she lived through in the aftermath of Hitler’s 13 years of horror we now know as World War II.
“The national insanity,” she wrote to me this week, “innate racism, support for Hitler’s atrocities, a disdain for our country’s democratic ideals — converged in Virginia. What do these people want? To go back to the days when slavery of American citizens was confirmed as the law of the land by the Supreme Court? To relive the Nazi era during which the anti-Semitic and racist views of one evil leader led to the deaths of 50 million people worldwide?”
Over the weekend, perhaps no one put his finger so solid on the national sickness surging in Virginia than the state’s neighbor U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said it is time for President Donald Trump to tell white nationalists, neo-Nazis and KKK sympathizers that he is not, does not want to be their friend. Trump did call out the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “evil,” but followed it up with statements criticizing the counter-protesters.
Hovering behind all of this is another group of disgruntled Americans, the so-called “white supremacists,” whose views are more in keeping with the post-Civil War Ku Klux Klan and the Nightriders than the views of Hitler and his Nazi regime.
After all, the Nazis were after scapegoats that could win Hitler votes — not just Jews, but also Slavs, Russians, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, deformed children, any citizen who criticized him and those scared enough to vote pro-Nazi.
Trump has surrounded himself with proponents of “nationalists,” read that white supremacists, the most widely known of whom is his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. Before assuming his top job working side by side with Trump, Bannon was CEO of Breitbart News, a website that bills itself as headliner for the alt-right.
The alt-right represents the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and armed brigades that created the havoc in Virginia. Heavily armed domestic terrorists leading the attacks wore buttons and baseball caps kept over from Trump’s winning presidential campaign.
When Bannon headed Breitbart, and since, the publication has kept up a persistent campaign against blacks, Jews, gays, anti-NRA forces, the poor and others generally considered “losers” by Trump and his conservative base. It is as if someone tore a page from Mein Kampf and inserted it into the Trump playbook. At least in this case he seems to have read it.
He was silent when former KKK leader David Duke said in Charlottesville that Trump’s battling style “is why we voted for Donald Trump.” Rather than rejecting such support, he turns around and re-tweets right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec’s comment about “no outrage” at dozens of Chicago homicides compared to the fallout from Charlottesville.
When left alone with his Twitter app, it seems that if a controversial statement does not involve Trump, the man or the president, he will get into it somehow, even if by a backdoor.
Media are still investigating, as special counsel Bob Mueller may be doing as well, whether it was Bannon’s gang a few doors from the Oval Office that fomented the riots in Charlottesville. Had Trump tried to calm down his supporters before the Charlottesville riots, might his words have saved the lives of three innocent people?
Frank Ashley of Lexington, a former Courier-Journal reporter, served as press secretary for Govs. John Y. Brown and Brereton Jones. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.