From Yahoo News, November 19, 2015:
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Jews in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the synagogues. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
Hahahaha, of course he didn’t actually say that, that would be unthinkable. I changed exactly two words in the above paragraphs — “Muslims” to “Jews” and “mosques” to “synagogues.” But you don’t have to change the words to hear the music: the current frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential ticket recommends targeting houses of worship and identifying people by their religious affiliation. Wonder what kind of bulk rate a savvy businessman like Donald Trump could get on yellow stars?
Trump’s comments come at the end of a very bad week for students of world history, the Constitution, and, I dunno, decency? In an attempt to look tough and promote an image of hard-ass action-takers, politicians around the country have used the terrorist attacks in Paris as license to dust off their old post-9/11 anti-Islamic rhetoric, coupling it with the ongoing effort to demonize Syrian refugees who are trying to escape their brutal government and, um, radical Islam.
Again, the dots aren’t that hard to connect. In all likelihood, you’ve seen them on your Facebook wall: the one comparing Syrian refugees to the Pilgrims (just in time for Thanksgiving!), the one comparing Syrian refugees to Joseph and Mary (just in time for Christmas!), the one comparing the likelihood of acts of terror by Muslims to acts of terror from heavily armed “Christian” white men (just in time for the next mass shooting, which should be any minute now).
But the most worrisome is this one:
Noted by the Twitter account Historical Opinion and verified by the Washington Post, these are the results of a Fortune magazine poll from July 1938, in which two-thirds of Americans’ response to the possible influx of political refugees fleeing Nazi Germany was, “We should try to keep them out.” Now, as the Post points out, this was before Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass,” a targeted wave of anti-Jewish terrorism in Germany and Nazi-controlled areas of Austria and Czechoslovakia. But when Gallup polled Americans shortly after those events and asked if we should take in German Jewish refugee children, 61% said no. “The fact is that we need for appropriate vetting,” said New Jersey governor A. Henry Moore, “And I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point. They have no family here, how are we gonna care for these folks?”
Oh no, wait, sorry, that quote was current New Jersey governor Chris Christie, coming out hard against baby and toddler orphans. (Remember when he was gonna be one of the sane candidates?)
We’re through the looking glass on this one. It’s not just that governor and mayors (across the political spectrum) are having a dick-measuring contest over who can take the toughest stance against refugees fleeing persecution; it’s that they’re actually invoking the interment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, as if that were something we should replicate. It’s not just that candidates are suggesting religious tests for refugees; it’s that they’re comparing those who would fail such a test to “rabid dogs.” And that kind of charged imagery is all over the place — witness a weekend Daily Mail cartoon comparing refugees to rats, an analogy that was a chilling cornerstone of Nazi propaganda.
The cognitive dissonance is infuriating. The same hardcore conservatives who will scream from the top of the steeple about a “War on Christianity” every time a Wal-Mart employee says “happy holidays” will gleefully declare war on another faith; one in four Republican primary voters are in favor of the Trump-floated notion of “shutting down all mosques in the United States,” according to the latest data from Public Policy Polling. These are the same people who’ve lifted Trump into the lead of the race; this is the man who represents them, who speaks to their values.
And credit where due: he knows his audience, and he plays the hits they wanna hear. This is an electorate that will thump the Constitution as hard as the Bible, screaming about their liberty and their freedom, while willfully ignoring the very first phrase of the First Amendment. The establishment and free exercise of religion, they would argue, should not extend to those who practice the fourth-largest faith in the country — instead, their houses of worship should be shuttered, and they should be identified and tagged, so the rest of us know who they are.
And yet, somehow, these are the voters who have been running around painting Hitler mustaches on people for the past seven years.