Opinion

Trump Makes America Hate Again and 6 More Charlottesville Takeaways

American Jews see torchlight parades in Virginia that were harbingers of horror in Nazi Germany

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017.
White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump has steadfastly refused to condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and similar racist maggots. When his back was to the wall, he has distanced himself from them in the most inoffensive way possible. Nonetheless, people expressed shock and disappointment after Trump uttered his outrageously bland “violence on all sides” statement on Saturday night in the wake of the violence and death in Charlottesville. Which is ridiculous, frankly.

>> Read more: Rabbis, Jewish students face down white nationalists ■ Nazism and anti-Semitism take center stage at Charlottesville rally >>

If Trump had stepped up to the plate and behaved as a responsible leader should under these circumstances; if he had unequivocally condemned white supremacist terrorism voluntarily, and not because his advisers told him that he’s catching hell for not doing so; if he had come out for once in clear cut terms in favor of respect and equality instead of hate and divisiveness  – now that would have been a shocker. But to run away when he needs to look evil in the eye? For Trump, that’s par for the course.

Trump doesn’t recognize 10 commandments, only one: What’s good for Trump is good and what’s bad for Trump is bad. White supremacists, Jew-haters and other bigots love Trump and voted for him, so they’re good. Liberals, do-gooders and Democrats hate Trump and didn’t vote for him, so they’re bad. This means that Trump will be very reluctant to condemn his racist fans, no matter what their crime is. He will be just as hesitant to support or console his critics, no matter what they suffer. You can’t really blame him: it’s just the way he is.

The search for Trump’s moral bearings is futile. There’s no there there. Atlantis, the Loch Ness Monster and the Holy Grail will be recovered faster. Even if Trump now realizes that if timid Republicans such as Marco Rubio are criticizing him he may be in trouble, and will then say the words “terror” or “white racists,” it will be meaningless. America might be able to sleep better at night, but only because it prefers to deny reality. Trump isn’t going to change. He is amoral to the core.

1. Former U.S. President Barack Obama reached his rhetorical peaks in times of such crises. From Newtown to Charleston, from Orlando to Aurora, Obama knew how to voice the grief of America and to pick it up from the floor when that was most needed. He was known as the Consoler in Chief and even his critics conceded his knack to say the right thing in the worst times. Trump is known to be averse to emulating Obama in any way, shape or form. So perhaps he’s intentionally going out his way to be at his most coarse and insensitive. He’ll do Obama one better: He’ll say the wrong thing in the worst times.

2. Adolf Hitler loved torchlight parades. They evoked fear, mystery and Germany’s mystical past. The torchlight parade was a regular feature of Nazi ceremonies, famously captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s famous film Triumph of the Will. It’s why the Nazis invented the torch-lighting ceremony in the 1936 Olympics, which is still continued today.

Torchlight parades were often a prelude to attacks on Jews. The SA gangsters and the Hitler Jugend devotees would march into Jewish neighborhoods at night with their torches. They used them to scare the Jews and then to torch their shops and burn their books. 

The fact so many people can march in Virginia 72 years after the Holocaust brandishing torchlights and shouting the same kind of vile slogans that the Nazis used in Germany should be bone chilling for all people, but especially for Jews. In many families, it is a sight that was seen by grandparents and great grandparents. It is a story that that has been passed on from generation to generation. It is etched into Jewish consciousness. 

3. The neo-Nazis feel emboldened by the presidency of Donald Trump. They say so themselves. The number of demonstrators in Charlottesville corroborates their assertion. And even if they only like Trump, they love some of the people he’s brought into the White House. They love "alt-right" champion Steve Bannon. They adore suspected anti-Semite Sebastian Gorka. They even cherish Stephen Miller, at least for as long as they can ignore the fact that he’s Jewish. 

So even if and when Trump mumbles something about the incident in Charlottesville, his actions speak louder than his words. As Aesop said, a man is known by the company he keeps. As long as Trump is surrounded by white supremacists and anti-Semites, that is how he will be known.

4. Whether Trump actually encouraged the resurgence of Nazi and white supremacist ideology in America or dogwhistled it into existence without knowing what he was doing is a matter of debate. That he didn’t do nearly enough to put it down should not be: it’s self-evident.

Many Jews voted for Trump. Some because they dislike Democrats and hated Obama, others because they thought Trump would be good for Israel and bad for Muslims. Many of them have now fallen silent, but others continue to defend him to this day. Think about the mental contortions that are necessary for people who describe themselves as proud Jews to continue defending a man who has opened Pandora's box, unleashed its anti-Semitic demons and is now doing nothing to put them back. You almost feel sorry for such Trump-courting Jews. Almost.

5. The clashes in the streets of Charlottesville, which looked on television like a scene from a movie about a dystopian America in which law and order has broken down, could be a preview of the shape of things to come. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, who is Jewish, said on Saturday that the bigots and the haters won’t win, but they could be wrong. As long as the president of the United States continues to foment hate, exploit resentment and denounce legitimate protest, as long as he continues to side with bigots, racists and anti-Semites, things aren’t going to get better, only worse.

6. For Israelis still recovering from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mass rally in Tel Aviv last week, in which he savaged the media and leftists and blamed them for the police investigations against him, Charlottesville should also serve as a warning. Israel’s public discourse is getting just as toxic as America’s, if not more so. And it will only get worse as long as Israel has a leader that foments hate, exploits resentment and denounces protest. Like Coca Cola and Levis jeans, it’s only a matter of time before Israel imports American-style internecine violence.

7. The good thing about the tragedy in Charlottesville? It made everyone forget the nuclear apocalypse that Trump may be sparking in North Korea, never mind the gringo invasion of Venezuela that he is contemplating. Only a matter of time before someone portrays the entire incident as another manifestation of Trump’s genius manipulation of the media.