When South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison spoke at this year’s historic 140th Galivants Ferry Stump—the oldest and most famous Democratic Party stump event in the United States—he went to the political woodshed for a quote that could not be a clearer sign of the times to all Democrats from sea to shining sea.
Chair Harrison is a man of pointed intellect. He would only invoke the words of Nazi concentration camp survivor Martin Niemöller with considerable intention:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The moment I heard Chair Harrison utter Niemöller’s words, my December 2015 “Open Letter” about Donald Trump came to mind. My article was written on the heels of Trump’s racist remarks delivered from a retired aircraft carrier in South Carolina. During his address, Trump infamously called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States….”
Generally, I believe that comparing politicians to All Things Third Reich diminishes the horrors of Hitler and the Nazis. Some people call this Godwin’s Law. I like to refer to it as Godwin’s Line. To my mind, the political rise of Donald Trump is a clear and present reason not only to cross the Godwin Line, but to cross it boldly. Chair Harrison would seem to agree.
Why should you listen to Chair Harrison and me? For the same reason you might considering listening to Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA); Kira Goldenberg from The Guardian; and Professor Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
As to my experience, I spent several years researching the tragic life of Hans Litten, a German human rights attorney who worked tirelessly to stop the rise of the Nazi regime. In 1930, three years before Hitler became Fuhrer, Litten put Hitler on a witness stand in one of the Brown Shirts murder cases and tricked the future German dictator into admitting his complicity.
The trial was nearly Hitler’s undoing. Yet he survived, with a rancorous hatred of Hans Litten. Three years later, Litten was the first person the Nazis arrested the night of the Reichstag Fire. Litten was tortured beyond measure for years in various prisons and concentration camps, then finally murdered at Dachau in 1938.
During my research, I purchased a book by Irmgard Litten, Hans Litten’s mother. A Mother Fights Hitler recounts Irmgard’s tireless efforts to gain her son’s freedom. When my copy arrived, I removed the dust jacket to place it in a preserving wrapper. I was surprised to learn that the front endpaper was inscribed by none other than Irmgard Litten herself:
Fight Hitler while you still have time. Irmgard Litten. July 22, 1942
Ever since Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign last June, Irmgard Litten’s inscription warning has been ringing in my ear. Thus, I am not the least surprised to learn that avowed racists like David Duke cannot get their fill of Trump. In Trump’s cultic personality, a would-be tyrant has gained a foothold in our political process. And I am convinced that the United States, like the proverbial frog, is being slow-boiled for the horrors of totalitarianism.
Dear Reader: in 2016, history speaks to us. Those who have spent their lives studying the pages of history, those who have their ears to the ground in the halls of politics, feel a moral obligation to repeat and revise the exhortations of Irmgard Litten and Martin Niemöller.
What is the point of reminding ourselves, time and again as we have for the past century, that those who ignore history are destined to repeat it—if we don’t actually act when that history unfolds right before our very eyes?
For the country you love, the society in which you live, the everyday existence that you know, will never be the same if Donald Trump becomes President of the United States.
Let there be no more jokes about Donald Trump. No more comedic memes. He is a fast-track fascist to the White House. And your vote—your volunteer hours—your contributions—are the only thing standing in his way.
STAND. IN. HIS. WAY.
I said it in December, and I repeat it now: Donald Trump is a threat to Civilization.
Fight Trump. And fight Tea Party conservatives, Trump’s future legislative henchmen—congressional barbarians like Joe “You Lie!” Wilson. Fight them while you still have time.
And here’s where I hate to burst your bubble. For while this article likely arrives to you by social media, merely “liking” or “sharing” it is not going to hold back the Trump tsunami.
To fight Trump, you need to get politically active. Volunteer. Contribute financially to Democratic and progressive campaigns. And vote—not just on November 8, but in your state’s upcoming non-presidential primary election. (Psst! South Carolina, your primary is June 14!)
I keep thinking of those words of warning by Martin Niemöller. And it occurs to me that we need a revised version for our own troubling times:
First they came for the Transgender People, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Transgender.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Muslim.
Then they came for—
But here the quote ends. For, having learned the lessons of history, we Democrats, we progressives, will not allow history to be repeated in 2016. Right?
Or we will ourselves cease to be.
One more time:
ACT. NOW. WHILE YOU STILL HAVE TIME.
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