Before the Holocaust & Beyond Trumpery

What are the Connections?

What do "trumpery" -- an outlook & behavior that go way beneath & beyond any single person  -- involving indeed a sizable part of America — have to do with a course on the Holocaust, and /or with rabbinic,  Jewish, and other religious/ spiritual  values & practices?  These are my own thoughts about the connections -- not those of The Shalom Center or anyone else.

On a rabbinic listserve I'm part of, we recently had a discussion about teaching/learning the Holocaust. I think that right now, this year, the main problem in how we approach it is that we focus after 1933 (when Hitler came to power), even after 1938 (Kristalnacht) or even after 1942 (the Wannsee decision on "the final solution”).   Not only in "courses" but in our whole assumption of what "the Holocaust" was.

For us today, facing not only Trump but the whole eruption of a strong fascist current in US society, I think the much more important history is from 1922 to 1933. That includes the emergence of the “National Socialist German Workers Party” (the Nazis);  the Brownshirts — thuggish bands that were the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party and used street violence against other political parties as well as Jews, Roma, etc; support from major German industrialists like Fritz Theissen for the Nazis as a bulwark against the Communist & Socialist parties  — all THAT is the history we are beginning to see unfold in the US.

"Trumpery" (it's a real word; look it up) is a symptom of a deeper disease afflicting America.   Trumpery has brought that disease to fever pitch, but we will have to look at the economic, political, and spiritual roots of that disease if we want to move forward once more toward a more democratic society. I will in another letter share with you some ideas about healing America from that deeper disease.

Think: MLK + 50, An American Jubilee Year of Truth & Transformation from April 4, 2017 to April 4, 2018.  It is an effort multifaith clergy and religiously or spiritually rooted laity may be uniquely capable of carrying out. 

And meanwhile, we will have to  do more than wring our hands. The students of the University of Illinois did much more. And they did not use violence. They did not fall onto the trap the Trump campaign had baited for them. Surely the Trump campaign knew what it meant to schedule a talk at an urban university with thousands of Black, Hispanic, and poor-white students in a city already seething with strong nonviolent protests against  a corporate-Democratic mayor who has been protecting a police and prosecution system heavily discolored with racism.

It is also clear Trump is hoping to keep corporate Republicans in line against a  strong progressive threat. He claimed the Chicago police had urged him to cancel the rally to save lives— a claim they promptly denied, saying they had the situation under control, arresting people in small groups when necessary. And the protests were overwhelmingly nonviolent.  (NB he called Bernie Sanders a “Communist” and charged his campaign with organizing the protest  — another lie.)

Let us remember a line from another generation and another country, modified to fit our times:

"They came for the Mexicans, but we were not Mexicans, so we didn’t speak out. They came for the women leaders (like the reporter who had the guts to name the contempt and hatred for women they were showing), but we didn’t want to risk our new and fragile independence by “whining,”  so we did not speak up. They came for the Muslims, but we weren’t Muslims so we did not speak up. They came for the Blacks, but most of us weren’t Black so we didn’t speak up. When they came for us — whatever “us” you want to name —  Jews, liberals, intellectuals, artists, environmentalists, GLBTQ folks  —  there was no one left to speak up for us."

In my view, the students in Chicago spoke up for us all. Here is how they did it. Take note!


 How students in Chicago organized and shut down Trump
In Fight Back (a progressive on-line newspaper published in Minneapolis. <>
By Joe Iosbaker |
March 13, 2016
Chicago, IL - The announcement of Donald Trump’s visit to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) came one week before his scheduled, March 11 appearance. Within minutes, there was a Facebook page announcing plans to protest. There was also a <>  petition calling on the administration at UIC to cancel the rally.
By later that afternoon, over 5000 people signed up to protest, and by later that night, 50,000 had signed the petition.
The gathering of student leaders on Mar. 7 wasn’t full of movement veterans.  …  When the question was raised, “How many people here have been to a protest?” 20 of the 100 students present raised their hands. Then the question was asked, “How many have organized a protest?” only a few hands went up.
One of the hands was that of Ethan Viets-Van Lear. Viets-Van Lear is a member of Black Youth Project 100, and was part of the We Charge Genocide delegation that went to Switzerland in October, 2014. There, they testified to the United Nations Committee Against Torture about the Chicago Police Department.
Cassie Robledo, a member of the College Democrats, said, “My first protest was when I was 12. My dad and uncles are members of the Steel Workers Union. They took me to the megamarch for immigrant rights.” But the protest against Trump was the first time she was organizing anything like this.

The students agreed to support two sets of tactics: one inside the Trump event and one outside. It became clear within the meeting that the main drama would be the protests taking place to disrupt Trump’s speech. Cassie Robledo was going in. Usama Ibrahim of Muslim Students Association intended to go in as well

The next challenge was dealing with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). In meetings with the administration earlier in the week, Juan Rojas reported, “They told us that we had to go to the parking lot across the street from the Pavilion.” One activist with SEIU Local 73, the main union on campus, called the lot a “cattle pen,” because it was surrounded by high, wrought iron fences.
Rojas explained why they still went into the meeting with CPD and the administration. “Essentially to tell them that we’re taking Harrison and that we want them to keep off the crowd and let us as organizers control it.” After the meeting, Rojas reported, “CPD wants us to march from the Quad and take the crowd into the parking lot.”
As the ever-growing crowd got within sight of the Trump crowd lining up at the Pavilion, CPD bike cops blocked the street, trying to force the front of the march to divert into the parking lot. Ethan Viets-Van Lear, Juan Rojas and Bear Steck, the tactical leadership group, stood firm. “We have the right to confront the hate that has come to our campus,” said Rojas.
The marchers stood their ground and kept up chanting. Meanwhile, at the intersection, another 1000 anti-Trump protesters had gathered on the corners, behind barricades.  …

[See the whole report on-line at < < >]

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