My Turn: When Trump’s spell wears off

  • DANIEL A. BROWN

Published: 8/25/2020 11:52:16 AM

In the years following World War II, an army of psychologists, sociologists and historians delved into the mystery of why the German nation, rich in culture, music and literature, would follow a lunatic like Adolf Hitler who before his rise to power was a failed artist and homeless vagrant. Some argued that he was the net result of centuries of European anti-Semitism and German romanticism and that their loss in the First World War provided them with a sense of entitled victimhood. The Great Depression collapsed the German economy. Germany had enjoyed only 15 years of democracy in its centuries-old history. The Germans, by nature, were an obedient people. The NRA put forward the ludicrous claim that Hitler took over the country by disarming its citizens, which he never did.

One thing for sure, if you look at the myriad photos and film clips of crowds cheering Der Führer at his numerous rallies, it’s obvious that the German people loved him. I’ve had elderly Germans who were kids then admit as much. Psychiatrist Carl Jung called him the “Mouthpiece of the collective Shadow of the German people.”

Not only did the Germans love Hitler, but they were more than willing to goose-step behind him to make Germany great again and thereby commit the most horrific atrocities in modern history. Why would they follow such a madman who early on made clear his intention to conquer and murder? At the risk of delving into metaphysics, I wonder if the German people were under some kind of malevolent spell.

I wonder about a similar spell whenever I contemplate that a substantial portion of the American population adores Donald Trump. You don’t need to read his niece’s book or consult a therapist to realize this is a man to whom lying, cruelty, deceit and lust for power are as natural as drawing breath. While one can blame his dysfunctional upbringing, many of us have had equally destructive families but managed to rise above them to become basically decent individuals.

Not surprisingly, Trump’s base doesn’t care how corrupt, bigoted, incompetent or downright demented his words and actions are. They’re fine with his gutter insults and disgusting views on women, the immoral actions he has committed, the numerous members of his circle who have either been jailed or resigned in disgrace and his inclination towards dictatorship. They eagerly respond to his “Law and Order” slogan which has always been a racist dog-whistle of the Right. White American Christian evangelicals worship him as their savior, which must make Jesus of Nazareth weep despondently in Heaven. Trump is correct in one respect. He could murder someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his supporters would still cheer him on. In this, they have surrendered their personal morality as well as their respect for American values for reasons that remain a mystery. It’s as though some magician has entranced them.

The spell theory gets extra weight when one observes the behavior of the German people once Hitler was dead and gone. In the years after the end of World War II, the American occupation forces in Germany contained numerous African-American soldiers. Considering that lethal racism was the cornerstone of Hitler’s philosophy, one would think the Germans would have shunned them as pariahs of an inferior race.

In fact, the Germans loved them. Hitler’s spell was broken.

Throughout the late 1940s, Black soldiers were welcomed into German restaurants, German homes and German beds. They were befriended and adored by the same people who, only a few years before, would have happily exterminated them. An African American GI could walk freely down the streets of Berlin arm-in-arm with his white German girlfriend without fear. Had he done so in Birmingham, Alabama or anywhere in the American South during this same period, he would have been beaten, jailed or lynched.

Despite his attempts to cheat and voter-suppress his way into re-election, Trump’s pernicious spell will soon wear off. I wonder how his former zealous supporters will react. Will they feel embarrassed or ashamed? Will some atone for their uglier behavior? Will they sink into denial and pretend they always knew he was a destructive egomaniac even as they enthusiastically cheered him at his hate rallies?

Overall, the German people have faced their responsibility for creating Nazism and the Holocaust. Today, Germany is among the most progressive of western nations. After Trump disappears, the United States will also have to redeem itself from the crimes and follies committed during his pathological administration.

Daniel A. Brown lived in Franklin County for 44 years and was a frequent contributor to the Recorder. He lives in Taos, N.M.


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