I’ve had quite a few drawing room debates recently about whether Trump can reasonably be compared to Hitler. The more relaxed amongst us constantly reassure me that I’m overreacting to the stomach churning policies that continue to spill, unchecked, across the White House lawn and into the world wide political arena.
Trump, undeniably, lacks Hitler’s cohesive ideological fervour. Trump doesn’t just hate Mexicans, for example, he also hates women, and Muslims, and black people and anyone who disagrees with him. His maliciousness is messier, which makes it harder to regulate and harder to contain. Trump also, seemingly, lacks Hitler’s organisation and ability to put his ideologies into action. One of the reasons that the Holocaust was so incredibly horrific was the meticulous machinery of it, the way in which men were able to sit around a table and calmly plan the most time efficient way to kill millions of people.
I don’t think that Trump is clever enough to do that. But, stupidity, when coupled with selfishness and prejudice, is incredibly dangerous. Trump may only think about himself, but that means he is able to sign off on policies that cheerfully violate human rights without blinking an eye. His empathy net is incredibly tiny; it only includes him. And when you’ve elected a leader who seemingly lacks the ability to empathise, you cannot be surprised when his policies continue to undermine that societal standards of morality that we used to consider the norm.
If you put a frog in a pan of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put a frog in a pan of cold water, and slowly turn up the heat, it will stay there until it dies. Hitler didn’t announce his plans to kill millions of Jews on the first day of his campaign. He waited and more importantly, he slowly turned up the heat of prejudice, testing what the German people were capable of believing, doing and accepting until they, along with him, hit a point of no return.
Trump too is testing the American public. If you will tolerate his championing of White Supremacists, then you will tolerate when he starts making policy that reflects the ideology of white supremacy. If you will tolerate Trump’s consistent degradation of women, then you will accept a Supreme Court Judge who sexually assaulted someone in college. If you’re okay with Trump calling Mexicans criminals and rapists, then you’ll be okay with him creating a political and legal atmosphere that has culminated in toddlers being forced to represent themselves in deportation court. You’ll be okay with the American army firing tear gas, illegally, at women and children across the border between Mexico and the US.
Trump’s rhetoric does not exist in a vacuum. It not only emboldens people who hold similarly prejudiced views, but also manifests in his policy. And America has to ask itself – if you are comfortable with images of toddlers screaming, wiping tear gas from their eyes, and you will tolerate a president who is okay with journalists being hacked to death, what won’t you tolerate?