STEINBERG: Trump promised he’d take America back; he didn’t say where

SHARE STEINBERG: Trump promised he’d take America back; he didn’t say where

Multiple white nationalist groups marched with torches through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville in August 2017. | The Indianapolis Star, distributed by the Associated Press

Promises made, promises kept!

Donald Trump was always talking about how he would “take back America” — there were bumper stickers — and now look, he’s actually done it. We’ve been taken back to the 1960s, with protesters clashing in the street over the weekend and a civil rights demonstrator killed.

Or are we back in the 1940s? It felt that way Friday, with torch-bearing Nazis marching, sieg-heiling and chanting “blood and soil.” It could have been an America First rally at the old Chicago Stadium in 1940.

Although they were tiki torches. The bamboo kind costing $1.99 at Costco. That sort of ruined the effect. Give the original Nazis credit; they were sticklers for detail. Real torches are expensive and hard to find, but you’re never going to seize control — assuming they haven’t already, and with the Trump White House you never know — by cutting corners. Tiki torches in a fascist demonstration are like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons at the Nuremberg rallies.


Sorry. None of this is funny. After three deaths — the protester and two Virginia State troopers who died in a helicopter crash — the clownishly unaware street theater of men whose fondest fantasy is to be concentration camp guards slides into anguish and tragedy.

Then again, that’s what happens, and there’s an important lesson there.

Whenever I see these idiots, I’m not filled with terror or concern — and you think I would be, as half the time they’re chanting about Jews. Rather, I get an almost avuncular concern. I want to help them, to say,“Guys, guys, gather around. You do know that the whole Nazi thing did not end well for the Germans?” History focuses on their victims, and rightly so, but by the time the would-be supermen were done manifesting their superiority they had lost 4 million soldiers and another 2 million civilians. About 6 million Germans dead, for you fans of irony.

Maybe they don’t know that. Of course they don’t. Because racism is, at its essence, a form of ignorance, a sub-cellar of aggressive dumbness. It’s philosophy for stupid people. (“Ignorant.” “Dumb.” “Stupid.” — I’m name calling again, aren’t I? Apologies in advance. You can’t imagine the topsy-turviness when a committed hater, someone habitually maligning entire groups of fellow citizens, indignantly calls you out for being impolite. Nobody cries like a bully.)

How else to describe it? They don’t know what happened in history, or understand what’s going on now, or grasp what could occur if their poisoned worldview spread beyond their tiny fringe. Another line the marchers chanted was “Jew will not replace us,” which, setting aside the clever wordplay, was not menacing either. My immediate reaction: “Right, like I want to replace you. Like I want to go live in your mother’s basement and take shirtless selfies in front of a Nazi flag inexpertly painted on a bed sheet.”

Social media focused on the shamefully wrong reaction of the president, who tried to spread blame “on all sides.” Some seemed surprised by this, though ruffling the hair of haters is what Trump has done since Day One. It’s the horse he rode in on, starting with embracing the racist birther fantasy. Why would he toy with a winning strategy now?

In Germany, in the fatherland, the “soil” the marchers’ chant refers to, they’d all go to jail just for tossing out the straight-armed salute — as some Chinese tourists discovered there this summer. Here, our First Amendment protects the right to do so. That’s good.

I’m glad we live in a country where traitors can self-identify, can stand up and say, “Lost in my own imaginary superiority, I oppose everything America believes in, and embrace the same failed, murderous ideology that 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, died defeating.” That way, we can see who supports it, who tolerates it, and who rejects it. Lest anyone be tempted to despair, remember: We already defeated these deluded losers once before. This time won’t be nearly as difficult.

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