Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Hitler and Trump: A Scary Comparison" by Dan Udell

I've decided to do something I've never done before on Look, Read, Listen and venture into the political arena by publishing an op-ed from my friend Dan Udell. 

I met Dan and his lovely wife, Mary, about a decade ago when I was a reporter in Columbia County, NY, and soon realized that if there was a social/political/environmental issue being publicly discussed, it was guaranteed Dan and Mary would be there fighting the good fight. I love that he and Mary not only espouse progressive views  but live their beliefs. Unfortunately, my former newspaper decided against running this piece on their opinion page so I'm doing my small part by publishing it here. 

Now in his 80s, Dan provides a long view on both life and politics. As he says, he's lived through everything from the Great Depression to the election of our first African American president, so he can speak with an authority on our current election unlike most pundits who can't bring the same breadth of experience to bear in their views. 

Hitler and Trump: A Scary Comparison

Being in the Octogenarian’s Club, we have had the privilege of witnessing some of the most momentous events in our country’s history: the Great Depression, WWII, the Atomic Bomb, Moon Landing, the creation of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Watergate, the Voting Right Act, School Desegregation and the election of the first African American, Barack Obama, as President of the United States.

But that is nothing compared to World War II in our nation’s ability to come together -- to defeat Nazi and Japanese militaristic aggression. The threat was very real, and the outcome uncertain. In the early 1940s, our ships carrying needed supplies to England — the only surviving European nation — were being sunk right outside our harbors by U-Boats. All discretionary U.S. manufacturing was stopped and diverted to building thousands of tanks, planes and ships every week — assembled in large measure by our able-bodied female population. General Eisenhower went on to command the largest amphibious invasion in the history of the world at Normandy. That was the beginning of the end for Nazism.

The lesson of that war, which we need to reflect upon today, is how Hitler was able to take a highly advanced and cultured nation like Germany and turn it into a hideous war machine. Populism and nationalism were on the rise, and Germany was suffering under crushing inflation, which was wiping out savings and tearing at the economy. Hitler’s evil genius was to invent an enemy, the Jews of Europe, which he could blame for all the country’s ills. And to literally wipe out anyone who did not fit the ideal Ayran (read German) mold: Gypsies, Jews, “inferior races,” and most anyone mentally or physically challenged. It was basically a “Make Germany Great Again,” philosophy. And its success depended on three major factors: An anxious, low information population looking for easy answers; a Hitler-directed campaign of hate directed at the above elements in the population; and as Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Fast forward 80 years. The stage is eerily similar. Populism and nationalism are again on the rise. People are looking for easy and quick answers. It’s each country for itself, consequences be damned. Look at how the U.K. has shot itself in the foot by leaving the European Union with BREXIT.

Donald Trump is, frankly, following many of Hitler’s crowd-rousing techniques. First is “Make America Great Again,” which is taken right out of Hitler’s appeal to anxious Germans in the 1930s. Then, there is antagonism and hatred against Mexicans, Syrian refugees, people of color, the physically and mentally challenged. Even disparaging remarks about women who don’t measure up to an Aryan ideal. And he is offering quick solutions for all the country’s ills. It’s basically the argument of Hitler in the 1930s: Let me take over and I, and I alone, will solve all the country’s problems. Those are the pronouncements of a dictator.

So the issue for everyone entering a voting booth next Tuesday is not to examine the latest string of accusations between candidates, but to look realistically at what’s going on in the world and the country and who can lead us through it. Not just to cover it over with bluster, but to lead.

Hillary’s motto is “Stronger Together,” which is an inclusive philosophy, and it’s just what we did, nationally and internationally, in the 1940s to win World War II. Right now, there is a movement in the world toward xenophobia, and the world is looking at us to lead the way back to sanity. The answer is to work with our international partners. We need them, and they need to trust us.
And nationally, we think Hillary has developed a broader view of what needs to be done to solve our country’s internal challenges because of her contest with Bernie Sanders. Finally, as Bernie has said, “Enough of your XXXX emails.” Yes, she admitted that setting up a personal email server was a mistake and she apologized. So, Hillary has shown that she can change. And we think that is the most important characteristic for a President of the United States. Take a measured view of the challenges ahead and work with our partners in the House and Senate to achieve solutions, not to cling naively to an exclusionary ideology.

But we know one thing will be constant, and that is her untiring efforts over the years to give all of our children a better, brighter future. And we are sure that she and her good friend, Michelle Obama will continue these efforts over the next four years.

We are voting for Hillary next Tuesday!

Dan and Mary Udell

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