And Then The Murders Began
People tend to think of the Holocaust as an event, or a constant: Hitler came to power, next stop Auschwitz. This is far from historical fact, however. The Holocaust was a process, with a beginning, a middle and, if not an end, then at least a near-culmination. There was an arc that took European societies from accepting Jews as neighbors, fellow citizens and even prominent members of the community — if with a dogwhistle here and there, and occasional down-home Jew-hating talk — to wholesale slaughter, with a side serving of unbridled abuse, rape, torture and gleeful psychological sadism. It didn’t happen overnight.
The proto-Nazis spent the 1920’s spreading vicious, (literally) cartoonish anti-Semitic propaganda. Those were the Der Stürmer years. Relentlessly, the future “winners” of the German state called Jews animals, vermin, criminals, racial degenerates, ideological enemies of society. The first race laws began to be enacted in 1933. Then, in 1935, Jews, Roma and other “undesirables” were stripped of their citizenship and civil rights. Then came the pogroms. Then came the ghettos. And then the murders began. Sporadic mass executions were followed by systematic, mechanized slaughter of human beings throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
There was a progression within the targeted groups, too. First, it was the Jewish immigrants. Then Jews who were communists or left-wing. Then observant Jews. Then Jewish citizens who were secular. Then Christians who were ethnically Jewish. In the end, they came for everyone.
The process was gradual and complicated enough that the Holocaust didn’t enter into the extermination phase until 1941. Few people could imagine, even as late as 1940, the horrors that lay ahead.
Yesterday, the pro-Trump majority of the Supreme Court (5:4) rendered a decision upholding Trump’s Muslim Ban. You may think it’s no big deal: that the decision upholds a temporary measure affecting only Muslims, and only some Muslims, and only from some countries. But let’s be realistic — beyond the context of Trump’s explicit hostility towards Muslims and refugees, a Supreme Court decision, as such, has far-reaching ramifications, for millions of people and huge chunks of history, not just the immediate parties to the lawsuit. Thus, the reasoning of the majority is crucial, because the reasoning applies to other sets of facts, not just the ones involved in the lawsuit. The holding of Trump v. Hawaii, stripped of its rhetorical flourishes, boils down to this: policies enacted by the Executive in the name of national security are essentially unreviewable, no matter how pretextual the label, or how overwhelming the evidence of racial, ethnic, political or religious animus motivating the policy. In fact, John Roberts’ opinion strongly suggests that merely invoking “national security” — the magic words alone — will overcome any showing of unlawful bias.
With this SCOTUS decision, the United States has passed an ominous milestone towards the kind of carnage that engulfed Europe in the 1940’s. And this, only one day after the Court punted on the gerrymandering case out of Texas, allowing the policy designed to strip the vote from the Undesirables — essentially, America’s equivalent of the Nuremberg Laws — to stand.
Irked by Sotomayor’s dissent, the Trumpist court devoted a couple of sentences to magnanimously overruling Korematsu v. United States (a/k/a the Japanese Internment Case) — an act which will make no practical difference in anyone’s life in 2018, same as Trump’s proposed pardons of long-dead African-Americans. Then, in a stunning display of cynicism, Roberts immediately adopted the holdings and dicta of Korematsu — lock, stock and barrel — to uphold the Muslim Ban. As Justice Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent, this of course renders the overruling of Korematsu meaningless, if not to say a mockery of Constitutional jurisprudence. I would also add that it signals to the Trump administration the conservative majority’s willingness to uphold anything that Trump wants upheld, consistency be damned.
Speaking of consistency, some dark comic relief comes courtesy of Anthony Kennedy’s sheepish concurrence, who signaled very plaintively — civilly, even! — that upholding the Muslim Ban makes him look stupid, coming in on the heels of his chef d’oeuvre de butthurt in Masterpiece Cakeshop. He gently asks Trump to please not think he can violate people’s Constitutional rights just because the 5:4 majority gave him the carte blanche to do so. Justice Kennedy’s concurrence in Trump v. Hawaii will surely go down as, perhaps, the most civil and gentlemanlike opinion ever to emanate out of that august body. I am sure Trump and his goons, Steven Miller foremost among them, will take note of Justice Kennedy good manners. This is how you “criticize” Trump! By giving him everything he wants and gingerly asking him to play nice, while taking care not to insinuate that he does not do so already. A win for #Civility, for sure.
But then the comic relief evaporates when you realize the Roberts majority wouldn’t even go along with Kennedy’s uncontroversial observation that the President should not violate people’s Constitutional rights wholesale in the name of national security — he had to make that statement in his own name only, and it has no power of law. Trump’s SCOTUS would not even go that far. What kinds of “wins” do you think they’ll hand to Trump next?
The Japanese Internment was a crime against humanity, but FDR and his supporters showed nowhere near the bloodlust that Trump and his base have displayed. One can scarcely imagine the atrocities that the Trump regime will inflict upon the vulnerable in this nation, now that it has the endorsement from SCOTUS to go after any group it doesn’t like. I know, I know: few people think that what the Nazi Germany did is possible in America. Then again, few people thought it was possible in Germany, too. Then, as now, objectively thinking centrists decried undue pessimism and demanded civility, politeness and compromise, instead of sounding the alarm as the German society took one step after another towards genocidal extermination.
The decision allows Trump to target not only the racial and ethnic minorities he reviles — Latinx, Muslims, African-Americans, immigrants from “shithole countries”, even naturalized citizens — but any social or professional group that he can slap the “national security threat” label on. Trump v. Hawaii gives him the authority to crush activists and political opponents, to suppress the media, even establish a one-party totalitarian system. Meanwhile, the morons who comprise the crème de la crème of our enemy-of-the-people media, oblivious to the ground burning beneath their feet, are collaborating with Trump’s efforts to discredit the opposition by decrying it as impolite. Come to think of it, not much of a loss would result from the suppression of the MSM; it’s doing a great job of suppressing itself already.
The more I think about the disaster that is Trumpism, the more I am resigned to the notion that, like the Nazism, it will just have to run its course. Ghettos, pogroms, extermination camps — all this has to happen in order for it to go away. I know it sounds flippant, but I think the same way about the Holocaust — it was bound to happen sooner or later, it couldn’t be stopped, and even if it could, anti-Semitism would have continued to enjoy an imprimatur of legitimacy with a significant segment of the population until it became associated with something so horrible, people would become ashamed of adhering to it. (You would think slavery and the treatment of Native Americans would be in that category, but apparently not; I guess copious pictures are key.) We are well on the path to carnage, and I don’t think there is any way to stop it. The apparent official belief of “moderates” that we should be “civil” and disagree in a way that doesn’t make the Trump administration and its supporters feel uncomfortable certainly isn’t going to reverse the trend.
I realize this sounds alarmist, and I hope to God I’m wrong. Maybe the level-headed centrists are right. Maybe now that Trump’s got a couple of Great Wins, he and the fascist goons who comprise his administration will chill the fuck out. Maybe “principled” Republicans, who have up to now caved to Trump on every single issue, will stop him. Maybe the conservatives on the Supreme Court will stop short of upholding the constitutionality of persecuting journalists or the operation of actual death camps, assuming they’ll even be in a position to give or withhold their blessing. Maybe Kennedy will stick his neck out to prevent the Trump administration from fulfilling the unremarkable statement of copiously documented historical fact, that so offended him in Masterpiece Cakeshop — that Christianity has often served to validate and abet man’s inhumanity to man — instead of fucking off to a retirement community or continuing to pen obsequious, virtue-signaling concurrences designed to shore up his own image. And maybe pigs will fly.
As our President likes to say, we’ll see what happens.
UPDATE: Oh. So he is fucking off to God’s waiting room, then. Makes sense. After all, his continued presence on the Court as the ostensible “swing vote” would have been uncivil. Anthony Kennedy: the nice judge. Thanks for the Citizens United, and all the other cases where you swung for creeping fascism, you disingenuous motherfucker. Burn in hell.