Most parents are very excited to introduce their kids to Indiana Jones. Me, I was dreading it. Not because Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Holy Grail aren't awesome movies, but because they feature Nazis.
Nazis may seem like run-of-the-mill bad guys to most folks, but I'm Jewish. So they're not. We ended up letting our son watch them and I made a parenting decision to not explain what Nazis really were.
He's seven and doesn't need to know yet that there was once a political movement that rose to power during a time of economic anxiety by scapegoating Jews as well as Roma, Slavs, gays and the disabled.
He doesn't need to know yet that if we had lived in Germany at that time, we would have been put on a Jewish registry and been forced to wear a Star of David identifying our ethnicity.
They are no longer just historical monsters... They are holding rallies in Washington D.C.
We would have had our windows smashed and been denied employment. We would have been pushed into ghettos and later into cattle cars.
We would have been starved and tortured in concentration camps or gassed and burned in death camps alongside 12 million others who weren't white enough.
That's what Nazis are. But they are no longer just historical monsters or cinematic bad guys.
They are holding rallies in Washington D.C., doing the Nazi salute while yelling "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!"
They are being discussed on CNN with a chryon that reads "ALT-RIGHT FOUNDER QUESTIONS IF JEWS ARE PEOPLE."
Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader who coined the term "alt-right," also said of the mainstream media that "we should refer to them in the original German" — at which point the audience screamed back "Lügenpresse," a Nazi-era term that means "lying press" and was used by Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to attack Jews and communists.
It was also a term that gained traction during the end of the campaign when Trump supporters would shout it at reporters covering his rallies.
Spencer concluded his speech to hundreds of his white supremacist "alt-right" followers across the country by declaring: "America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance and it belongs to us."
A year ago yesterday I first encountered the "alt-right," though I was not yet aware of their re-branding efforts, when I wrote "Never Again: A Jewish Take On Anti-Syrian Refugee Sentiment" and my Twitter account was cybermobbed by Nazis, including some who threatened me with violence.
Yes, this Nazi troll's Twitter avatar is a cat with a Hitler mustache in front of an S.S. cap.
These anti-Semitic harassment tweets have continued through the year during Trump's improbable yet inexorable rise to power, and I've received a fraction of that compared to Jewish journalists who cover Trump more regularly.
The prevalence of Nazi imagery has only grown worse since election night, beginning with anti-Semitic graffiti in Philadelphia during the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass" that kicked off the Holocaust, cleverly replacing the "T" in Trump with a swastika.
There have since been at least 60 separate incidents of swastika graffiti in the U.S., part of the over 700 "hateful incidents of harassment" collected by the Southern Poverty Law Centre since the election, including threats to Muslims, Hispanics, blacks, LGBTQ and women.
It's hit schools and churches, and there were even swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti sprayed on a Beastie Boys memorial park for Adam Yauch in Brooklyn.
It's crossed the border, too, with swastikas spray-painted on an elementary school, a predominantly black church, a rabbi's house and a Jewish community centre in Ottawa. Someone spray-painted "It's the Jews" on an elementary school in Toronto and plastered racist "alt-right" posters near another elementary school across the city. Anti-Asian flyers have been found in mailboxes in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, and just today white nationalist posters were found in Edmonton.
How has Trump responded to all of this?
Well, he took the time to attack the musical Hamilton four times on Twitter. He has also tweeted out multiple attacks on the New York Times and Saturday Night Live.
But there have been no tweets denouncing the rising hate crimes or Spencer's "alt-right" gathering of neo-nazis shouting "Heil Trump!"
During an interview at the NY Times with various reporters and editors, which the newspaper live-tweeted, Trump did finally say something:
However, just as he did during his 60 Minutes interview — when he halfheartedly said "stop it" while also diminishing the number of incidents — Trump accepted no responsibility for how his bigoted campaign encouraged and inflamed it.
Dean Baquet asks if Trump feels like he did things to energize the alt-right movement. "I don't think so, Dean," Trump replies.— Mike Grynbaum (@grynbaum) November 22, 2016
Trump: "It's not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why." (2/2)— Mike Grynbaum (@grynbaum) November 22, 2016
Not to mention, of course, that he's not publicly denounced the "alt-right" on his Twitter, which is how he communicates with his followers, but only on 60 Minutes and in the NY Times, both mainstream media outlets that he's repeatedly told his followers not to trust.
Now many have argued that Trump doesn't believe this stuff and just said it to get elected. Maybe, even probably, but motivations are meaningless compared to actions.
And his actions include installing Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, a man who boasted that he turned Breitbart.com into a "a platform for the alt-right."
And yet, Trump defended both Bannon and Breitbart during that NY Times interview:
Trump defends Bannon saying "if I thought he was racist/alt-right...I wouldn't even think abt hiring him...he's been treated very unfairly"— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) November 22, 2016
Trump: "Breitbart is just a publication."— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016
Trump also named Jeff Sessions, a senator who was deemed too racist to be a federal judge, to be Attorney General. His National Security Adviser, retired General Flynn, has tweeted that "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL."
David Duke, former KKK grand wizard, called these cabinet picks as "the first steps in taking America back." He specifically praised Bannon's role in "exposing the vicious war on White people on his Breitbart website;" Sessions, for "being hated for years by the Jewish-dominated media for his opposition to massive immigration into America and... the massive, institutionalized racial discrimination against white people called affirmative action;" and Flynn, for being "an avowed enemy of the Jewish warmonger traitors called 'Neocons.'"
So here we are.
I spent months worrying about my kid watching a movie and now I have to worry about him watching the news or seeing racist posters or graffiti on the streets or even checking the mailbox.
Last week, a Trump adviser floated the notion that a Muslim registry has a precedent in the Japanese internment camps during the Second World War, as if those weren't a horrifying part of U.S. history. This week, potential Homeland Security director Kris Kobach was photographed meeting Trump with a document revealing plans for Muslim immigrants, including a registry so that "all aliens from high-risk areas are tracked" and reducing Syrian refugees to zero.
Call it "alt-right," white supremacy, white nationalism, ethno-nationalism or whatever else you want. It's just Nazi by another name.
Many Trump supporters on both sides of the border are trying to diminish these hate crimes, dismiss the "alt-right" and excuse the president-elect. The goal is normalization.
But this is more than not normal. It is familiar. And it is contagious. First Brexit, then Trump, and next it could be Front National's racist leader Marine Le Pen in France.
Call it "alt-right," white supremacy, white nationalism, ethno-nationalism or whatever else you want. It's just Nazi by another name and we must stand up to it because we've seen how this story ends — and there's no real-life Indiana Jones to stop them.
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