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Why History is Important: a Reflection on Donald Trump

As I look around at what is happening in the world today, I grow more and more afraid for my future. I see people turning against each other. I see people dying every day at the hands of our government. Maybe, as a history major, I am biased, but there are lots of people today that don’t think history is important. There are more people who choose to ignore what history has taught us every single day. Personally, I believe that the ignoring and misunderstanding of history will be the downfall of society as we know it. While I believe that knowing and understanding history is important for every person, I also believe that the American people need to start paying extra attention.

In my studies, I have had the privilege to explore the nature of government structures from the past and apply that knowledge to the government structures we are familiar with today. Sometimes, this is an enlightening experience, while other times, this makes me terrified of the future of the United States of America. Just by witnessing the events of the past few years, I have seen some concerning comparisons between previous fascist dictatorships and the role that Donald Trump plays in the current governmental system.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum provides a checklist outlining the early warning signs of fascism. Donald Trump has done all but two of them.

One early warning sign of fascism is the presence of powerful and continuing nationalism. This is a concept on which Trump built his entire presidential campaign. The “Make America Great Again” slogan is a perfect example of this. Trump is trying to build intense nationalistic beliefs within his party. This in turn, rallies support for every other action that he takes. His destructive policies are disguised as being what is best for the nation.

Disdain for human rights is another early warning sign of fascism. Trump has shown time and time again that he does not care about human rights. He continually speaks against people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and immigrants. He allowed immigrant children to be kept in horrible conditions at border camps. He allows the presence of police brutality to be unaddressed by the federal government. Donald Trump has proven that he is not concerned about human rights.

Identification of enemies as a unifying cause is something that Trump has done in almost every speech he has made before these United States. He has identified liberals, democrats, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, and people of color as the enemy. This is similar to what Hitler did during the Holocaust. He identified Jewish people, foreigners, liberals, and gay men as the enemy. Identifying enemies and using them as a unifying cause is textbook fascism.

Supremacy of the military was present in fascist Germany, Italy, and Russia during World War II. This is also something that Donald Trump (and frankly every president in the past five decades) has done. The United States has the largest military budget in the world. Being in the military has certain connotations. When one thinks of the military, often times there are sentiments relating to serving one’s country, supporting the troops, honoring veterans, etc. I’m not saying that we should not be doing these things. We definitely should be supporting our troops and appreciating their service. This does not negate the fact that the military has turned into a very prevalent aspect of our society.

Rampant sexism is also characteristically fascist. Trump lives and breathes sexism like it’s oxygen. One of his most well-known statements is that he “grabs them by the pussy.” In this context, ‘them’ is women. In addition to this, allegations have been brought to light about the multiple sexual assaults and other sexual misconduct that he’s committed against women. During his campaign, Trump was blatantly sexist toward his opponent, Hillary Clinton, calling her a “nasty woman,” and constantly ridiculing her for her physical appearance. There are countless examples of Trump’s sexism from even before he became president.

Trump’s obsession with national security has been something that has caused incredible divide within the United States as of late. The border wall is concrete proof of Trump’s obsession with national security. He has consistently portrayed immigrants as a danger to the country and cites this as a reason for increased national security. He also points to immigrants, especially Latinx immigrants, as a danger to society, saying that they take our jobs and rape our daughters (which is blatantly untrue).

Religion and government intertwined is also something that Trump is known for. Whether it be passing statements like “God Bless America” or something more serious like the “Pro-Life” movement, which uses Christian values to undermine the autonomy women have over their own bodies, Trump has done it. If he hasn’t directly been the cause, he has at least supported these causes.

Corporate power being protected is not something that is unique to the Trump administration. It has, however, been magnified under his leadership. Trump has made it clear that corporations take precedent over the people. He has made sure that corporations will not face any consequences when it comes to their impact on climate change. To be fair, he also doesn’t recognize climate change as being a real threat. He has also made sure that his own corporate affairs would be protected, as he is a businessman, after all.

While there are many more warning signs of fascism to look out for, these are some of the most important. There are only two warning signs of fascism that Trump is not guilty of, and sadly, both of them can be argued.

The United States does not have controlled mass media, which is a characteristic of most fascist dictatorships. While this is something that Donald Trump is not yet guilty for, he has definitely skirted the line. While our media is not yet controlled, Trump has been able to convince his supporters that media supporting opposing political views are not to be trusted. Any news source that reports something bad about Trump or one of his policies is written off by Trump and the rest of the right-wing Republicans as “fake news.” Creating distrust of news sources can easily lead to controlled mass media.

Fraudulent elections are also characteristic of fascist dictatorships. Many dictators will fix the elections to make it appear as if they received a majority of the votes when in reality they did not. Trump has not officially done this. The possible Russian collusion can be seen as a warning sign for what’s to come in the future. In addition to this, it should be noted that Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, Hillary Clinton did. This points out major flaws within our electoral system. Donald Trump does not represent the people.

Everyone loves to say “never again,” but are they really going to do anything about it when it is happening right in front of them? I’m not saying that the United States is going to become a fascist dictatorship, but when it does, nobody should be surprised. When it happens, I’m going to have my “told you so” moment and join the revolution.

Morgan Smith

Elizabethtown '21

History Major Women and Gender Studies Minor
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