When Donald Trump was in the early stages of his presidency, there was a prominent comparison between him and Adolf Hitler. Trump’s anti-immigrant and nationalist (and, at times, white supremacist) rhetoric rang reminiscent of Hitler’s regime. Hitler, too, had had a dream of making Germany great once more, and he had a willingness to do what it took, hurt whomever was in the way. But both of these are skewed perspectives, because greatness does not come from harm, or cruelty, or exclusion. It’s been a long two years of watching Trump’s prejudices ring out in his speeches and proposed policies, but not everyone, it seems, has viewed Trump as the new Hitler. Vice President Pence had a different comparison to offer, one that sparked offense across the nation.
This past Sunday, prior to Martin Luther King Junior Day, Vice President Mike Pence was a guest on CBS News’ Face The Nation discussing the government shutdown and the consequences of President Trump’s sole focus of building the wall. While dancing around questions presented by Margaret Brennan, Pence touched on the upcoming holiday. The Vice President recited a quote he favored by MLK, then proceeded to compare President’s Trump’s current actions to Dr. King. He justified this by explaining that both are trying to better America and that in order to do this they must “…change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union…”. Vice President Pence most likely saw this as a positive comparison, but to many, including Martin Luther King’s son, this was an offense to Dr. King’s legacy.
The mere concept of comparing MLK, an activist who changed our nation for the better, to Mr. Trump, the new Adolf Hitler, is insulting. President Trump is clearly more skewed to Hitler’s tendencies rather than a social activist who fought for equality. Looking at most recent events, Trump’s “Zero-Tolerance” policy has prevented families from crossing the border, but in doing so, he has also separated thousands of children from their parents. When looking back in history, a very similar and distinct situation occurred during Hitler’s reign, known today as the Holocaust. At the time, Europeans saw the eradication of families as a step towards a brighter future for Germany. There would be more jobs and fewer foreigners, both of which are similar desires maintained by America’s current president. Looking back at the Holocaust, the world views Hitler’s intentions as cruel and the leading cause of one of the biggest tragedies to have impacted the world. In the 50’s, Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting in hopes of preventing situations like the Holocaust from happening ever again. He wanted to unite the world and let go of the whitopian dream that so many had maintained during the war. Although America is not taking steps towards genocide, we are taking steps backwards. Vice President Pence mentioned in his meeting with Brennan that Trump did reverse the policy, and although many regret this policy, Pence flips the conversation once again to place blame back on the immigrants. He states, “I think we, we regret not only that circumstance but what’s driving that circumstance.” He goes on to explain the effects of the cartels and how families wish to be free from this lifestyle. By doing this, Pence has once again avoided the question and is hoping to look like the good guy, while countless children are being sent back without their families to protect or guide them.
Trump wants to put up walls, Hitler succeeded, and Dr. King tore them down. It’s unfortunate that this is not in consecutive order or the world could be so much more than this never-ending cycle of hatred. Let us remember to always be critical of our leaders and make sure that their actions–and our actions–align with values based in love and respect.