Are we all “good Germans” now?

“Good Germans” is a phrase that originally referred to citizens of Nazi Germany who, after Germany’s defeat in World War II, claimed not to have supported Hitler’s regime, yet made no claim to have opposed it in any significant way.  This was widely noted by Allied occupation troops, who were amazed and appalled by the widespread disavowal of responsibility for Nazi crimes among the German population.  It was noted at the time:  “It is a saying among our troops that there are no real Nazis in Germany, only ‘good Germans.’ Every crime Germany committed against humanity seems to have been done by someone else.”

The term has since been applied to people who observe reprehensible things taking place — whether done by a government, by another powerful institution, or by an individual — but remain silent, neither raising objections nor taking steps to change the course of events.

Three days before he was inaugurated the 45th President of the United States, I listed the things I felt disqualified Donald Trump from being sworn in; to recap:

Mimicking the spastic movements of a disabled man should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Urging his supporters to “beat the crap out of them” referring to people exercising their constitutionally guaranteed first amendment right to protest him should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Bragging that he could grab women by the “pussy” (his exact word) against their will, thus committing sexual assault, should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Peddling a crazy-assed conspiracy theory that the Cuban father of one of his Republican primary opponents was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Repeating as fact disproven stories from Internet chain e-mails that have been indented so many times from being FWD’d to FWD’d to FWD’d from inbox to inbox that you can barely read them should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Claiming he could not release his tax returns as every major party candidate for president has done for the last 40 years because he was under an IRS audit even though the IRS said their audit placed no such restriction on him should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Suggesting the US might not honor its NATO treaty obligations to its allies should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Not knowing what the US nuclear triad is when asked about it should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Proposing that nuclear proliferation in places like Japan and South Korea would be a good thing should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.   Lying by saying that he watched thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11 in Jersey City, New Jersey when police say there's no evidence this happened should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Suggesting that we as a nation should use torture as a means of extracting information from those we have detained in the war on terror should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.  Promising to defeat ISIS, end the civil war in Syria, resolve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, thwart Iranian aggression and Russia’s reemergence as a hostile superpower, repeal Obamacare which provides health insurance and therefore healthcare to millions who previously did not have it and replace it with something, to use his words, “way better,” all while bringing jobs back to America without offering any serious specifics on “how” he’s going to accomplish any of this should have disqualified Donald Trump; it did not.

And now, just shy of a year later, we have ample evidence that the President of the United States is a racist.

This is not a revelation, made clear only recently.  From the time when he was investigated by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination in the 1970’s to when he demanded execution for five black and Latino teenagers who had been accused, falsely, of attacking and a raping a white woman in New York City in the 1980’s, from his promotion of the lie that the first black president of the United States was an illegitimate usurper hiding his true African background from the public to launching his own bid for the presidency by accusing Mexico of sending “rapists” to the United States, portraying Muslim-Americans as fundamentally untrustworthy, describing black neighborhoods as essentially fit for animals, and then as president defending white supremacists who disrupted a city killing a counter-demonstrator, and suggesting all Haitians have AIDS while mocking people from Nigeria as living in “huts.”

When he referred to some nations as “shithole countries” and complained about immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador and Africa, wondering why the United States couldn’t accept more immigrants from a European (white!) country like Norway, what was most disheartening of all, for me, was not the comment, because I do not find it surprising that he harbors such repulsive thoughts, but the tepid (or non-existent) response from leaders (like Speaker Paul Ryan) in his own party and the attempts to defend the indefensible by his acolytes on Fox News“This is how Trump relates to people. If you’re at a bar, and you’re from Wisconsin, and you’re thinking, ‘They’re bringing in a bunch of Haiti people, or El Salvadorians, or people from Niger.’ This is how some people talk.”


Perhaps worst of all:  reports that the president’s allies seem to both acknowledge his racism and see it as an asset.  “Staffers inside the White House aren’t that worried about Trump’s ‘shithole’ remark,” according to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Twitter, “with some predicting it will actually resonate with his base, not alienate it, much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem did.”

Donald Trump came onto the political scene promoting a racist conspiracy theory.  He ran the most unabashed, unapologetic racist campaign I’ve seen in my lifetime.  And, as president, he continues to say overtly racist things.

We must say — without hesitation — that Donald Trump, our president, is a racist.  We must call-out his supporters, whoever they may be, as maybe not racist themselves but certainly supportive of a racist.

And we must be vigilant, particularly as we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, and prepared to do everything in our power not to allow him to put us in the position of those whose shame after the fact forced them to hide behind the “good German” defense.

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