As a sensitive girl growing up in a family impacted by the Holocaust, I often evaluated people by deciding if they would hide me or turn me in if another such demagogue arose – one of the reasons that I particularly love this song by Jill Sobule.
Since 9/11, I’ve become increasingly horrified and disillusioned, as I’ve watched the political rhetoric in this country become religiously and racially charged, while people who should know better stayed silent. Indeed, to my shocked dismay, people like Pamela Geller have been vocal perpetrators of the same kind of rhetoric that was employed against my own family with such awful consequences sixty years ago.
In December, I wrote a piece calling for moral courage to condemn such hate speech, because as a student of history and based on my own family’s experience, I’ve been seeing too much resonance for comfort. I am not alone. Holocaust survivors warn about Trump. They have been warning us that they see danger in Trump’s rhetoric. When I visited my friend Irene, who grew up in Nazi Germany, last week, she expressed her concern. My relatives abroad ask me how this can be happening in a “civilized country” like the United States. I ask myself the same question.
Last week, I read that the outgoing Chairman of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee Jim Campbell, endorsed Trump.
This was not long after Christopher Fountain, a real estate broker with the firm of Lockwood and Mead posted a picture of the Ku Klux Klan in response to an open letter by a black Greenwich Democrat highlighting some problems within the Democratic party. When a commenter on Fountain’s blog suggested he take it down, Fountain’s response was “Outrageousness R us.” Another commenter on Fountain’s blog said “i have a hard time finding many forums that have not been taken over by the PC crowd.”
When I told this to my 22 year-old son, he remarked: “That’s not being politically correct. That’s just not being a d*ck.” As someone who writes for and works with teenagers, I often tell those who complain about “today’s youth”: the kids are all right. It’s the grownups who worry me.
And then, last Sunday, on CNN’s State of the Union, the following exchange took place between Donald Trump and host Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage.
Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?
TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.
I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.
TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don’t want their support?
TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about.
You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.
TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?
TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.
If Trump has truly reached the age of sixty-nine without not knowing anything about the KKK after attending an Ivy League university (something which he is proud of informing us he did on a regular basis) then he is, to put it kindly, an idiot with no intellectual curiosity. If that’s not the case, then he’s pathological liar who is willing to bash women, the disabled, the Pope, Mexicans, Muslims, but NOT a white Supremacist anti-Semitic hate group. Either option makes him distinctly unsuitable for the office of President of the United States.
Finally, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, who has been floated as a Republican candidate for office here in the Nutmeg state, asks belatedly and rather plaintively “Is this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?”
I’m not sure what world Scarborough been living in, but he seems to have missed what I – and many other former Republicans – have been saying for years. That Republican Party died a long time ago. The irony of right-wing message crafters like Frank Luntz who contributed so much to its demise, throwing up their hands in shock and bewilderment at the wreckage they wrought for profit would be laughable, if it weren’t tragic that this undignified, uncivilized celebration of anti-intellectualism is how we’re supposed to be selecting the president of our great nation, and a once great party has been decimated by greed, lack of self awareness, hypocrisy, cowardice, and dark money.
Meanwhile, yesterday, well-known well-known GOP national security leaders published an open letter about the dangers of a Trump presidency. Never mind that some of the same policies they cite were ones they made excuses for during the Bush presidency, while I was getting hate mail calling me an unpatriotic anti-American terrorist lover. Their points about unpredictability and temperament are still valid.
Last December I wrote a piece for CTNewsJunkie.com warning The time is now for moral courage – politicians can’t be bystanders to hate speech. At that time CT GOP Chairman JR Romano refused to say anything publicly about Donald Trump. This time, I asked both Jim Campbell and Chairman Romano if Trump’s refusal to disavow the KKK had changed their mind. Mr Campbell didn’t respond to my query, so it’s pretty clear where he stands. Chairman Romano not only refused to comment on the record, he also went above my head to my editor at CTNewsJunkie, in an attempt to shut me down. Now that’s what I call moral courage and support of the 1st Amendment. Apparently, the CT GOP only cares about the 2nd Amendment these days.
I’ll close my response to CT GOP Chair Romano:
It’s pretty hard not to form an opinion of someone who pretends they don’t know what the KKK is and refuses to condemn an organization that hates Jews as much as they hate black people. But hey, go ahead and refuse to comment. Your cowardice says everything I need to know about how low the GOP has fallen. My late father, a lifelong Republican, is rolling in his grave. I was finally able to answer my son, a political science and history major, who continually asks “Would Grandpa still be a Republican?” At this point I can definitely say, “No honey. Not on your life.”
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.