By Greg Lepore
Mar 22, 2016
Comparisons to Adolf Hitler are always unwarranted. Always. Especially when the insult is dished out in the political arena. Adolf Hitler was the definition of a demagogue: a lonely, failed artist starved of attention and success; a sociopath blinded by delusions of destiny; a psychopath hell bent on world conquest and the eradication of an entire people.
Those who have drawn comparisons between the Fuhrer and Donald Trump ground their claims in pure speculation; speculation of what a future Trump presidency could entail, but – let’s be real – probably wouldn’t. History has shown that leaders who rise to power during times of national crisis arise on a similar platform, one built on extreme nationalism, xenophobia, and promises of a return to greatness.
Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler. Nor is he Benito Mussolini, Hideki Tojo, or Francisco Franco, and he never will be. That said, no one can deny that the billionaire’s rhetoric does have fascist undertones. Promises of a return to national glory, incitements of fear and embarrassment, assurances of renewed military strength, support for political violence, claims that immigrants caused the country’s depression, and contentions that an entire people is the greatest threat to national security – these are some of the core tenants of fascism.
Those who live in countries once afflicted by fascism were keen to pick up on this. They were quick to realize that the kind of rhetoric that surfaced in Japan, Italy, and Germany after years of perceived national embarrassment was now resurfacing in America. When the American media made it clear that in the interest of ratings they would not put an end to the Trump phenomenon, voices around the world commenced denouncing the firebrand, criticizing his fascist rhetoric and warning Americans that history had the potential to repeat itself.
Polls have shown that Trump supporters are not confined to the uneducated, and so the question arises: how can it be possible that Americans with a high school diploma are not able to pick out fascist rhetoric even when it stares them down during every Trump rally?
Donald Trump has taught America a valuable lesson. The entertainer stands as the face of an American education system that fails at teaching the humanities.
This is a system that has always valued the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math – far more than the humanities. Generation after generation of Americans has fallen victim to a curriculum that utilizes American history as a means of bolstering nationalism, that imparts world history through the guise of American exceptionalism, that teaches international relations as nothing more than the story of the victors and losers of war, and that simplifies complex concepts into “good and bad” categories based on American ideals. What the country is often left with is a class of high school graduates that, unless they pursue the humanities in university, will never become the critical thinkers that America needs to continue its success.
History is bound to repeat itself when the lessons of history are not learned. After the grizzly experiences of World War II, the deadliest single conflict to ever occur in human history, a concrete understanding of fascism should have been ingrained into societies across the world. Every student on the face of the earth should be able to detect fascist rhetoric when they hear it, recall the potential destruction fascism can wreak, and denounce whoever is making those statements. But without a curriculum that sees value in teaching the humanities, America risks going down the path of the many global powers that came before it; if not now, then almost certainly in the future.
Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He has the support of millions of Americans and gains new followers every day. His résumé speaks for itself, and no one can fault his passion. Who knows; maybe he would turn out to be a terrific president.
Regardless, the kind of fascist rhetoric the frontrunner has espoused in the media and at his rallies cannot be tolerated in America, the leader of the free world. After the experiences of World War II and the onset of the nuclear age, the last thing the international system needs is another global power tumbling towards the depths of fascism.