Ten years ago, Paul E. Marek, a right-wing blogger, opened his anti-Islam essay "Why the Peaceful Majority is Irrelevant" with the following quote from a member of the pre-war German aristocracy. I have no idea whether this quote is true or made up:
"Very few people were true Nazis, but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come."
I do not write about politics or the economy or history. In a sense, then, this is a very self-serving essay on topics that are beyond my ken. But it's short. And I will proofread twice, so there shouldn't be any typos.
I was born in late 1961, at the tail end of the Baby Boom. I was alive for Viet Nam, Selma, and the Summer of Love, but barely conscious of them. Instead, I was learning to ride a two-wheeler along peaceful suburban lanes. In a sense, my generation missed out on our moment. We did not have a World War or a depression or a culture-changing movement to challenge us. Sure there was the hostage crisis and the gas crisis. There was disco. But these were finite problems that barely tested our mettle. We saw a President shot but he survived. We saw Challenger explode and we all wept. But we didn't have that soul-defining moment until 9/11, by which time we were no longer young.
Sometimes, history gives you second chance. My generation is staring it right in the face.
As I said, I don't know very much. But I know this. Donald Trump lies as naturally as he breathes. He is a megalomaniac. He is childish, and he is a bully. He blatantly advocates suppressing free speech while accusing others of suppressing his own speech. He has advocated targeting the families of terror suspects. He says "believe me" more often than the most stereotypical used car salesman. He has been caught in lies and responds by loudly calling the messenger a liar. He has been given the chance to put a damper on simmering violence on the election trail and has chosen instead to foment it.
His supporters love this about him.
There was a recent news story on the violent manner in which protest at Trump rallies has been handled. In it, three separate supporters expressed a similar sentiment. Trump's violent language did not bother them. They all said a version of this: "He can do whatever he wants. He's the leader."
This is a Webster-perfect definition of fascism.
I don't care whether Mr. Trump is actually a fascist, or a racist. Or a simple opportunist. I just know that the type of support he is engendering is identical to what Marek describes in the quote above about Nazi Germany. Marek's warning, which Trump has made a tentpole of his campaign when applied to Islam, should be equally applied to the "revolution" he is constructing.
This is a self-serving essay because I recognize that anti-Trump arguments made by a mostly unknown film critic on HuffPost will have little impact on the overall discussion. If you're reading this, chances are you already agree with the general point. I am writing it because I feel it is important for me personally to get it down in print. I want to be on record because I may have grandchildren one day and I would like to speak of what happened in 2016 while looking them in the eye, and not staring at the floor in shame.
My generation may not have had the responsibility of beating back fascism in 1939, but we have it today. I hope we as a generation and as a country rise to the challenge.