The Guardian's Pollyanna editorial (Nov 10, 2016) and Mark Morrison's venomous diatribe (Nov 15, 2016) about the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, are like Jews ignoring what was happening in Germany in 1933.
Already Kris Kobach, Trump's immigration advisor and possible U.S. Attorney General, is drafting legislation for a Muslim registry (Huffington Post, Nov 16, 2016). Trump's election gives him unprecedented access to various means of political repression and military force that can be used domestically and internationally. We need to understand the past in order to comprehend the future.
The Arabs are the victims of the Western colonial powers. That instability was created a hundred years ago with the secret British-French Sykes-Picot agreement (1916), which carved up the Middle East into spheres of influence including Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, and Palestine.
The West is now blaming the victims. This destabilization of the Arab world in the post-WW II era continued with the American CIA overthrowing the democratically elected Dr. Mossadegh of Iran in 1954, the British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956, and the U.S. support of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi. The West is reaping the whirlwind, including 9/11.
Some have suggested that as a result of 9/11, “we now live in a world closer to that of George Orwell's 1984” (Guardian, Sept 19, 2016). Alas, I agree with this depressing assessment, especially as it affects civil liberties and the prospect of progressive social change given recent electoral events.
Trump will build on American history. Historically the U.S. has exhibited nativistic, racist, anti-civil libertarian, and violent vigilante justice which historian Richard Hofstadter has called the "paranoid style in American politics " (1952). Trump channeled those pre-existing sentiments. But they are now morphing and coalescing into something far more ugly and dangerous.
Violence is integral to the American way of life. It has manifested itself in many ways including the exterminated of Native peoples, post-Civil War Reconstruction era violence (1863 -1877), and the Palmer Red Raids of the 1920s. Over 4,000 blacks were lynched in the U.S.; now the KKK marches openly in the streets. Contemporary redneck gun culture is part of that history.
Politically repressive legislation has existed in the U.S. for many years. During the Second World War Japanese- Americans were interned in concentration camps, however German and Italian- Americans were not.
During the Cold War the House Un-American Activity Committee (HUAC) created a political chill in public life. The McCarran Act (1950) gave the U.S. government the right to detain and imprison people with left-wing political views.
The McCarran Act wasn't repealed until 1971. U.S. history provides Trump with many precedents that he can use for his own ends.
The U.S. Federal government maintains a system of domestic surveillance over millions of people. As recently revealed by Edward Snowden, this includes intercepting personal computer records, emails, and telephone records. Those dark Orwellian forces existed long before 9/11.
However, 9/11 has provided an excuse to expand domestic surveillance and promote a law and order agenda, including a dramatic militarization of police forces and the pacification of black ghettos.
Given Trump's election we are forced to ask ourselves about the nature of dissent, civil liberties, tolerance, conformity, and the nature of democracy. The legal apparatus for political repression in the U.S. has existed for many years. Government-sponsored repression against immigrants, racial minorities, and political dissidents to promote "law and order" will become the order of the day.
Trump has taken the genie out of the bottle; it may embolden the right wing in Canada. As Pastor Martin Niemuller said, "First they came for the socialists...Then ...the trade unionists.... Then ...for the Jews.... Then...for me."
Good people must resist and stand together.
- Richard Deaton, PhD, LLB, is a resident of Stanley Bridge, and former instructor at Canada’s Royal Military College.