Is Trump Encouraging Paramilitary Violence?

Is Trump Encouraging Paramilitary Violence?

Is Trump Encouraging Paramilitary Violence?

He’s playing with fire, but he doesn’t care. Desperate to win reelection amid mass unemployment, he knows that he has few cards left to play.


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The Signal: Even in a pandemic—perhaps especially in a pandemic—there is no depth to which Trump’s deportation machine will not go to inflict harm on the vulnerable. Last week, ICE attempted to deport an unaccompanied 14-year-old girl to Honduras—despite the fact that her father is dead and her mother is currently in Mexico. The girl, who was living in a New York shelter, managed to remain in the United States thanks to the late-night intervention of a federal judge, who issued a temporary restraining order to block the deportation. 

Others haven’t been so lucky. Recently a 16-year-old girl was deported to Honduras, to live with her father—who allegedly sexually abused her before she and her mother fled north hoping to be granted asylum.

Meanwhile, hundreds of children who are currently in ICE detention facilities, and who have sponsors waiting to receive them, are still being held—despite federal court orders enjoining ICE to make every effort to release them during the pandemic.

This administration is doing so many ghastly things on a daily basis that it’s almost impossible not to become inured to it. But that’s a luxury we have no right to indulge in; not when our government, in our name, is doing such unfathomably cruel things.

Talking of ghastly, remember Trump’s suggestion that maybe Covid-19 sufferers should be injected with disinfectants and household cleaners? Well, it turns out that it’s not only the anti-vaxxers who have a thing for bleach and other cleaning agents. Nazi tormentors sometimes dispatched typhus patients in the Auschwitz death camp by injecting them in the heart with phenol, a chemical used frequently as a disinfectant. This from Medical Review—Auschwitz: “In August 1941 the SS launched a series of test procedures to kill seriously ill patients in the camp hospital of Auschwitz. They tried intravenous injections of hydrogen peroxide, petrol, Evipan, and finally phenol.”

Up to 20,000 victims in Auschwitz were murdered using this technique. Phenol was also used in Hitler’s euthanasia program against the mentally ill, especially children.

Of course, Trump may have no knowledge of this horrific history. On the other hand, as I have documented in The Nation, Trump has echoed Nazi propaganda—specifically, passages from Hitler—in the past.

While we’re on the subject of fascism: How about those armed militias in Michigan entering the state capitol building and essentially forcing, at the point of a gun, the state government to temporarily shut down? Trump has called the protesters “very good people.” If by “very good people” he means “fascist paramilitary thugs,” he’s right. If, however, he means what is more commonly meant by those three words, then he’s clearly out of his mind. Online groups with thousands of members, many affiliated with the armed gangs who have terrorized the Michigan capital in recent weeks, are now routinely calling for Governor Whitmer to be lynched, promoting hanging, beheading, shooting, and other methods of execution.

Trump is playing with fire, but he doesn’t care. Desperate to win reelection, he knows that with nearly one in four workers now unemployed, he has few cards to play.

One of those cards is to suppress voter turnout, so he’s encouraging red states to clamp down on mail-in voting. At the urging of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who must be well aware of Trump’s strategy, the state Supreme Court did just that by temporarily blocking an expansion of vote-by-mail for citizens who want to do so because they fear Covid-19. That decision is likely to be just one of many rulings that conservative courts, at Trump’s urging, will hand down over the coming months.

The second card Trump is playing is to position himself as the leader of an angry mob fighting against know-it-all public health experts and politicians who have mandated stay-in-place orders and thus triggered mass unemployment, as well as against immigrants, Muslims, Chinese, and other bugbears of the Trumpian imagination. As demonstrated by the events in Michigan—along with the armed guards now patrolling there and in Texas to protect businesses opening in defiance of local and state public health orders—he’s activating paramilitarism across the country.

Stay engaged, stay focused, refuse to be intimidated. Remember, the vast majority of Americans do not side with these fascists. Keep well and keep healthy… And, above all, fight like hell for a better, fairer tomorrow.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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