Saturday, May 18, 2024
Steve Bannon was named Monday as a chief adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.

Steve Bannon was named Monday as a chief adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.

How quickly do narratives change. Last week, those of us worried about Trump’s election were told “Don’t worry; Trump didn’t mean all those racist things he said while campaigning!” Now, we’re hearing “Don’t worry; Trump won’t listen to the white nationalist whom he named White House chief strategist!”

Opinion boxMeanwhile I’ve been noticing some odd false equivalencies lately – not necessarily from Trumpsters, but from “above the fray/too cool for school” types – the seeming belief that all concerns over politics are the same.

For example: Those people who freaked out over Barack Obama’s election on the grounds he’d impose Sharia law on the country were no less and no more nutty than the people now freaking out over Trump’s election on the grounds that he might actually do some of the things he specifically said he’d do. Worrying that Trump will try to round up and deport a couple million people his first year  – as he said on “60 Minutes” on Sunday – is no different from worrying that Obama the Kenyan Illegal Immigrant will impose a Muslim dictatorship and round up all the Christians into concentration camps (which he never said he’d do, though a lot of conspiracy-theory types claimed otherwise).

Last week Hugo Schwyzer, a blogger for the Times of Israel, published a piece titled “Alarmism saved my family from Hitler: Why I won’t tell anyone to calm down about Trump.”

In 1938, when Hitler took over Austria, Georg was a successful Viennese family physician, a father of two, a devoted and mild-mannered husband to my gloriously temperamental grandmother, Elsa. Georg was Jewish. Elsa was half-Jewish. The family was not religious in the slightest; they were fully assimilated to the cultural life of the glittering Austrian capital.

When Hitler came in, my grandfather shook his head. “There have always been anti-Semites,” he said. “We’ll stay quiet, and things will get better.” … Georg was an optimist. Hitler was just another colorful rabble-rousing politician. Things would settle down.

Elsa knew better. She knew what was coming, even if she couldn’t fully name it. Within a few weeks of Hitler’s takeover she was working to get the family out of the country. … Georg didn’t want to go. Elsa told him she was taking my father (then 3) and my aunt (then 6) and going, and he could stay behind and look for another wife if he liked. My grandfather, protesting all the way that my grandmother was overreacting and having delusions, reluctantly sold his practice.

My family settled in England, first near Manchester and later in rural Oxfordshire. As you might guess, nearly all the rest of my father’s extended family perished in the Holocaust.

My grandmother’s fear saved the family. My grandfather’s sweet confidence and optimism would have killed them.

So when you tell me, a noted soother and calmer of others, that I should tell Muslims and women and people of color that they have nothing to fear from Trump, I think that perhaps you want me to be like my grandfather.

Anecdotally speaking, the “don’t worry about Trump” soothers I’ve seen all have one thing in common: None belong to any of Trump’s stated target groups. It’s always Judeo-Christians telling Muslims not to worry about Trump’s anti-Muslim statements or white Americans assuring black ones there’s nothing problematic about Trump’s debate-question answer that the problem of police violence against minorities is best solved by more “law and order” plus expanded stop and frisk or heteros handwaving away LGBT concerns about the implications of a homophobic vice-president Pence influencing our soon-to-be president.

The suggestion “Don’t freak out about the election; life goes on” is good and valid advice for many millions of Americans today … but for other Americans, those likely to be the targets of Trump and the Trumpsters, it’s a horribly callous thing to say.

Jennifer Abel began her career in print media three minutes before the Internet killed the industry. After starting at a small Connecticut daily she moved to the Hartford Advocate, an alt-weekly where her journalistic coups included infiltrating a furries convention and working on a phone sex line (which fired her six hours later). Since then she’s written for, or been reprinted in, dozens of print and Web outlets, including Playboy, The Guardian, Salon, AlterNet, Mashable, The Daily Dot and pretty much every website with the words “cannabis” or “legalize it” in the title. A version of this column appeared first on the blog Ravings of a Feral Genius.