This week footage surfaced of white supremacist Richard Spencer addressing a neo-Nazi gathering. In the video Spencer greets Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election with cries of “Hail Trump!”, as the audience responds with cheers and Nazi salutes. Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, “disavowed” the group, saying “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group…It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
Those who have followed with horror Trump’s rise to the presidency will perhaps be struck, as I was, by the mildness of Trump’s rebuke. Here is a group literally (in the proper sense of the word) quoting Nazi slogans, promoting explicit white supremacy, and questioning whether journalists are in fact human beings. And yet all Donald Trump could muster in the way of outrage was a quizzical “I want to look into it.” I am reminded of Trump’s similar non-disavowal disavowal of KKK Grand Wizard David Duke: “I don’t know anything about him…I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about.” For some reason, and I cannot imagine what it could be, Donald Trump is able to summon the indignation to immediately and furiously rebuke the cast of Broadway musical Hamilton for asking that the Vice President-Elect protect the rights of all Americans (“The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!…terrible behavior”), but when confronted with literal neo-Nazis is struck almost dumb, the fire in his belly fading.
So, in order to help The Donald muster the courage, I humbly present a How-To Guide on How to Denounce Nazis.
When they say:
“The mainstream media – or perhaps we should refer to them in the original German, “Lügenpresse””
The use of the word “Lügenpresse,” meaning “lying press,” to describe the media in our country is disgusting. This term, popularized during Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany, was used to demonize opponents of his Fascistic rule, and became an anti-Semitic slur which condemned many to the gas chambers. No American should allow this word to pass their lips. A free press is essential to any healthy democracy, and functions as a check against authoritarian rule. We should be proud of and support our media institutions, not demonize them, and anyone seeking to cow the press into silence with Nazi hate speech will find an implacable foe in me, your new President.
“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity…It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
The white supremacist ideals of Spencer and his spawn are despicable. There is certainly truth to the claim that the United States was designed and conceived as a white country, steeped in the racism of slavery and the genocide of Native peoples, and we suffer from deep systemic racism to this day. Yet our aim must be to build a new America which is the common creation of all those who live here, a shared inheritance for all our children, which recognizes and offers reparations for the sins of the past and rebuilds the broken systems of the present. America belongs to all Americans, no matter their race, ethnicity, orientation, or gender: we strive to become a country where all people can live free.
When they say:
“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail our victory!” [Nazi salute]
I was personally appalled and sickened to see American citizens celebrate my election with Nazi salutes and cheers, and I am ashamed that these disgraceful people believe I speak for them and share their concerns and values. Let me assure you that I do not: I detest these people and everything they stand for, and I will make it my first priority as President to make them hate me as much as I hate them. By the end of my term, I vow to you, these people will curse the name of Trump. They will burn me in effigy and protest outside my hotels. They will eviscerate me in the darkest corners of the internet where they hide and denounce me in the shabby hotel ballrooms where they huddle. They will turn their hatred on me, and away from the vulnerable communities their vile ideology victimizes today. I am to be the President of the United States, the elected leader of a proud democracy, not the despotic ruler of a dystopian kingdom straight from the pulp fantasy novels from which Richard Spencer draws his twisted prose. I utterly reject these people’s sordid endorsement and everything it represents.
I know it can be difficult to find the right words when put on the spot by nasty reporters, but I hope this guide will be of some use to our President-Elect. If he chooses to continue to respond to the support of literal neo-Nazis with mild rebukes, we shall draw our own conclusions as to why.