Donald Trump’s Press Secretary has apologized for his remarks about Adolf Hitler not using “chemical weapons”. Yet anger at the White House remains.
Sean Spicer is, yet again, back at the center of another political storm. While he has apologized for his controversial statement that Adolf Hitler did not “sink to using chemical weapons,” the voices of many across the USA and the world are outraged. Tom Perez, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, put out a round robin email pointing the finger at the Trump Administration for courting with anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Perez acknowledges that Spicer may have spoken with “ignorance,” however, the Democrats have been quick to outline that Trump’s Holocaust address this year failed to mention Jews. While Trump has condemned acts of anti-Semitism, he has also been accused of being dismissive of incidents of hate crimes.
Sean Spicer’s comments go far beyond accusations that Melania Trump plagiarized from Michelle Obama when she gave her address at the Republican National Convention. The White House Press Secretary’s comments also go far beyond gaffes that have been made in recent history, such as Barack Obama using the term “Special Olympics,” and some of the slapstick comedy surrounding George W. Bush’s rhetoric during his tenure in the White House. While Obama, Bush, and many other political figures and staffers have (rightly) apologized for some of their actions over the years, there are many people within the US and beyond who are absolutely flabbergasted by some of the rhetoric being espoused from Trump and top officials in the White House. There are many commentators — across the political spectrum — that believe that some of the controversial statements that have been made in recent history are a result of an Administration that is not dialed into humanitarian issues or appreciative of global history.
Of course the Nazis used chemical weapons to murder people. Adolf Hitler was responsible for the state-sponsored genocide of millions of citizens in Europe. Anti-Semitism was at the heart of many his policies, and Hitler based many of his decisions through a lens of racial purity. Evidence of the atrocities that went on in the concentration camps exists, from first hand accounts, to confessions, written records, and some of the gas chambers can be viewed by members of the public. Even to this day, many archaeologists are still finding artifacts and belongings that were once possessions of the victims. In Germany and some other European countries, it is a crime to deny the Holocaust.
Perez’s circular email points to the fact that denouncing Hitler’s history with regard to the Holocaust is an issue that still exists in the US. While people who hold such viewpoints are in the minority in the US, there is significant concern with regard to Trump’s decision to hire political staff that have made outrageous societal comments and been accused of blatant racism. The Democrats are once again calling on supporters to sign a petition calling for Steve Bannon to be fired.
One of the many reasons why so many have (and continue) to condemn Spicer’s comments are due to the sensitivities surrounding European history and the Holocaust. Irrespective of whether or not Spicer’s words were an act of ignorance, his words have consequences. The Holocaust remains a huge scar on the conscience of the world. Millions of Jews were victims of genocide during the 1930s and 1940s in Europe. Many others were also targeted, including disabled persons, homosexuals, the Roma community, and others perceived to not be superior enough to be part of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Plenty of historians and sociopolitical commentators, throughout the years, have written countless material that directly challenges political decisions made by some European countries prior to the outbreak of WW2 (1939-1945). Neville Chamberlain, the former Prime Minister of the UK (1937-1940), was originally in favor of appeasement, and even signed the Munich Agreement (1938), which meant that Sudetenland, an area of what was then Czechoslovakia, became part of Germany. There exists contention that Switzerland remained neutral, and there is evidence that some gold and other valuables, stolen from Jews, ended up in Swiss banks. It is a history that remains a painful experience, and continues to affect the lives of so many who lost loved ones, and for descendants who are aware of what happened to their ancestors.
Many people across the USA, irrespective of whom they voted for in November, want answers from the White House. A presidency that is at the center of so much controversy is not healthy for democracy. On paper, the USA has arguably the most sophisticated political system in the world, with citizens having the ability to vote for a number of elected officials, including important statewide ballot propositions. Yet, the Trump Administration has been at the center of so much disputation. From insulting journalists, to accusations of white supremacy, allegations of Russian ties, and being dismissive of the US constitution, so many people are wondering what the next headline is going to be (or Twitter message).
There are also many people who are of the opinion that the Trump Administration goes beyond incompetency and ignorance. At the end of the day, Trump made the decision to hire Steve Bannon — a man who has been infamous for comments such as children with mental health issues should be spanked, and for heading up Breitbart News that has included headlines such as: “Hoist it High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage.” Considering the advancements in recent years to treat and diagnose mental health disorders, and the history surrounding slavery, the Jim Crow era, and the presence of racism in society, it is not surprising that many people are wholly discontent. It is fair to say that plenty comments made by Trump, and many he associates with, does not reflect the views of the majority in the USA.
While the current political era is also damaging for American democracy and relationships with key allies, the reality is, it is directly affecting millions of lives on a daily basis. The fear and anxiety surrounding actions the White House are currently taking, or could take in future, are causing outcry. Trump’s “bad hombres” comment has instilled levels of fear amongst many in the US, irrespective of legal status in the country. The proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cuts are also causing alarm, not simply for fears that the measure could have serious consequences for climate change action, but also for the safety of drinking water, and the number of jobs dependent on the environmental sector. It has also been reported that the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is concerned that changes in US travel rules could impact their attendance record, and one Iranian national — who is a director — has made the decision to not attend this year.
Spicer’s comments are just one of many controversies and scandals surrounding the new US Government. If Trump is serious about being a president for all Americans and wants to calm growing concern, then a lot of work needs to be done. If not, then the party of Abraham Lincoln is on shaky ground.
Feature image: By DonkeyHotey (CC)