History will repeat itself if we don’t act now

Ever feel like you are watching an instant replay? I don’t mean an instant replay in a “sportsball” game; I mean a replay of history.

In April, I decided to commemorate Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) by reading a scholarly and exhaustive history of the Holocaust by Martin Gilbert. At the time I thought it would be a week or two of reading, but I was sorely mistaken. It is a very long work, extensively footnoted and painstakingly researched.

The length was not my issue.

The book is filled with eyewitness testimony and officially documents details I never knew. My parents made sure I knew about the Holocaust as a child. As a boy, I even had an acquaintance, Mike Jacobs, who had survived the Nazi death camps. He was a boarder in Grandmother’s house, and he related a little of his story to me.

Later I learned from television documentaries some of the horrors inflicted by the Nazis on the Jews of Europe.

Nothing prepared me for the amazing lengths to which the Nazis went to disguise their actions. It clearly reveals that they knew what they were doing was wrong, yet they did it anyway.

Additionally, the unbridled cruelty of the SS and their collaborators was stunning. Their slaughtering children in the open through unspeakable means leads me to believe that either they had no moral compass or had themselves been brainwashed by propaganda to believe that Jews were not human and could be dispatched much like vermin.

Indeed, they were bombarded with films and broadcasts and printed propaganda that showed Jews as rats.

And that same kind of brainwashing is taking place today.

Right-wing radio, One American News and Fox News, are carefully crafting their programming to characterize people of color as brutish and animalistic. LGBTQ Americans are always depicted as wanting “special rights,” and trans persons are characterized as “sick.”

To start that messaging early, schools in states like Florida and Texas are prevented from discussing LGBTQ history in order to raise a generation of people who will always look on those different from themselves as being an aberration. Prohibiting discussion of the long-term effects of slavery and “Critical Race Theory” reinforces white privilege and keeps young people ignorant of our country’s “original sin.”

It is a small step from there to completely dehumanizing anyone but white, cisgender Americans.

The rewind button has been pressed.

Meanwhile in the hinterlands, failed president Donald Trump continues serving up his incoherent word salad peppered with just enough white-supremacist dog whistles to keep the base energized. He is sowing ignorance and hatred, the very things which the Nazis refined into a dark art.

We must not believe the deceptions, and we must fight to survive. And if we do not start it now, we may not have the chance later.

Every American who believes in freedom and equality MUST get involved politically. That means you can’t just vote occasionally; you must vote in every election, and you must vote for the candidates running against the Right in every election — even if they are not exactly the candidate you want.

VOTE in every local election from school board races to city council races, from county races to state races to federal races

Your VOTE is your strongest tool in stopping the Right. If we fail to stop them, we will face unthinkable events in our future. Remember: They already tried to storm the Capitol, and even though in the images from that day they look like a bunch of idiots in MAGA caps, they are insurrectionists. Change their outfits to brown shirts with red armbands and they would seem a lot scarier.

Appearances can be deceiving. That’s why the Nazis disguised the rail terminals at the concentration camps as real passenger terminals, complete with fake shops and ticket kiosks. That’s why the Nazis promised Jews good jobs in the East as they swept them from the ghettos of Europe and forced them into cattle cars.

Right now we as LGBTQ and BIPOC Americans need to realize we are seeing an instant replay. We must learn from history, even if it is difficult to comprehend. We have to if we don’t want to see the horrors play out once again.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and chairperson of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance board. Read his blog at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.