This week in Cypress, Texas, a moderately-sized town north of Houston, a bunch of high school seniors decided they thought it was cool or funny to give a Nazi salute during their class picture, many of them even shouting “Heil Trump!” in an apparent homage to the horrors of the Third Reich. So pervasive is the hate promoted by Trump and his supporters that even kids think it’s cool again to assert their (white) superiority. Many things have changed since I was a kid, but I never thought in games of pretend it would EVER be cool to be Nazis.
This comes on the heels of an election that that produced multiple reports of grade school kids telling their peers to get ready to be deported, or that they weren’t real Americans, or that they just plain didn’t belong. Hate begets hate, and what these kids hear coming out of the mouth of the man who is now their President seems to be spilling out into schools and playgrounds, field trips and class pictures.
There are lots of -isms in the world of politics, and it always seems to take some nuance or context to determine the intent behind them. For years, Republicans worked on turning “liberalism” into an epithet, but plenty of other philosophies have fallen in and out of favor, always leaving a trail of somewhat confused supporters or detractors. Socialism, communism, Marxism — all started with an idea, but ended up more defined by their names than by their content. Detractors continue to pound away at their evils while supporters are left to rehabilitate the name of the philosophy.
Not so with fascism. Nobody has any questions about what it is nor what kind of person employs it. There are few universals in politics, but one constant among all free-thinking people is that fascism is always bad. We make jokes about it and people rightly gasp: no system of political rule has ever killed as many people as effectively as fascism.
The new brand of fascism belongs entirely to Donald Trump. Instead of making America great again, he’s once again made it cool or “manly” to look like a fascist. That’s why it always comes as a surprise when it rears its ugly head in places you don’t expect — everyone knows it’s bad, but some people don’t recognize it if it’s doing things they like. You know your friend shouldn’t have stolen that candy bar, but you sure do love chocolate. We call him Herr Gropenfuhrer as a way to ease our discomfort by making a mockery, but in reality, we know there are a lot of people who are okay with the new fascism of Trump and his lackeys, who even celebrate it as a way to get done the things they think need doing: walls, bans, and in some cases, institutional racism.
Expect to see more of the same hate shown by these school children, as kids indoctrinated by their hateful parents fail to understand the significance of their actions.