Comparisons to past dictators and regimes – like Hitler and Nazis or Stalin or Mao – and claims of genocide, oftentimes are exaggerations and detrimental to the conversation. However, I believe it is worth having that conversation at this point.
Trump has sided with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Putin acts as a dictator, taking lands illegally and murdering opponents, even those who have left the country. To the international community, Putin is a pariah. Trump has called him a good leader.
Trump has sided with Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel. Netanyahu is corrupt, and Israel takes land illegally while displacing the population. Israel has picked a group of people to attack and Israeli actions, if not crimes against humanity, come very close. For years they have run the largest open-air prison in the world. The international community condemns their actions. Trump has sided with Israel on every occasion, and against all advice, relocated the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Trump has cozied up to Kim Jong Un in North Korea, who is one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The brutality of his regime (according to a 2014 UN report) entails “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” The nation has no true allies in the world, and the international community has feared North Korea will use nuclear weapons. Trump wants to make a deal with Kim, who he called “very smart.”
At home, from the moment he announced his candidacy, Trump has chosen different groups to attack, oftentimes dehumanizing them. He’s talked about building walls, and making other countries pay one way or another. He has tried to restrict Muslims entering the country. Families are currently being torn apart. Children are being imprisoned, with talks of “camps” to hold these children. Putin, Netanyahu, Kim, and Xi Jinping of China have all won his praise; they are his role models.
Make no mistake – if Trump can win himself dictatorial powers in any way, he will take those and use them. He has been testing the waters already, and found little resistance. The Republican Party has fallen in line behind him, previous political positions be damned. Commentators and organizations have already talked about probable human rights violations by the US government, but no action has been taken domestically or internationally, which appears to embolden Trump. So what is next?
There are eight stages of genocide, as presented by Gregory H. Stanton to the US State Department in 1996. These are classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. They don’t necessarily have to happen in that order, but the stages are present in all genocides.
The nation was polarized before Trump was elected, and his victory only made things worse. Trump has already classified groups, including Mexicans and Muslims. They have been symbolized, usually as criminals or potential criminals. Trump has dehumanized some of these people, most recently calling undocumented immigrants “animals.” Trump has organized against these groups; for example, ICE is a special unit to take care of the “animals.” For now they are deported or imprisoned. Are Trump’s actions preparation for something more sinister?
Is my position a bit extreme? I imagine I’ll be dismissed (or worse) by most people. But why not consider it? What’s the worst that can happen if we think like this, if we’re extra vigilant to the possibility, even if it seems far-fetched? Why are we so quick to dismiss the notion that crimes against humanity and genocide can happen in the United States of America? Would we recognize the events leading up to these crimes, or would we realize what was happening too late to effect change? Unless we all recognize what can happen, and realize what is happening, we risk the possibility that our actions, if and when they are taken, will be too little and too late.