Hitler Rising

“I will tolerate no opposition. We recognize only subordination – authority downwards and responsibility upwards.”

–Adolf Hitler, May, 1931

Come Sunday, I went online as usual and read about and saw videos of Americans raising their right arms with their index fingers extended in ostensibly a salute to QAnon at a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio, the night before.

Come Sunday evening, I watched the first installment of Ken Burns’ the “U.S. and the Holocaust” and saw Germans and Austrians at rallies raising their right arms to “heil Hitler.” The juxtaposition of the two different rallies more than 80 years apart sent shudders down my spine.

The Americans in Youngstown may have thought they were saluting the amorphous antisemitic conspiracy cloud known as QAnon; but they sure appeared to be saluting Donald Trump. And Trump wore a silver-colored Q pin on a lapel of his suit jacket.

So now he’s a conspiracy theorist, too? Not enough lies?

QAnon pushes a weird, netherworld theory that Trump is out to save the world from a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles and Democrats and will return to the White House like a glorified Caesar. Trump has attached himself to QAnon as never before, obviously to attract more voters; people actually believe this ludicrous, nonsensical fantasy.

To me, that Q on Trump’s lapel represented what the menacing swastika signified for Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party, better known as the Nazis. The swastika dates to 10,000 B.C.E., found on carved mammoth ivory in what is now Ukraine and thought to be a fertility symbol.

To me, the swastika represents the opposite of fertility; it signifies death.

“After watching Trump’s rally in Ohio, there is no other way to put this: Donald Trump is a fascist,” actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner tweeted. “We can no longer say this can’t happen here. And if we don’t come out in massive numbers in the midterms, it will happen.”

We must face the reality,” commentator Keith Olbermann posted to Twitter. “We must use the real words. After Saturday’s rally, the modified Seig Heil, the music, the QAnon madness … Trump IS America’s Hitler.”

All that was missing from the Youngstown rally were Trump flags draped around the stage and platoons of troops with Q armbands and pot bellies marching by. Maybe next time.

If the Trumpist Republicans take over, what will happen will be far worse than what the Supreme Court and other right-wingers have done to move this country backward, when racism was more prevalent. The right to abortion already has been stabbed in the back by six people.

Trump has threatened more than once that if he is indicted on charges related to allegedly having stolen classified documents from the White House, there would be uprisings among his supporters on his behalf. Like the Capitol siege?

There would be “problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.” He denied he was inciting anything. What’s a denial? Trump denies everything.

Contrary to his blathering bull crap, tens of millions of Americans would cheer and dance and kiss in the streets, as if celebrating the end of long, excruciating war with lots of casualties.

Attorney General Merrick Garland repeatedly has said no one is above the law, including presidents and ex-presidents. He must prove it.

“The rule of law means that the law treats each of us alike: There is not one rule for friends, another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; a rule for the rich, another for the poor,” Garland told 250 newly naturalized citizens at New York’s Ellis Island, words meant for all of us.

More than 12 million immigrants entered the United States through that processing center between 1892 and 1954, when it closed. They included members of Garland’s family and my parents from Eastern Europe.

“We thought the streets were paved with gold,” my dad used to say. That incredible belief existed before he arrived in 1929 from what then was Czechoslovakia. My mother came from Romania in 1932. In both cases, it wasn’t the best of times to settle in America, when the stock market crash initiated the Great Depression.

At the Youngstown rally, the pointed finger on raised right arms was meant to refer to the No. 1.  That number is included in a song titled “Wwg1wga,” an abbreviation for the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all,” The New York Times reported.

Music played while Trump, as usual, dumped on our country, rehashing his false and insulting “American carnage” theme. Those in the crowd who raised their hands thought the Trump music was the QAnon song because it sounded identical to it, the Times said.

The Trumpists should change how they greet the song so it’s not a near replica of the Nazi salute. That is, unless it’s meant to be a replica. Too many people died because of what it represented.

It marked the first time at a Trump rally that such a display of hands occurred, the Times reported, referring to Trump aides as sources.

Trump used the rally in support of J.D. Vance’s run for the Senate in Youngstown, once a major steel city, to whine about the FBI investigation into his hoarding of classified documents.

“The people behind these savage witch hunts have no shame or morals, no conscience, and absolutely no respect for the citizens of our country,” he said.

There are witch hunts if there are witches to hunt. They don’t have to be bent over a cauldron, wearing black capes and hoods, slowly mixing their brew with a long spoon.

Trump got all wound up:

“A vile group of corrupt, power-hungry globalists, socialists and liberal extremists in Washington has been waging war on the hardworking people of Ohio.”

They have? Who? And why only in Ohio?

Certainly, lots of the smoke that preceded the American civil war is proceeding now: the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric, the isolated, sporadic incidences of violence,” Burns, the award-winning documentarian, told The Guardian in a telephone interview.

“That’s true also of Nazi Germany,” he said. “I’m not saying that it necessarily could go that way but it could go that way so I think, borrowing gratefully from our beloved Deborah Lipstadt [a historian interviewed in The US and the Holocaust], the time to save a democracy is before it’s lost.

Trump has teased that he may run for a second term. But his repeated rallies, particularly in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, make it apparent that he’s already running.

Allowing salutes reminiscent of arms raised to heil Hitler could backfire on him, especially among Jewish voters. It would be wise for Republicans running for office to distance themselves from Trump. Some already are, a wise move.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.