I’m not going to argue the Boy Scouts of America were in anyway asking for the confounding and inappropriate Monday speech by our lunatic-in-chief at their recent jamboree, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to symbolically associate Trump’s rambling exhortations with Hitler’s calculated manipulation of the Hitler Youth Movement in his rise to power in the 1930s and later in World War II.
I know I open myself to criticism here. I truly get that the Hitler canard is overused, and I would never want to trivialize the Holocaust. But if we can’t ever refer to the tyrant Hitler over concerns of hyperbole, then what becomes of history? Note also my use of the words “associate” and “symbolically.” Note I don’t make a direct comparison between Trump and Hitler. I also get that there are perhaps more important things to sort out about Trump right now that this most recent obscene performance of hubris. There will probably be another outrage today, tomorrow or in the next few days that surpasses even this. Part of Trump’s strategy, after all, is to leave us all breathless and incapable of analysis until we’re on to the next outrage.
Yet I’m surprised more prominent mainstream media pundits and historians didn’t make the association with Trump’s Boy Scout speech and its Third Reich echoes, subtle or not. Maybe it will later, but the mainstream media has consistently shied away from liberal historical insight to make it seem objective or balanced or whatever the nomenclature of the current journalistic formulaic rhetoric. My argument is not a comparison or a parallel so much as it’s a remembrance of history, an echo, maybe just “something in the air” for anyone who knows twentieth-century history. Then there are those right-wingers who just admitted the Scouts were avid Trump supporters as if to essentially endorse the left’s opinions on the speech and ask essentially so what if it is?
It might be noted, before I go on, that the Hitler Youth movement was created from non-political and non-militaristic groups in Germany in the 1920s before it became a sole organization that eventually carried out violent direct orders from the fascist dictator and his staff. No, I’m not yet calling Trump a fascist dictator, but surely I wasn’t the only one who was immediately reminded of the incitement of the Hitler Youth movement after Trump’s inappropriate, self-serving political speech in front of an organization made up of impressionable boys.
Let’s be clear. Here’s a United States authoritarian president, who is an egomaniac, standing before a bunch of kids who wear uniforms and badges and he’s using his platform to make rambling political statements, such as, “But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say?” Trump was waving his hands and spouting nonsense throughout the speech. Should we laugh it off?
Let’s parse that last quote. It’s as if Trump is assuming that he’s speaking to a rally of supporters. Maybe he is. Was it really an “incredible night” for the Scouts as well as Trump. He’s also over inflating and distorting his own personal experience to rouse a cheer or two from a bunch of kids, which is pathetic. But what can those cheers evolved into? Unfortunately, many of those kids did boo former President Barack Obama, when Trump asked, “By the way, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree? The answer’s no.” Obama sent a video message to the jamboree in 2010. The jamborees are held sporadically, around every four years.
When Trump promised to repeal Obamacare, the boys chanted, “USA. USA.” Scary? Just kids getting caught up in the moment? Well, okay. These kids are experts on health care though, right? Yet I thought the Scouts were urged to care about frail elderly people and even at the very least would help them cross streets. Trump and the applause from the incited youngsters forever ended any pleasant if cliched memory of that mythology for me.
The Boy Scouts of America later issued a rather timid statement, claiming it was “wholly non-partisan,” but when you listen to the cheering of the crowd during Trump’s speech and then consider the history of the organization’s fight against gay rights it’s not that big of a leap to at least a suggestion of a coming Trump Youth movement or whatever he or whoever might name it. We know “Trump” will have to be in the name. If the Boys Scouts’ organization would have harshly and immediately condemned the speech, then this might not matter. Through its silence on the tone and content of Trump’s speech, the organization’s leadership is complicit with Trump.
I was a Cub Scout, and I know decent people, liberal and conservative, who were either in the Scouts themselves or were involved with their children in the organization. This isn’t a blanket condemnation of Scouts, but the national organization should come out forcefully against Trump’s speech if it truly wants to call itself “wholly non-partisan” during the Trump regime.
Other segments of the speech were terribly inappropriate for the audience and the moment. Trump, for example, rambled on about his election victory, and, at one point, said, “So I have to tell you, what we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted to make America great again.” But he’s speaking to thousands of kids who mostly aren’t even old enough to vote. In all fairness, there was more.
In typical contradictory Trump fashion, the unhinged authoritarian at the start of the speech said this: “ . . . who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” Then that’s about all he did for the next 30 minutes or so.
The larger takeaways from yet another Trump spectacle is that it shows the country could be sliding into something at least similar to what we might deem extreme authoritarian government or even fascism and that our liar leader intends to try to fully remake as many American institutions as he can in his crass image, and it’s all unfolding on reductionist Twitter each and every day. Everyone must understand his supporters adore him for this.
There will be a point when it’s too late if more people don’t start speaking up.