Two weeks ago it was reported that, when asked about the current wave of anti-Semitic crimes sweeping the country, Trump said,
“Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad.”
This statement, and what context we have surrounding it, implies that Jews are orchestrating these threats and attacks in order to engender sympathy, and to create a false narrative of the current social climate. It’s insidious because it makes the claim that the attacks are a) not real and b) warranted because of these staged events. This method of victim-blaming isn’t new; it’s been used by the Nazi party, the KKK, and white supremacist groups for decades.
I wanted to write something and post it immediately but I took some time off because I was just too rattled, so I took a week to process things, and then another week for International Women’s Day. You see, so far with the Trump administration I’ve been fighting for other people. My friends, my family, and citizens in general who don’t fit the white Christian model that Trump and his cabinet support as the ideal. I have no illusions about not fitting into that mold myself, but as an Ashkenazi Jew I know that I have the ability to pass and that POC, Muslims, and women are ahead of me in line when it comes to Trump’s targets. But this statement was different for me. It marks a clear moment in time when I became an explicit target of his administration too. It was a single moment when I realized that I was now also fighting for myself.
I know that his policies didn’t change in that moment. He was clearly racist before that and he’s clearly racist now. Even looking at what he and his cabinet have said before, they have spouted anti-Semitic rhetoric, both his own and propagating other’s ideas. What makes this so different is that I’ve heard these things before and I know, in historical context, what happens next.
John Crommelin, one of the prime movers within the NSRP [National States’ Rights Party], wrote an open letter to J. Edgar Hoover in which he accused Jews of blowing up their own synagogue in order to create public sympathy, discredit their political opponents, and encourage federal authorities to extend their influence over local and state affairs.
That comes from this page, which discusses the bombing of an Atlanta temple in 1958. But this was someone speaking to the president at the time. Now those same ideas are coming from the current president. That means I’m now faced with a president who explicitly stands against me, my family, and my community. As a Jew I have been raised with a mix of social justice, paranoia, and historical context of antisemitism. I grew up thinking that there will always be an amount of background antisemitism, and it would probably rise and fall a bit more in Europe, but wouldn’t swell here. I never thought current levels could be reached in my lifetime. And then the election happened and I began expecting all of this. But in truth, I wasn’t prepared for it. February 28th, 2017 was a turning point for me.
It’s been a week since that statement hit, and in that time Trump has had an address to congress in which he addressed the threats and vandalism of Jewish organizations and cemeteries, but remained absolutely silent about his own anti-Semitic remarks. Considering how defensive and delicate he is when asked about antisemitism that explicitly doesn’t pertain to him, his lack of clarification about his own words is an enormous red flag. It indicates that previous questions about his administration’s lack of actions and statements were something he was comfortable deflecting but this weighs a bit heavier.
Let’s take a look at what Trump’s established positions on other groups is:
- Women belong to men
- Mexicans are job stealing rapists
- Black people are thugs
- Muslims are terrorists
And now let’s take a look at how that’s turned out for them:
- Women are losing their rights on state and federal levels
- Hispanics are stopped on streets and campuses, harassed for papers
- Black people are blamed for black on black crime, and white on black crime
- women have hijabs yanked from their heads
- there’s also the Muslim ban, both the first one and the new one coming
- and having to work with administration members like Michael Flynn and Sebastian Gorka who are openly-Islaophobic
- Trans protections are being rolled back1.
There is a clear set of consequences for every group that Trump has singled out as being a problem for America, yet he refuses to take any sort of responsibility. During his campaign he, Trump began accepting and even courting the white supremacist movement, a group that has become a solid part of his core constituency. About a month into his administration, let’s see how that’s worked out for Jews:
- Antisemitism is being reported as the highest since the 30s.
- There have been over 120 bomb threats called into Jewish organizations
- 3 cemeteries have been vandalized
- A gunshot was fired through a Synagogue window
- The Anti-Defamation League has issues a nationwide advisory to Jewish institutions
I’ve been told by people who my claims of Nazi action and antisemitism, going into the new administration, were hyperbolic. I was told that some people would have my back when things actually got bad, ignoring my stance that things are currently bad. I was told that we have checks and balances that would keep Trump, Bannon, and his cabinet in check and that things could never get bad in America, which is utter bullshit. But now we have another bullet-point to add to that list of the administration’s stances, this one from the president himself:
- Jews lie to manipulate the media
Things aren’t going to smooth over and get easier for me. They’re going to get worse. I said that I needed to take some time to process all of this after the statement, that I couldn’t have written this Tuesday night and published last Wednesday. That’s because I spent the day absolutely enraged, but I spent that night crying after my wife had gone to sleep. All day long I felt disgust and rage, but that night I just felt hurt and afraid. This time I had the luxury of taking a week and just processing, but Trump doesn’t normally operate that way. Under the direction of Bannon, his modus operandi is to rain down order after order, statement after statement, trying to wear down his opposition as well as flood the government with actions in order to get something to stick. Next time something like this happens I’ll probably be lucky to get 48 hours to, you know, feel terrible.
I know that I’m now facing things that other groups of Americans have been up against in explicit terms for a while now. Part of me feels incredibly selfish and entitled for taking this so hard. Yes, I’m facing a statement of hate from the president of my country, but I also know that I could quiet down and take off any Jewish jewelry and vanish into the crowd of whiteness. That rage turning into fear that night? That’s the simplest way to put how I now feel about the administration in general. I wasn’t angry all the time before, but I always had anger directed at Trump, his administration, and it’s actions. Now I also feel fear when I consider them. And that makes me feel a bit ashamed.
I do find a bit of consolation knowing that I’m not joining the fight because I’ve been targeted. I’ve been fighting him since he became a substantial presence in politics. It also helps assuage some of my fear knowing that those I’ve been fighting for have been the first to step up and speak out for me. Seeing how the Muslim community has reached out to help has done wonders for me. I finally see an American community in action, a community not whitewashed or pretending to ignore differences, but one that celebrates and thrives because of them. It’s a reminder of the America I was fighting for before, and continue to fight for now.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↵||I didn’t mention them in the above list because the administration doesn’t even seem to regard them as anything but either an actual threat, or an easy way to deflect attention away from the real threat to women, which is actual sexual predators.|