A few weeks ago, a drunken man stood up in the balcony of the Hippodrome and shouted, “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump.” The incident occurred at the intermission of a performance of the Jewish experience themed “Fiddler on the Roof.” Coming on the heels of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the audience naturally started to run from the theater. Thankfully, no shooting ensued, but to write this off as a minor episode is missing the point.
A close friend, both Jewish and a Trump apologist, bristled when I suggested that our President has enabled haters to think they have the high ground when they verbally or violently express their anti-Semitism. He told me “the guy said he didn’t hate Jews and he was trying to expose the Trump as similar to the Tsar’s officers in the play.” Whenever I mention Trump’s lack of civility, lying, and attacks on the pillars of democracy, etc., he says to me that “Trump is more honest than the Clintons and Obama.” He even denies that Trump has been unwilling to criticize the American Nazis and alt-right for their behavior.
I have worked in emergency rooms and drunks tend to express their true feelings when inebriated so I doubt the gentleman’s attempt to make excuses when sober. Fortunately, he isn’t a murderer. Mel Gibson wasn’t a murderer but when drunk expressed his true beliefs.
The bigger issue isn’t that gentleman’s behavior. The problem is us. We are way too complacent. We truly and deeply don’t believe that the U.S. will ever become Nazi Germany. We believe that the U.S. is fundamentally different from Germany. We believe that human nature has changed in the past seventy years. We believe that Jews suffered a single aberrant episode of the lowest level of human behavior and we ignore Stalin, Pol Pot, Rwanda, etc. We forget how quickly a society under economic and social pressure can devolve under the spell of a demagogue. We forget how the rest of the world said no when we needed a place of refuge. We forget how easily Jews can be the scapegoats. We forget why Israel needs to exist.
Most of us are outraged by Trump and the enablers around him. A minority of Jews still support him. A significant number of our most observant Jews have been willing to trade off morality for a few trinkets. Trump has offered more verbal support of Israel than his predecessor. He has made symbolic moves such as the Embassy decision. But he has accomplished no more than the past presidents to assure the future of Israel. Where is the “easy” peace treaty led by Jared?
Even those amongst us who express outrage over this administration haven’t done enough. I haven’t done enough. You haven’t done enough. Our leadership hasn’t done enough. It’s time to lock arms and return to 1960s style non-violent protest. Let’s not wait until it’s too late. How many more balcony shouters should we experience?
Scott Rifkin, MD, Publisher