January 21, 2017 – Last month I posted a blog describing 5 tipping points observed in 2016. Number 5 stated: “Electing a climate change denier to the position of President of the United States. Donald Trump, singlehandedly, may be the most significant climate change story of 2016. If he is true to his words, that climate change is a “hoax,” then his election, the people he appoints and the policies he enacts, could prove catastrophic. He may pull the United States, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He has indicated that he wants to take the wraps off of coal mining in his country and remove the regulations that have seen utilities move away from carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels. His cabinet and judicial appointments could kill all the American emission-cutting initiatives put in place by the previous administration as part of the country’s commitment to mitigate global warming’s impact.”
Yesterday as I read President Trump’s inaugural address it occurred to me that history was repeating itself, that we were caught in a time warp bringing us back more than 80 years to the 1930s. The fist pumping and language of this speech very much sounded and felt like something the world witnessed before.
In 1933 Germany’s last democratic election led to the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor. Hitler talked about the “appalling inheritance which we are taking over.” He stated that “farmers, workers and the middle class must unite to contribute the bricks wherewith to build the new Reich.” He talked about restoring the nation “under its firm protection…Christianity as the basis of our morality, and the family as the nucleus.“ He described a failed leadership in the past, and that no more would power reside in the hands of the few who govern, but would be given to the hands of the people, “to restore….unity of mind and will…and defend the foundations on which the strength of our nation rests.”
In Donald Trump’s inaugural address yesterday he described the “carnage” evident across America and vowed to end it. He described an America ruled by a government that “flourished but the people did not share in its wealth.” Like Hitler, Trump described an appalling inheritance and vowed to make it right by appealing to “the righteous people.” He stated, “from this day forward, a new vision will govern our land….America first…..We will bring back our jobs…our borders…our wealth…our dreams.” He talked about “god’s people” living “together in unity.” He talked about “solidarity,” the “hour of action,” and “the birth of a new millennium.” And in his closing remarks stated “we will make America strong again.”
Hitler also talked about the birth of a new millennium, a thousand-year Reich. He blamed outside forces for Germany’s appalling inheritance. He cast blame on others, Jews, the nations that imposed the Treaty of Versailles, the war guilt clause and billions in reparations, economic despair created by the 1920s hyperinflation, and finally, the worldwide depression that robbed the German people of our wealth, strength and dreams. For Hitler the task was to restore that wealth and rightfully position the nation and its people among the community of nations while protecting its own interests.
Trump’s talk sounds eerily similar, describing the failed leadership and decisions of past American governments and the wasted trillions of dollars spent on outside interests “making other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country…dissipated.” Trump further stated that “the wealth of our middle class has been ripped from…homes and then redistributed all across the world.” He offered an olive branch to the larger listening audience around the globe stating that America “will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
Hitler’s impact on the 20th century was a ruinous war, the decimation of much of Europe and European Russia, and the targeting of Jews, gypsies, gays and the disabled, leading to The Holocaust and the systematic murder of millions. Hitler blamed Jews for Germany’s past pain. Without Hitler the atomic bomb may never have been invented. Missiles instead of carrying warheads may have launched us to the stars rather than rained down on cities.
We now live in the age of Trump, a man whose first act of governance removed all references to climate change, civil and gay rights from the White House’ web site. In the age of Trump with all of our scientific and technological advances, we are led by a President who believes in conspiracy theories, whose rhetoric doesn’t stand up to fact-checking scrutiny (he lies), who points fingers at Muslims in and outside the United States as suspect or the enemy, and who intends to bully nations that have been traditional partners for the United States since the end of Hitler’s war. The end of American participation in the fight to mitigate global warming, which Trump never mentioned in his inaugural address, and has called a “hoax,” will be a declaration of war on the planet and all the other nations making efforts to fight against the most serious threat we face in the 21st century.