When is too soon to start calling him Hitler? I know how irreverent that sounds. I know how we hate that correlation between leaders we just don’t like and the man responsible for a regime that slaughtered millions. I know that. But I’d be lying to y’all if I said Trump wasn’t starting to smell similar.
He’s already destabilized the media and made a conscious effort to limit trust in journalism. Fox News is basically state-sanctioned propaganda. He’s validated white supremacy multiple times, found an ethnic group to blame all of our ‘problems’ on, and bought into (thus validating) wildly dangerous conspiracy theories. Actual Nazi’s have roamed American streets and committed murder, leading Trump to claim there were “fine people on both sides” of the Nazi rally and counter-protest. He surrounds himself with people that don’t challenge his inaccurate perspective on the world.
On these terms alone, he’s following a checklist of post-Reichstag elements as if it was a to-do list.
Beefing up ICE to wildly resemble the Schutzstaffel doesn’t help me detangle his actions from the historical figure they resemble. Let’s take the most recent raid on an East Tennessee community, and one of the largest during Trump’s presidency, as an example:
On April 5th, federal officials raided a slaughterhouse in Grainger County, Tennessee, leading to the arrest of 97 workers. Ten were arrested on federal charges, one on state charges, and 86 on administrative charges. Of the 86 people arrested on administrative charges, 54 were held in detention and 32 were released.
ICE and the Internal Revenue Service teamed up on this raid, the largest since Trump took office and began his immigration crusade. The cattle slaughter business and its undocumented employees weren’t raided due to the facility’s undocumented laborers causing any harm to the small East Tennessee community. ICE was tipped off on the business’s alleged tax evasion and large cash withdrawals from their bank.
Shortly after the raid occurred, the UT Knoxville Law School mobilized their students to serve the East Tennessee community in any way necessary. Several students partnered with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, where they collected information to draft power of attorney documents and supplied food and hygiene products for the released detainees and their family members.
In the initial e-mail sent to the students and faculty at the University of Tennessee College of Law, Melanie Wilson, the Dean of the College of Law, requested student volunteers to drive for affected family members, interpret for lawyers, and donate nonperishable foods. Dean Wilson noted that 150 families were affected, and many lost their primary wage earner.
On Friday, I got a call from Savannah Flowers. I was driving home from work. Savannah is one of my dearest friends and a current student at UT’s Law School. Her résumé is astounding, and her history in Social Work and advocacy is truly awe-inspiring. Savannah was upset, angry, and worried. We both immediately started talking about Kristallnacht.
I wish I had something positive to tell Savannah that Friday. She needed interpreters and volunteers to help the massive legal effort needed in East Tennessee. What Savannah heard and saw felt so different than news reporting, and her boots were on the ground.
Several people corrected me after my posts to help Savannah’s volunteer drive. I said something along the lines of “the National Guard is rounding people up.” That’s a terrifying statement—to think the National Guard has been deployed to arrest people feels beyond extreme and unnecessary without a threat. Several news reports note that the detainees were held in a National Guard facility in East Tennessee, due to our overwhelmed Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department.
According to the boots on the ground, the National Guard was utilized during the actual arrests of the slaughterhouse’s workers. During the arrest, the workers were thoroughly searched—one woman claimed they searched her hair. Only the men were handcuffed, and anyone who attempted to run or didn’t cooperate was arrested more forcefully. My visceral reaction was to wonder how these folks were targeted. I assume several documented immigrants also work in this facility—did the Highway Patrol, ICE, and the National Guard just arrest anyone that looked somewhat Mexican?
The detainees were allegedly held at the National Guard facility for only as long as needed until they were put on buses to DeKalb County, Alabama, and ultimately to Jena, Louisiana, where the major ICE Detention Center in the South operates. Savannah noted the high deportation rate in Louisiana if detainees are unable to post bond.
Recently, people have noted the National Guard’s presence along the border in California and Arizona.
Over a hundred families have been destroyed by this raid; these families are torn apart by political maneuvering and making ‘good’ on campaign threat.
I know Trump isn’t Hitler. I know that comparison is problematic for people of Jewish descent.
I also watch football. I can recognize plays from a fucked up, demented, and dangerous playbook when I see them.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to help or donate to the families impacted by this raid.