Trump and the Bully Pulpit


Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As of today, Donald Trump has won a virtually unobstructed path to the Republican nomination.

The grandstanding and uncouth utterances of the Republican campaign over the last few months remind me of the tirades that filled the Fascist airwaves in Germany during the 1930s. My four-year old sister Gabrielle and I were too young to understand Hitler’s twisted philosophy, but old enough to be scared and scarred by his shrieking, yelling and thundering.

Young as we were, we understood that as Jews we were no longer welcome in Germany, a country my family had lived in for centuries.

Whenever Hitler was about to harangue his minions, my parents, Hugo and Gretel Bamberger, discussed whether or not to listen to his speeches. Wanting to be up-to-date, my father listened; my mother opted out.

One Saturday afternoon, nobody noticed that Gabrielle vanished during one of Hitler’s lengthy Saturday radio rantings. She reappeared around dinnertime, wanting to know “how much Hitler had berated the Bambergers.”

Eight decades later, my daughter Judy is working with Carlos,* a precocious six-year old Mexican-American child at a Manhattan elementary school. Judy and Carlos have become close buddies. Recently he asked her where she was from. “I was born here,” she said, “but my mom was born in Europe. She had to leave because of a bad man.”

Carlos was not surprised. “A bad man like Trump, who wants to kill Mexicans?” he asked.   “My mom and dad are from Mexico,” Carlos continued, “but I was born here. That’s why I am Mexican and American. I wonder what Trump is going to do to my mom?”

Do we want to burden our children with fear, even if we think that Trump does not really mean the outrageous statements he makes? Or perhaps he might mean some of them. To begin with, Hitler only wanted the Jews to get out of Germany. Later he thought that that was not enough.

*Names and identifying details have been changed.

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1 Response to Trump and the Bully Pulpit

  1. Anne Lewinson says:

    I’m standing in front of my cultural anthropology class as they write their final exam for our course, and I am tearing up after reading this post at the thought of a little boy hearing hateful things said over the airwaves and thinking they are meant for him. We can’t do anything about what happened in the past, however we certainly can do something about the present. We as a society can and should do better. Thank you for the reminder.

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