How to Hitler your way to eight years of Trump

Before I even begin, I want to make something clear. This is not going to be a post about how Trump isn’t Hitler. I have written posts like that, but I don’t particularly like them, because they end up sounding like defenses of Donald Trump. And I don’t want to defend Donald Trump, especially with his current policy of punishing asylum seekers by ripping their children away from them. It is monstrous, and it must stop. I do not want anyone mistaking this post for anything that can be interpreted as a defense of this terrible president or a minimilization of the terrible things he is currently doing.

So let us begin.

A Jewish friend of mine who is no fan of Trump posted a Facebook status update asking people to refrain from comparing Trump to Hitler. Acknowledging the fact that Trump was awful, she called it disrespectful to the millions of people slaughtered by the Nazis to equate Trump’s current evils with Hitler’s exponentially more monstrous crimes.

As could be expected, she was inundated with angry comments from both sides, and the thread degenerated into namecalling and nastiness, at which point she deleted her status and replaced it with one that said “I like roses.” Thus shamed into silence, she exited the conversation as the rest of social media continued to go full Godwin and make wall-to-wall Hitler comparisons from morn until night.

I do not think people realize how helpful such comparisons are to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Some history:

  1. Bill Clinton survived impeachment in 1998 not because everyone was hunky dory with a 50-year-old president having an affair with a 21-year-old intern in the Oval Office, but because Clinton’s adversaries were seen as puritanical hypocrites who were even worse than he was. I don’t recall anyone calling Clinton Hitler at the time, but I don’t think it would have been helpful if they had.
  2. George W. Bush won reelection not because he was adored in 2004 – by then, his post-9/11 sky-high approval had fallen to earth and then some – but rather because he was able to define John Kerry and the Democrats as weak, unpatriotic pansies unable to stand up to terrorists and rogue regimes. It’s not insignificant that pictures of W. with a Hitler mustache were all the rage at war protests.
  3. Barack Obama entered 2012 with dismal approval numbers, but the people who hated him were unpleasantly angry white dudes in tri-cornered hats who had plenty of Obama-is-Hitler memes at the ready.

The point being: modern presidents typically don’t win reelection because they are beloved. They win when they effectively define their enemies. And when those enemies resort to Hitler comparisons, defining them as extremist loons becomes much, much easier to do.

If I were Donald Trump, and I had the option of 1) defending my indefensible policy of ripping children from their parents when they cross the border seeking asylum, or 2) defending myself against charges that I am Hitler, which option would I choose?

No contest. Like Donald Trump himself, I’d be #2 every time.

Now you can try to make the case that the Hitler charge forces him to defend both positions, but that’s demonstrably incorrect. It actually makes it easier for him to minimize the horror of what he’s doing because it’s not as horrible as what Hitler did.

I say this is demonstrable, so allow me to demonstrate.

On June 17, actress Debra Messing made the following post on Instagram:

See that? “This little boy, who has been taken from his parents, has been assigned a number. #47 on his chest and arm. Like the Holocaust.”

LIKE THE HOLOCAUST!!!

Okay, with that caption as the catalyst, where is this conversation likely to go? Is it going to focus on the inhumanity of separating children from asylum seekers? Or is it going to be on whether or not this is an apt Holocaust comparison?

Because this isn’t an apt Holocaust comparison. People are assigned numbers for all kinds of purposes all the time. (When you take a number at the deli, is that like the Holocaust?) And of course, those interned in concentration camps weren’t given T-shirts; they had their numbers tattooed on them. And the tattoos, as awful as they were, were the least of their problems. How likely is this little boy to be forced into hard labor with little or no food until he succumbs to sickness or starvation? What are the chances that he’s going to be led into a gas chamber?

Now before you get angry and start arguing about the aptness or non-aptness of my comparison analysis, take a moment and recognize what you would be doing if you were to engage me on this.  All I have to do to win that argument is prove that this photo isn’t the Holocaust. It’s the kind of argument that Donald Trump could win easily.

In fact, he could cut you off at the pass by pointing out, as Snopes.com did, by pointing out that this whole story is fake.  According to Snopes, a “closer look at the image shows that the numbering is part of the shirt,” and that this is “a shirt manufactured for retail, not government issue.” Which makes sense – where are kids #1 through #46? It’s probably a sports jersey of some kind.  This photo was taken as “Border Patrol agents [were] taking in a father and son, neither of whom had yet been processed. The snapshot was captured as the pair were apprehended, meaning they had not been issued clothing.”

So if you were to have this conversation with the president, you would be arguing he’s just like Hitler, and he would be arguing that you’re blowing things way out of proportion and making the whole thing up. And he would be right and you would be wrong.

And neither one of you would be focusing on the terrible things that are actually happening to this little boy.

That’s the real problem. You want to defeat Trump? I sure do. And you don’t defeat Trump by fighting on his turf, where exaggerations carry the day and facts are open to alternatives. That’s the turf where Trump-as-Hitler lives, while in the meantime, the real Trump is splitting apart real families and creating a great deal of human misery. 2020 is going to be an absolute nightmare if all Trump has to do to win reelection is be better than Hitler.

iHob, Clinton, and Colonoscopies

The latest episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

Yes, the Korean summit between Trump and Kim Jong-Un gets a mention, as does the G7 debacle, but we spend a good deal of time talking about the change from iHop to iHob, the need for colonoscopies, and how Bill Clinton would fare in the #MeToo era, with a detour into a discussion of John Hughes movies.

Also, Abby professes her undying love for the two Canadian Justins: Trudeau and Bieber, respectively.

Download the episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Roseanne, Tariffs, and Abby v. Barbara Bush

We discuss Roseanne, which may or may not have been Abby’s favorite television show, as well as the stupidity of tariffs and a president who thinks he can pardon himself.

And finally, at long lost, the world learns the story of how an eighteen-month-old Abby tried to pull off a daring pearl heist at Barbara Bush’s expense.

Download the episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Solo, Opioids, and Korean Summits

Recording the latest episode of Dinner Table Politics pre-Roseanne, Abby and Jim wonder if “Solo: A Star Wars Story’s” underwhelming box office performance has a political explanation. They then discuss whether medical marijuana is a solution to the opioid epidemic, and how President Trump’s on-again, off-again summit with North Korea will impact the upcoming midterm elections.

Abby’s choice for president in 2020

Also, how is it possible that Glenn Beck is a Trump fan? Could it have something to do with him being forced to sell his private jet?

Listen to the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Guns, Guns, and Guns

This “very special” episode of Dinner Table Politics was actually recorded after the Parkland school shooting and never released, but the Texas school shooting has made it all too relevant again.

Download the episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Abby and Jim share their thoughts and prayers about thoughts and prayers and discuss what kind of concrete actions are possible to stop gun violence. If the Second Amendment allows militias to be well-regulated, then what regulations are appropriate?

Also, is the NRA buying politicians? If so, why doesn’t it start buying Democrats instead of Republicans?

Jerusalem, the Salt Lake Tribune, and Religious Bigotry

In Episode 4 of Dinner Table Politics, Abby and Jim discuss the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, the end of the Iranian nuclear deal, and the massive layoffs at the Salt Lake Tribune. And was a religious bigot like Robert Jeffress really the best choice to give a prayer at the embassy dedication?

Plus both Abby and Jim give armchair reviews of the long-running Book of Mormon musical, despite the fact that neither one of them have seen it.

Right click here to download.

Click here to subscribe via iTunes.

Korea, Melania, and Presidential Morality

The third episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

You can listen to it here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Subscribe via RSS here.

Abby returns to the dinner table to talk with Jim about the historic summit between North and South Korea, the Stormy Daniels mess, whether Melania and Donald Trump have a functional marriage, and whether or not the personal morality of a president matters. Also, could the Korean Peninsula someday be home to a real-life Jurassic Park?

Eliza joins the Dinner Table

Episode 2 of Dinner Table politics is online!

My daughter Eliza joins the conversation  – this is the only time she’s going to be able to participate all summer, because she’s heading to Africa on Saturday.

We talk about Kanye West and Donald Trump and whether Chance the Rapper is right about African-American loyalty to the Democratic Party. I also defend the honor of my alma mater, Calabasas High School, from possible Kardashian encroachment.

We then discuss the differences between Groundskeeper Willie and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons – why is one ethnic stereotype acceptably funny and the other is not?

Listen to this episode here!

Subscribe on iTunes by clicking here!

Subscribe via RSS by clicking here!

Dinner Table Politics

So I’ve launched a new podcast over at KSL.com. It’s called “Dinner Table Politics.”

Here’s the official description:

The Bennett family has been at the heart of Utah politics for over half a century. So what happens when they talk about the issues of the day around the dinner table? Join Jim, the dad, and Abby, the daughter, for a free-wheeling political discussion with an intergenerational perspective.

In the first episode, father and daughter discuss the need for a third party, how they both felt when Trump was elected, and that time when Jim voted for Maxine Waters. (There’s also a shout-out to Tobias Fünke.)

Click here for the first episode!

Click here to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes!

Click here to subscribe to the podcast via RSS!

 

 

The Proclamation on the Family: A Closer Look

I recently had a conversation with someone who had missed an LDS Woman’s Conference back in 1995, but she ended up at a reception later that evening with Marjorie Hinckley, wife of then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.

“Did I miss anything at conference today?” she asked.

“Oh, no – same old, same old,” Sister Hinckley replied.

Yet that was the conference in which the Church presented the Proclamation on the Family, which has become near-canonized scripture and the bedrock of much of the opposition to greater acceptance of LGBT+ individuals in the Church. To hear many speak of it now, it’s the equivalent of the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai, but at the time, it wasn’t enough to merit a shrug of the shoulders from the prophet’s wife on the very day it was announced.

There is much consternation about whether or not the Proclamation should be treated as a revelation, and whether or not that distinction matters. In practical terms, the Proclamation was the product of lengthy discussion and committee processes, unlike the vast majority of the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, which Joseph dictated as the came, often in front of others. He would occasionally edit them after the fact, but they were generally received in toto, which is quite different from how the Proclamation came to be.

That’s not to preclude the possibility of inspiration and spiritual guidance in the creation of the Proclamation, but rather to say that if you’re thinking it was delivered out of whole cloth from heaven in the same way that most of the canonized revelations were received, you’re incorrect. In his recent talk on the Proclamation, Elder Oaks – now President Oaks – described how he “went to work” to craft a document that would effectively state the Church’s position, and that it required lengthy revision and considerable effort.

“Subjects were identified and discussed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve for nearly a year,” he said. “Language was proposed, reviewed, and revised. Prayerfully we continually pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what we should say and how we should say it.”

That’s not the case, with, say, Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is considerably longer, more intricate, and substantive than the Proclamation, yet it was written in a single sitting with no major revision afterward.

The issue of whether or not the Proclamation constitutes a revelation was the source of considerable controversy back in 2010, when President Boyd K. Packer gave a controversial talk where he insisted, contrary to the Church’s position, that nobody was born gay.

From Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune:

Perhaps the most controversial paragraph in Packer’s text that he read Sunday said, “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”

Now the word “temptations” has replaced “tendencies” and the question about God’s motives has been removed entirely.

But there was another revision to his talk, too. Again from the Tribune:

In his original talk, Packer said the church’s 1995 statement, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” “qualifies according to scriptural definition as a revelation.” That descriptive phrase has now been omitted, leaving the proclamation simply described as “a guide that members of the church would do well to read and to follow.”

Make of that what you will, but it’s pretty significant that the Church felt it important enough to correct the President of the Quorum of the Twelve on this subject. I think this incident suggests that it’s probably a mistake to say that the Proclamation is, indeed, a revelation on par with scripture.

But okay, fine. Whatever it is, it matters enough for Elder Oaks to say that it “has been the basis of Church teaching and practice for the last 22 years and will continue so for the future.” And as such, the Proclamation is constantly held up as an insurmountable obstacle against greater inclusion of LGBT+ individuals in the Church.

But is it?

In reality, much of the opposition to LGBT+ issues attributed to the Proclamation comes largely by way of inference and is not actually present in the text of the document itself. Homosexuality, for instance, is not mentioned at all, nor is same-sex marriage. The Proclamation begins by announcing “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” which is a statement that ought to be unobjectionable to everyone. At no point does it say marriage between two men or two women is condemned of God. Most people, including those who wrote the document, draw that conclusion, but the explicit condemnation is simply not there.

Gender identity does get a mention, as gender itself is described as “an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” which is something gay individuals seldom dispute. A gay man, for instance, is still a man, and his gender is not in question. True, this phrase may pose problems for transgender people, although they could argue that they’re attempting to align with an eternal gender that is inconsistent with their biological one. In any case, a gay married couple is not likely to be confused about their gender, and the Proclamation’s reference to same presents no obstacle to acceptance of their union.

Perhaps the strongest language in the Proclamation that would condemn LGBT+ sexual expression is the sentence that declares that “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Except the euphemism employed here – “powers of procreation” – provides an interpretation that would not necessarily bar intimate relations between gay married couples.

Spencer W. Kimball once wrote that “[w]e know of no directive from the Lord that proper sexual experience between husbands and wives need be limited totally to the procreation of children.” In a gay marriage, procreation is biologically impossible. One could then credibly argue that gay or lesbian individuals who are intimate with their spouses are therefore not exercising “powers of procreation,” and that this phrase in the Proclamation simply warns against conceiving children out of wedlock.

There are several other phrases consistent with the ones above, such as: “Marriage between man and woman is essential to [God’s] eternal plan.” Yes, absolutely it is. Were same-sex marriage to replace or cancel out marriage between a man and a woman, that would be a serious problem. But that isn’t happening, nor is it going to happen. Surely celebrating and sustaining traditional marriage does not require condemnation of nontraditional marriages.

“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Yes. This, as I’ve written many times before, is the one compelling secular argument against same-sex marriage – that, all things being equal, the best environment for raising children is with a married mother and a father. But all things are never equal, and the Proclamation allows for that reality when, after outlining the ideal, it then concedes that “[d]isability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

What qualifies as “other circumstances?” Why can’t the non-hetero sexual orientation of the parents fit into that category?

Speaking of individual adaptation, I’ve spent the weekend on my Facebook newsfeed discussing the latest post from Josh Weed, who was the subject of one of my previous blog posts when, five years ago, he announced that he was a gay man happily married to a woman in what he described as “Club Unicorn,” a fantasy world where gay people can pretend to be straight and live happily ever after.

In a heartbreaking post, Josh Weed announces that he and his wife are divorcing, and that he has come to the conclusion that “unicorns don’t actually exist. The idea of our marriage as successful and healthy, we have finally realized, is just that: mythical. Impossible. Not real.”

I really think every Mormon ought to read his post. He was held up for so many years as the ideal of how to reconcile homosexuality with Mormonism that the reality of his struggle and the ultimate collapse of the “mixed orientation marriage” model needs to get as much attention as his initial announcement did.

He discusses the fact that he and his wife are trying to figure out an individual adaptation that would allow them both to participate in the raising of their children – they want to purchase a “homestead” that would allow them to live near each other on a large property that would also allow them each to find new partners. (Personally, I think that’s a very problematic solution, but that’s another discussion.) They both want to stay active in the Church and be present in their children’s lives, so more power to them as they try to adapt to imperfect, non-ideal circumstances.

The bottom line is that our fellowship with our LGBT+ members is woefully inadequate at present, and we ought to be looking for ways to be more inclusive. How we do that is another lengthy discussion, but we should stop hiding behind the Family Proclamation or using it as an excuse to ignore and cast aside our brothers and sisters in need.

Spewing stuff since 2007