Dear President Trump,
Yesterday as I was grappling with the infuriating, sickening (literally) betrayals by you and other elite members of the GOP (and at least one Democratic governor – Jared Polis, CO) I drafted a sentence about how scared I am that we are seeing the beginning of another holocaust that could end up being much like The Holocaust. I struck the sentence because it felt like it was probably a bridge too far and might be perceived as disrespectful to the millions who were murdered during the course of Germany’s Holocaust. I still worry about that, but after thinking about it a lot over the last 20 hours I think it’s more important to raise the alarm than to worry about overstating the situation.
As is my habit, I’m starting with definitions and some history. Oxford has two definitions – one generic and one historical:
- Generic: “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war”
- Historical: “a Jewish sacrificial offering that is burned completely on an altar”
I felt ill when I initially saw the second, historical, definition – I had no idea about this meaning. Learning of it and knowing what the dominant use of the word is now made my whole being quake and revulse. The use of the phrase “The Holocaust” to reference what Hitler called “The Final Solution,” was not, however, common until the 1960’s and it’s not entirely clear how the linkage was made.
There’s another word that’s preferred in Israel and France, “Shoah,” which means “catastrophe” and, from what I’ve pieced together, it’s more commonly used by Jews than “Holocaust.”
In the process of doing this very small, very superficial amount of research in an effort to unpack the words used to frame one of the most heinous, depraved efforts to systematically eradicate people, what I’ve come to is that we need something along these same lines that uniquely describes our situation vis a vie you, the GOP, covid-19, and our history of deeply rooted, unjust disparities along racial, gender, and economic lines.
It may change as I reflect further, but today I choose the phrase “The Betrayal.”
I see now in re-reading from the beginning of the letter that I knew all along that this is where I would land; I called out your betrayal of us in the opening line.
Betrayal is about treachery, disloyalty, breaking faith with others, letting people down, failing them, cheating them, deceiving them, selling them out. What is not explicitly included in the definition, but is strongly implied, is that there is always some kind of very bad consequence visited on the ones who are betrayed. Or consequences.
Although many hundreds of years’ worth of betrayals have been perpetrated against those of us deemed “less than” or “least of these” (I strongly dislike this religious phrase as it’s really perpetuating shitty hierarchical thinking) and you and yours are largely riding those waves, your brazen disregard for human lives, your bald face lies and gaslighting, your willingness to sacrifice the most vulnerable among us (tens of thousands of us) feels like it is all much more than pursuit of an economic recovery – it feels deliberate and it feels pointed.
No, you aren’t rounding up certain of us (Americans) and crowding us into gas chambers by the tens of thousands or lining us up against concrete walls and beside ditches you made us dig and shooting us, but you are killing us and you are particularly killing those among us who are not white, who do not have money for insurance, who do not have jobs that can be done from the safety of our private castles. You may have the luxury of a measure of plausible deniability that Hitler didn’t have (or want), but what you are perpetrating is evil and it is a profound betrayal.
May we be safe from our POTUS.
May we be willing to call out his betrayals, his treachery.
May we be strong in the face of an evil that would lull us into apathetic complicity.
May we never make peace with fascist sociopathic leadership.