Don't let Trump repeat Hitler's playbook

Am I naive?

Well, am I? Yes, on two counts for sure. One is, I’m opening myself up in this op-ed. And two, I’m asking people to think about their choices and actions, and not simply go with their beliefs on what I’m about to share. Now choices and actions are definitely important, but only if thinking comes first.

OK, back to am I naive? Ever heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the philosopher? He was a German priest who spoke publicly against the atrocities of the Hitler regime and was eventually jailed and hanged for doing so. In jail, Bonhoeffer, wondered how people could be so cruel and inhumane to each other. He decided people were naive, not evil or malicious. And also that the former was more dangerous, as evil and cruelty could be exposed and prevented in the malicious person, but against naivety, we are defenseless. Because force and reason fall on deaf ears with the naive person, and facts are regarded as incidental and not to be considered.

In all this, the naive person is easily irritated and becomes dangerous. Understanding naivety means understanding that it is a moral defect, not an intellectual one. Bonhoeffer concludes that the naive person readily gives up their independence and is susceptible to the manipulative and charismatic leader, much as the German people did with Hitler. It is a psychological and sociological trap the naive person falls into.

So, think! Think about trends or times in history like what happened with Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Or what happened in Iran and the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the failed modernization attempts of Shah Pahlavi leading to the religious authoritarian regime led by Ruhollah Khomeini. Or what society is like under Putin in the Soviet Union currently.

 Then think about our current situation, with restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, book bans in libraries and schools, and the Capitol insurrection. And we now have a former president backed by Christian fundamentalists seeking to be back in power.

Do you see this charismatic leader as manipulative or morally deficient? And what do you think are the parallels with history or potential outcomes should he win another presidency? Don’t be naive, think and vote this November.

– Tim Thomas, Durango