Donald Trump is the new face of an old enemy.
No person of Polish descent living in America should even consider voting for Donald Trump.
In order to explain why–though I hope there aren’t many who need convincing–let’s do some time traveling.
First, we’ll go back almost a thousand years, to the reign of a Polish king named Bolesław III. Bolesław, who ruled from 1107 to 1138, is notable because he welcomed all Jews to settle throughout Poland without restriction. He did this because he recognized the many gifts and talents the Jews brought would benefit all who lived within Poland’s borders.
Bolesław III the Generous welcomed Jews to Poland without restriction. Image: Wikimedia Commons, from a painting by Jan Matejko now in the public domain.
It was a compassionate and enlightened decision. I mention it here because, even though the Jews still faced persecution in Poland and elsewhere over the ensuing centuries, this gesture of tolerance is something that modern Poles should be proud of and aspire to emulate.
Poland’s Golden Age began to come to an end around the same time as a resurgence in anti-Semitism. This is not a coincidence, of course. When in the history of the world has prejudice and hatred ever contributed to a nation’s growth?
Nearly a thousand years later, the effects of Bolesław’s decision could still be seen in the number of Jews living in Poland. When Nazi Germany invaded in 1939, it was home to the largest population of Jews in Europe.
Between 1939 and 1945, about six million Polish citizens were murdered by the Nazis. Of those, about half were Polish Jews. Another way to think about this is to say that of the roughly six million Jewish people who perished in the hell of Hitler’s death camps, about half of them were from Poland.
Kazimiera Mika, a 12-year-old Polish girl, mourns the death of her older sister, Andzia, who was killed in Warsaw during a German air raid in 1939. Photo by Julien Bryan. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Nazis believed they were an elite race. Most significantly, they felt that Poles–Jews and Gentiles alike–were nothing better than animals to be used without mercy, and who could be killed with no consequences.
And kill them they did. Nearly twenty percent of the Polish population was murdered by Nazis. Millions more were sent to work camps, where many died due to harsh conditions. Those who survived were damaged forever, their lives often cut short by poor mental and physical health resulting from the trauma they suffered.
Why am I mentioning this? Because Nazism is not dead. In fact, it’s alive and well in the United States of America, and never has it been healthier than during the administration of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is the direct ideological heir of the Nazis who raped and murdered Poland. This is not a matter of conjecture. He has openly praised American Nazis, calling them ‘very fine people’. He has a long, well-documented history of racism. Even his son, Donald Trump Jr., frequently uses racist memes and dogwhistles on the internet.
He has so clearly aligned himself with the interests of Vladimir Putin that there is no longer any doubt he is at best Putin’s ‘useful idiot’, and at worst a Russian asset. His main strategy for re-election is to claim that the vote has been corrupted by imaginary mail fraud, in order to cast doubt on the veracity of the election. His chief advisor, Stephen Miller, is an unabashed racist, despite the fact that he is of Jewish descent, and his hateful ideas have been put into action all over the country.
The parallels between Trump and other dictators throughout history are so numerous–his attacks on the press, his total lack of transparency concerning his personal finances, his open admiration of other dictators, his packing the administration with unqualified sycophants and family members, his cruelty towards the poor and defenseless–that they will require far more space than one blog post can provide.
Polish-Americans who think Donald Trump has their back, or that he is ‘making America great again’, are deluding themselves. America was already great. We helped make it that way. And Trump doesn’t care about America. He cares about nothing and no one other than himself. He appeals to humanity’s basest instincts–fear of foreigners, intolerance of other customs, greed, and ignorance. These are the same conditions that eventually allowed mass murder to take place in Europe. They must not be allowed to exist here.
For those Polish-Americans who feel that abortion is their keystone issue, the position from which they will not budge, I fully understand your feelings on the matter, and I ask you to consider the following: the number of abortions always goes down under Democratic governments, because they provide easier access to family planning services, thus lowering the number of unwanted pregnancies. Meanwhile, not only does the number of abortions frequently go up under restrictive goverments, but the negative effect on women’s health overall is very strong, especially when they are forced to seek treatment from back-alley doctors or to attempt abortions themselves.
Poles have already seen what happens when people like Trump cling to power. All Polish-Americans should take a moment to re-acquaint themselves with the episodes of Polish history mentioned here, and to understand exactly what a second Trump term would mean. This is a man who has shown he will do anything to remain in office, including stealing the election outright.
So maybe he isn’t targeting Polish-Americans in particular. Should this matter to us? Absolutely not. Trump will target whoever he needs to–anyone he feels stands in his way, or who is expedient to blame for something. Just because it’s someone else’s turn today doesn’t mean it won’t be our turn again tomorrow.
Given all that the Poles suffered at the hands of the Nazis, we, their descendants, should be especially sensitive to the plight of those whom Trump does target.
Families of would-be immigrants who come to our borders seeking asylum are ripped apart, sometimes forever–just as happened to families during the Holocaust. Tiny children who are kept in camps away from their parents are just as traumatized as those who were sent to Germany as forced laborers. People who look like they might speak Spanish are accosted by uniformed ICE thugs with demands for their papers, while people speaking Spanish in public are shamed for doing so by Trump supporters on the grounds that English is the only acceptable language in America. Foreigners are once again being used as scapegoats to direct attention away from the real problems our society faces.
Open racism has found a home in the highest levels of our government. In the name of all those who died at the hands of the Nazi monsters, we must fight back. There is essentially no difference between the hateful ideas of Donald Trump and those of the Nazis of the early 20th century. The targets are the same–Jews, immigrants, people of color, the disabled.
It’s all sleight-of-hand, misdirection for the purpose of getting you to focus on the wrong issues. Meanwhile, Trump et al. hand themselves massive tax breaks and hoard yet more wealth, while paying practically nothing in taxes.
Are you angry about the fact that you haven’t achieved your goals of personal security and financial stability? Don’t blame the people who want to come to America to better their lot in life. Immigration helps make a country stronger. Bolesław III knew this a thousand years ago. His openness then had only positive impacts on Poland. And Poles, who came to the U.S. in huge numbers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, had a hugely positive impact on America… despite the fact that we, too, were reviled as dirty foreigners.
It wasn’t very long ago we arrived here begging for respite from the oppression we faced in Europe. What right do we have to deny this safe haven to others? None. We instead have an obligation to help those who are being attacked, because very recently we were in their position, and it’s entirely possible we could find ourselves there again.
Before November 3, every Polish-American who currently supports Donald Trump needs to do some serious soul-searching. Ask yourself: what kind of future do I want for this country? Is it one of fear, hatred, and intolerance? Or is it one of inclusion, prosperity, and harmony? Do we want America to enter a dark age, such as what happened in Europe in the first decades of the 20th century? Or do we want another Golden Age, such as Poland experienced during the Renaissance?
There are millions of people of Polish descent living in the United States now. We can have a significant impact on the outcome of this election.
Let’s make sure we do.