June 6th of 1944 was a Tuesday. But it was quite a special Tuesday indeed.
On this Tuesday, history saw young Americans literally drop out of planes onto the beaches of France, sweeping into Nazi-occupied Normandy. The now-iconic “D-Day” scenes of soldiers storming the beaches began with young adults huddling, shivering, praying, and holding their breaths in tearful anxiety as the shores neared. Their military camouflage jackets were worn and damp, their helmets mud-caked, their guns quivering in their trembling grips. The hatch opened, and with a war cry scraping the bottom of their lungs, the Allied forces hurled themselves onto the land of the Nazis. Their boots stomped the beach, their bullets tore through the swastikas unfurling in the summer sun, and history never once forgot the apex of human courage that was witnessed that day in Normandy.
August 11th of 2017 was a Friday. But it was quite a special Friday indeed.
On this Friday, history saw a state of emergency being announced in Charlottesville, Virginia because the United States had now fallen victim to the same evil it had countered during the Second World War. Scarlet Nazi flags took to the sky as young Americans cheered in recognition of the apparent superiority of the white race. Fists were raised to decry the ethnic diversity of America, condemning the plague brought upon the great country by the toxic swarms of blacks and Hispanics. The values championed by the likes of Adolf Hitler eighty years ago—the values that were toppled by American forces and their allies, in promise of a new and better world—were upheld and celebrated during this rally.
And that’s not all. A life was lost in the chaotic aftermath of the nationalist rally as a young woman fell prey to a neo-Nazi armed with a car and a twisted mindset. In both 1944 and 2017, America watched its citizens die in a fight against the same mindset—except that in the more recent case, American blood was shed by American hands.
As someone who has never had to live through a significant war in his country or in his vicinity, as someone who had never felt obligated to take up arms and go fight fascists to the death, as someone who has never had to drop out of plane into frigid waters and charge into heavily armed military bases—I cannot claim to ever have tasted the ruthless, piercing agony of war. I cannot claim to have feasted my eyes on a street littered with the freshly slaughtered victims of a genocidal rampage. I cannot claim to have peered through the barbed wire fencing of a labor camp to see the charred, lashed flesh of prisoners left out to rot. I cannot claim to have had to hear the frightened, confused wails of a child snatched from her mother’s flailing arms as uniformed soldiers barge into homes. I have never experienced war.
I can only write about the bitterness felt by the veterans of the Second World War at the painful irony of the matter—the irony of Nazism, resurrected and reinvigorated in the same country given credit for cutting short Hitler’s plans of world domination. The writhing monster of white supremacy, though never fully dead, has taken new form wrapped in the American flag and donning stars and stripes as it crawls forward, leaving a putrid stain of death, injustice, and disharmony.
As I said, I can only write about this irony—I can never truly feel the depths of the bitter humor. That feeling is only reserved for the ones who have witnessed the horrors lurking in the innards of Nazism—the soldiers who managed to come back from taking down the swastika, the prisoners who were lucky enough to return from concentration camps, the ones who experienced first-hand the apogee of human evil that is World War 2. These are the people who can fully grasp the painful irony of seeing Nazism, fascism, anti-Semitism, and blatant white supremacy emerge once more—on the opposite side of the Atlantic this time.
“″An American citizen was assassinated in broad daylight by a Nazi.” That’s how CNN commentator Van Jones described the 2017 Charlottesville protest. He was speaking of the death of Heather Heyer, killed by a neo-Nazi advocate in a car collision. “A Nazi who the day before had been marching with torches down American streets saying anti-Jewish, anti-black stuff.”
The question of how Nazism emerged in America is not a new one. In this essay, I shall not be claiming that American Nazism is a recent phenomenon. The winding history of racial supremacist sentiments on American soil can be traced back to before the founding of the United States itself, but the rise of German Nazism helped redefine it—incorporating the role of Jew-hatred, anti-communism, and other distinctly Nazi notions into the platform of racist activists. I would argue that Nazi sentiments have existed in America for a long, long time, but did not enter the spotlight conspicuously before the last few years, 2015-17. The sudden prominence of American Nazism cannot be blamed entirely on the Trump presidency, as many have claimed—a range of longstanding factors have contributed to facilitating the rise of the Stars, Stripes, and Swastika.
The American Nazi party—yes, a real political party—has existed since 1959, founded by former U.S. Navy commander George Lincoln Rockwell. “We can have our country once against white, we can have our country once again Christian, and above all, ladies and gentlemen, we can have it once against a Christian American Republic…” he would bellow from his pulpit, brandishing a baseball bat and eliciting enthusiastic cheers from his crowd. Rockwell’s platform, upon which he shaped the American Nazi Party (ANP), consisted of the same sophisticated philosophies anyone can expect from a Neo-Nazi: comparing black people to “wild animals that cannot be domesticated”, accusing Jews of turning America into a communist state, and lamenting the downfall of the white race due to the evils of multiculturalism. Though Rockwell was assassinated in the late 1960s, the ANP has survived, and continues to do so.
The American Nazi Party website (www.americannaziparty.com) is quite a sight to behold. The home page greets the user with the sinister logo of a bald eagle clutching a black swastika in its talons, followed by a small banner with the decree “White Power for White People! Fight!”
The website continues to enlighten the reader on what it stands for with the following paragraph on another page:
“We believe that the Aryan population of this continent should be free, along with all the peoples of good will, to pursue its separate destiny according to the principles of self-determination and racial solidarity in a sovereign state representing its vital needs and interests. We must have an all-White National Socialist America; an America in which our children and our grandchildren will play and go to school with other White children; an America in which they will date and marry other young people of our own race; an America in which all their offspring will be beautiful, healthy White babies. We must have an America in which our cultural, social, business and political life is free of alien, Jewish influence; an America in which White people are the sole masters of our own destiny.”
This summary sheds light on two core ideas belonging to the American Nazi ideology—separatism and supremacy. Firstly, as they believe, the white race should be kept apart from all others. The blacks, Latinos, browns—they only serve to dilute the purity that is brought upon by America by the whites. This implies a return to the olden practice of racial segregation and prohibition of interracial relationships—reverting back to old American policies that were discarded by the advent of the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century. Here lies one reason that the American Nazis speak so frequently of “the golden age of America”, referring to the time the whites took charge. This is one factor that has drawn Neo-Nazi support for the trump campaign—the ceaseless promise to “Make America Great Again” has seemingly injected new life into the Nazi dream of returning to a pre-civil equality America, run universally by white men.
The second idea is supremacy. It’s not enough to be kept apart from the others—they have to be kept on a higher plane. To them, the white race is not just different—it’s better. Many American Nazis would claim that their mission is not to subjugate racial minorities, but to make sure that these minorities do not “overtake” the white race in any way—but such a claim is nothing but a cover-up for the latent desire to assert white control over other colors.
The ANP is not alone in peddling the American Nazi ideology in the modern day. Far from it. Prominent groups responsible for unfurling the swastika include the National Front, Traditionalist Workers’ Party, America First movement, and more. Records from the legal advocacy institute Southern Poverty Law Center, which often monitors Nazi movements and forms of right-wing violence, clearly demonstrate an uptick of American white supremacy advocacy in recent times, seemingly brought forth by the ascent of Donald Trump.
Why does Donald Trump, apart from his yearning for the vague “golden great days of America”, seem to arouse and strengthen Nazi sentiments in his homeland? His campaign was built upon a series of issues that prodded young, disenfranchised white Americans in the right spots. Much of this was centered around the feeling that the classical notion of “white Christian America” was long gone, replaced by a more multicultural and secular community. Although this change was not greeted with hostility by most white Americans, it seems to have triggered a sense of loss in many. Large groups of white citizens seem to struggle with grasping the fact that American society is white-oriented no more, as more and more media exposure and opportunities arise to accommodate racial minorities. Strangely, this makes many white Americans feel that they are “losing credibility” or being denied their rights in favor “of making minorities happy.” This can be seen in the case of affirmative action, the policy of sometimes prioritizing college applications from minority groups; this action is often branded “reverse-racism” by whites who feel that their opportunity to enter college is being trampled upon. Regardless of whether affirmative action is truly “racist” or not, it is undoubtedly a controversial and sensitive topic that has drawn out hostile feelings from white communities.
Another major point of sensitivity is social welfare, which many white Americans see as benefiting poor black communities rather than “the average American.” Middle-class white citizens feel that they are being deprived of their hard-earned money by paying taxes to fund lower classes, which are often inner-city black neighborhoods. Some white Americans also raise objections to what they see as a growing “PC (political correctness) culture”, which seems to silence the expression of ideas deemed controversial—especially regarding blacks, Hispanics, the LGBT community, and more.
In a nutshell, many white Americans feel that the new wave of multiculturalism has given too much importance to racial minorities and reduced the social credibility of the white race. Of course, this feeling is not shared by all white citizens—in fact, not even the majority. The white supremacists, the Neo-Nazis, the ones bashing blacks as savage brutes, the ones who wrap themselves in an American flag and clutch a Bible while yelling about how diversity is a plague upon the United States—they are, were, and will be a minority as far as I can see.
In the end, Nazism in America has existed for quite some time, and it does not show signs of fading soon. In fact, in the coming years, I believe that the news will be seeing a growing Nazi influence in the public sphere as America confronts the tough questions at the heart of a rapidly diversifying population. But, as seen in Normandy in 1944 as well as Charlottesville in 2017—no matter how many people salute the swastika, no matter how many follow in the footsteps of fascism, there will always be those willing to fight back and bleed on the ground to make sure we stand on free soil.