Monday, October 10, 2016

Musical Monday - If You Could See Her Through My Eyes by Joel Grey

Donald Trump's campaign for President of the United States has normalized bigotry. There is simply no question that this is the case. From his attacks on Mexicans, to his threat to ban all Muslims from entering the country, to his thinly veiled antisemitism, to his barely concealed disdain for black Americans, Trump's campaign has been built upon appeals to the racist and xenophobic elements of the American body politic. Trump has taken what had become considered to be beyond the pale for an American politician and placed it front and center in his campaign. Trump has, to be blunt, made it acceptable to be openly racist again.

As I've pointed out before, the movie Cabaret is set in Berlin during the waning days of the Weimar Republic, against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazi Party. This song, which takes place deep into the movie when the power of the Nazis is clearly on the rise, is still satirizing the ridiculousness of Nazi antisemitism. But the song only works because antisemitism had become something that had been brought into the forefront of the political discussion and legitimized. A satire of a fringe movement is mostly pointless. Satire only works when it is targeting something that is both popular and nonsensical. If antisemitism were a fringe element of German politics of the era, the song's punchline - when it is revealed that the issue with Grey's relationship isn't that his partner is an ape, but rather that she is Jewish - would fall flat.

When one wonders how antisemitism swept across Germany, one only has to see what is happening right now in U.S. politics. Germans were told that Jews weren't "real" Germans, in much the same way that Trump says that Hispanic people aren't "real" Americans even if they were born in the United States - witness his attacks upon Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana. Trump has said Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, and that Muslim immigrants are terrorists. Of course he's also said that "some" are good people, but he's also called for mass deportations and a band on all Muslims entering the country - a deportation policy that would be incredibly expensive and economically ruinous, and a ban that would be blatantly unconstitutional, but his supporters have eagerly hung on his every word anyway. When Trump is asked how he will appeal to black voters, he immediately begins talking about the inner cities, apparently under the impression that most black voters are poor and urban, an assumption that is both at odds with the facts and inherently racist to boot.

Trump is likely to lose in November. His polling numbers are terrible, and he has appeared both creepy and buffoonish in the debates thus far. Even the vice-presidential debate in which Mike Pence essentially declared that Trump never said and did many of the things that he actually has done and said seems like it will not be enough save the campaign. But the racism and bigotry that Trump represents won't go away on November 8th. Trump's supporters don't love him despite his racism and xenophobia, they love him because of them. He has emboldened an ugly strain of Americans that have silently lurked within the Republican Party for decades, and the repercussions will be felt for years to come.

Previous Musical Monday: Money, Money by Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli
Subsequent Musical Monday: Tiller Girls featuring Joel Grey

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