Opinion: After Holocaust Memorial Museum visit, noticeable parallels in today’s nationalism


Matt Poe

Matt Poe

A brief update before we get started: I, Matthew Poe, won my bracket pool this past Monday night. I thought I was out of the money once University of South Carolina lost to Gonzaga University in the Final Four and — after a few adult beverages — I was sure my coffin was nailed shut and my fate sealed. At least I didn’t write a whole column about it.

Oh, wait…

Anyway, my long history of atrocious math skills finally paid off when I realized I could still win if University of North Carolina won the championship game and hit the under on the points total. They did, and a documentary on my incredible journey to the peak of the bracket mountain is in the works.

I knew being awful at math would come in handy at some point, and I can credit failing ninth grade “Algebra II” for this current success.  

I’ll see this through the end of my tenure as a columnist at The (failing) Kent Stater, but I’m mailing it in the rest of the semester. To my editors: You can find me on a yacht somewhere with a large beverage with an umbrella in it. Don’t bother me.

Moving on.

Aside from drinking bourbon, I did a lot of roaming and venturing through the nation’s capital this past week, taking in an assortment of museums and activities during the week.

The people-watching this time of year in Washington is quite spectacular. One of these aforementioned activities involved visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on a rainy, cold Friday afternoon, with the weather setting an appropriate tone for what we were about to willingly be subjected to.  

I realize how much of an idiot I sound by stating the obvious, but the museum was truly sobering and a hell of a somber means for starting one’s day. I’ve seen my fair share of museums in my short life, but I have to say to anyone who visits Washington and does the usual touristy museum venture that this is the one you absolutely have to see.

It will shake you in a way that very few other museums can, and I’d refer to it as an experience rather than a mere collection of artifacts and relics.

You will undeniably feel a swelling of empathy and other emotions. But something you may overlook is the parallels in language used by the Nazi party then and the current presidential administration. And make no mistake: These parallels are real, and they’re frightening.

Much of the language used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party relied on heavy doses of nationalism to spark a fear in the German people toward Jews and other groups of Europeans — anyone who didn’t fall asleep in social studies as a kid knows this.

But as I scoured through the museum reading small placard after placard, I found an eerie tone that is exuded today.  

Hitler relied heavily on the notion he was the supreme leader of Germany and propagated himself in a god-like manner to the Germans.

Our current president has frequently made mentions that he alone can fix many of the problems we face, and, while there’s nothing wrong with instilling some faith in any president, it’s a dramatic shift in tone from previous administrations.

Our current president has also shown a remarkable willingness to particularly signal out instances of violence regarding Islamic extremists and has not shied away from differentiating between these extremists and everyday Muslims who live a decent life. Hitler himself did the same thing, instilling a fear into many that Jews were a dangerous, deceptive people.

Another main focus of this current president’s agenda and campaign was the notion that immigrants are stealing jobs from hard-working Americans and that we need to “buy American and hire American.”

He also promised to bring back jobs and industries that, in reality, have been lost to automation and technological advancements, not some radical influx of foreigners “stealing” jobs. The Nazi’s employed a similar strategy and advised Germans to not buy products from Jewish stores on multiple occasions.

There are many more parallels to mention, but I digress.

I’m no damn historian, and I’m not comparing Adolf Hitler to President Donald Trump because that’s lazy, factually incorrect and just plain stupid; the two are not the same.

All that being said, it doesn’t take a genius to realize there has been a sweeping movement of nationalism that has spread across the country. It’s the same nationalism that allowed Trump to rise to power and ultimately get elected in the first place.

Then again, maybe that nationalism and fear-mongering was always there. Maybe it just took a blubbering doofus like Trump to allow it to come to the front and center of the class, rather than remain hushed behind locked doors and closed curtains.

Pride and faith in one’s country is not inherently a bad thing — that should undoubtedly be made clear. But my belief is that the true architects of this administration, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, have no wishes to curb this wave of nationalism coming from the White House, and we must remain watchful them and the coded language they use.

We’ve seen its effects in the past, and hopefully we’ve learned from it.

God, I hope so.

Lastly, to the parents who let their children wear “Make America Great Again” apparel to a place like the holocaust museum: Please, don’t embarrass your child like that. Read the damn placards to understand why.    

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].