Bauer was alluding to people who perpetrated violence against innocent souls and those who knew or suspected what was being done, but turned away. He zeroed in on those bystanders who, through their passivity and lack of moral courage, helped carry out the evil done to 6 million Jews.
Four years of Donald Trump’s failed presidency saw Americans who lay claim to Christian values and the tenet to “love your neighbor” join the ranks of perpetrators and bystanders-enablers in his war against accepted norms of a democratic society. Some of those same people can be found professing, with knitted brows, that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior — even as they deify Trump in their hearts. Yes, there they are, giving glory to God, while glorying in Trump’s self-glorification.
The defeated ex-president’s perps and partners are everywhere. They can be seen chomping down in breakfast restaurants, shopping in convenience stores, stocking warehouses, changing clothes in locker rooms, sitting on front porches and striding the halls of Congress.
Just what is it that causes them to ignore Bauer’s three commandments and become parties to Trump’s vicious maligning of immigrants (the Muslim travel ban), embrace of far-right nationalists (Proud Boys “stand back and stand by”) and trampling of truth (baseless claims about the presidential vote; plots to overturn legitimate elections)?
How do they keep silent — or take delight — when he sneers at the misfortunes of others (calling former prisoner of war John McCain “a loser”) and derides decency (saying it’s fine for cops to rough up suspects)?
What is it about Trump that he can get away with inciting and fomenting an insurrection of domestic terrorists who, bearing the Confederate flag and Jesus Saves signs and calling for the vice president of the United States to be hanged, storm and sack the U.S. Capitol to disrupt a constitutionally directed proceeding of Congress?
Many folks sympathetic to insurrectionists and others fueled by Trump’s racism and xenophobia will engage this weekend in prayer to God, with Trump adulation secreted in their hearts.
Perhaps there is no real mystery: They need Trump like he needs them.
Michael Steele, Republican National Committee chairman from 2009 to 2011 and now a Biden supporter, weighed in on Trump in a post-election interview with an Australian publication.
Steele explained the power of Trump’s appeal that swept him into office in 2016 and, to this day, gives him a stranglehold over the Republican Party.
“A lot of people have borne a sense of displacement, a sense of anger, a sense of frustration, a sense of being left behind. They see others moving into their neighborhood. They don’t look like you, but they seem to be doing better than you. Who are they? Where are they from? How much are they making? I am a God-fearing person. Why are they tearing down the family?
“No one listens to them and their concerns. Then this brash, populist son of a b---- comes along. This despot weaves a fairy tale about what he will do, and it’s in a very aggressive ‘lock her up’ kind of way. People feel a sense of security from that. ‘Yes, be my avatar, fight for me.’ That’s the ugly crap we see across the globe, the white nationalism, the nationalism writ large, the distorted populism.”
Steele was appalled by Trump, and by his successful takeover of the party. “How the hell did we allow this to happen — Trump is neither Republican nor conservative,” Steele declared.
Consider this: Amid the onset of changes that upset their dyed-in-the-wool conservatism, they lost face with the victory of a Black president. Not supposed to happen in their America.
In Trump, they liked his strut, his promise to be their savior, his pledge to make them great again.
And they’ll stop at nothing to protect and defend the one in whom they place faith above all else, except God, and of that I’m not too sure.
There are numerous examples, but look no further than Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The Republican congresswoman stands for the rule of law and the basic principles at the heart of the democratic process. In her, they do not see a Republican. She is the inverse of Trump, and a threat to all they hold dear in him. His boorishness, bigotry, narcissism are not problems. He is theirs. They are his. Together they are joint owners of a changed Republican Party that is incompatible with democracy.
Yehuda Bauer’s three commandments are a gift to humanity. To Trump’s perpetrators and bystanders, a moral judgment.
There is the shame.