Six years before the start of the Second World War and seven months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany, the German government instituted the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” The moral depravity that started as a sterilization program targeting “useless eaters” and lives “unworthy of life” degenerated into a “euthanasia” program that murdered at least 250,000 people with mental and physical dis/abilities as an “open secret” until 1941, when the Bishop of Munster, Clemens August Count von Galen, delivered a sermon protesting the killing of “unproductive people.”2 Although the Trump Administration has not yet driven the United States to implement systematic killings of undesirables, informed reflection cautions that the cultural and legal shifts we are witnessing in the era of Trump arc back to pre-World War II Germany. In order to understand how and why that disturbed time resonates with our own, it is necessary but not sufficient to reflect on images and stories served up by the 24/7 news cycles of major cable networks or by the glitter of our contemporary art markets.3 Understanding the present requires understanding the past precisely because repetition is taking place. The Trump Administration’s policies target people with dis/abilities, veterans, the poor, the foreign and displaced—for exclusion and dispossession in ways that reveal the elements of a resurgent fascism. In this essay, I probe evidence linking the emergence of fascism to the treatment of these vulnerable groups and reflect on the implications of Trump’s current day policies for the future of Latinx peoples, both within the United States and beyond its borders. The linkages connecting the era of Trump to the period in Germany just before the rise of Hitler include the debasement of public discourse about vulnerable groups, the aggressive promotion of spectacular militarism, vilification of otherness and polarization of difference, as well as the use of state legislative and administrative power to exacerbate, rather than combat or remedy, the further dispossession and exclusion of political scapegoats targeted to distract and confuse a national majority disoriented by the consequences of military defeat and economic crisis
Madeleine M. Plasencia, Disabling Fascism: A Struggle for the Last Laugh in Trump’s America, 23 Harvard Latinx Law Review 287 (2020).