It was horrifying when Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the now infamous Skittles meme, reducing millions of human beings to a dish of candy.
Although it should not have, it still shocked me when the campaign doubled-down on the message. I am in some warped alternate universe where human compassion has been tossed aside for cheap political gain. I know this happens in every political season, but this is so far beyond anything I have ever experienced. I grew up in the very churches that demanded my time and money to support the same people they now condemn, using the same god to justify the opposite actions, and I just do not understand any of it.
Most days I can brush off the rhetoric and make jokes…sarcasm is the best defense. But this pierced my soul. Something about it felt…like more. It is not merely the incessant refrain of xenophobia and racism we have heard so much. Everything we suspect and everything we know has come together. None of this is new at all. The idea is the same. The words are almost identical. Compare these two statements.
Just as a single poisonous mushroom can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire Volk [nation].
If I had a bowlful of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.
Eerily similar? We have been told repeatedly to substitute “Jews” for “refugees” or “Syrians” or “Muslims” during this campaign, and that would give us historical context for it is headed.
The German Propaganda Archive at Calvin College has the full story of Der Giftpilz, (The Poisonous Mushroom), by Julius Streicher, a children’s book published in 1938.
A mother and her young boy are gathering mushrooms in the German forest. The boy finds some poisonous ones. The mother explains that there are good mushrooms and poisonous ones, and, as they go home, says:
“Look, Franz, human beings in this world are like the mushrooms in the forest. There are good mushrooms and there are good people. There are poisonous, bad mushrooms and there are bad people. And we have to be on our guard against bad people just as we have to be on guard against poisonous mushrooms. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, mother,” Franz replies. “I understand that in dealing with bad people trouble may arise, just as when one eats a poisonous mushroom. One may even die!”
“And do you know, too, who these bad men are, these poisonous mushrooms of mankind?” the mother continued.
Franz slaps his chest in pride:
“Of course I know, mother! They are the Jews! Our teacher has often told us about them.”
The mother praises her boy for his intelligence, and goes on to explain the different kinds of “poisonous” Jews: the Jewish pedlar, the Jewish cattle-dealer, the Kosher butcher, the Jewish doctor, the baptised Jew, and so on.
“However they disguise themselves, or however friendly they try to be, affirming a thousand times their good intentions to us, one must not believe them. Jews they are and Jews they remain. For our Volk they are poison.”
“Like the poisonous mushroom!” says Franz.
“Yes, my child! Just as a single poisonous mushrooms can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire Volk.”
Franz has understood.
“Tell me, mother, do all Gentiles know that the Jew is as dangerous as a poisonous mushroom?”
Mother shakes her head.
“Unfortunately not, my child. There are millions of Gentiles who do not yet know the Jews. So we have to enlighten people and warn them against the Jews. Our young people, too, must be warned. Our boys and girls must learn to know the Jew. They must learn that the Jew is the most dangerous poison-mushroom in existence. Just as poisonous mushrooms spring up everywhere, so the Jew is found in every country in the world. Just as poisonous mushrooms often lead to the most dreadful calamity, so the Jew is the cause of misery and distress, illness and death.”
The author then concludes this story by pointing the moral:
German youth must learn to recognise the Jewish poison-mushroom. They must learn what a danger the Jew is for the German Volk and for the whole world. They must learn that the Jewish problem involves the destiny of us all.
“The following tales tell the truth about the Jewish poison-mushroom. They show the many shapes the Jew assumes. They show the depravity and baseness of the Jewish race. They show the Jew for what he really is:
The Devil in human form.
The International Military Tribunal convicted and hanged Streicher at Nuremburg in 1946 for crimes against humanity.