I don’t know quite how to explain, but let me put it this way. When I was young, I lived in West Berlin for about 5 years. My age peers and friends there were lovely — hip, cool, and so very nice as people.
Even passing the abandoned hulk of the Reichstag every day on my way to work, World War II and the Nazi era felt impossibly far removed, like something out of ancient history that couldn’t affect me or the modern world.
I viewed unthinking strongman worship as an anomaly. A fluke. Even sometimes socializing with my peers' grandparents and their generation who had actively supported Hitler, none of it felt real.
I could not wrap my mind around it.
But today, living where I live and watching people worship Trump even though supporting him damages their own interests, I begin to understand the psychology.
I don’t just understand how real it is, I see how easy it is. Because I see it happening right in front of me.
Nothing Trump does, no matter how morally horrifying, gives anybody up here pause. What he says or does doesn’t matter nearly as much as that they have given him their loyalty.
Of course Trump is no Hitler, but he has done terribly cruel things as president that ordinarily moral and empathetic human beings would reject out of hand.
Watching people not reject them is educating and very distressing.