On 30 March 1933, the great German recorder of daily life under the Third Reich, Victor Klemperer, noticed a balloon in a toy shop inscribed with a swastika. In my newspaper on 14 January 2017, I noticed a photograph of a girl aged 8 years old (I should estimate) holding up a banner at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with the words I am kind, smart and important inscribed on it.
Analogies are never exact, of course, and are easily exaggerated or otherwise misused. The differences between a toy shop in Nazi Germany and a women’s march in Washington are so numerous, obvious, and striking that it is hardly necessary for me to enumerate them. Suffice it to say that I am allergic (metaphorically) to the use of children for the dissemination of political messages, even when the message is one with which I agree. I think it is a form of child abuse, an example of children as a means and not as an end. Poor old Kant would turn in his grave.
The first thing to say about Mr. Trump—against whom the women voluntarily (and children involuntarily) were demonstrating—is that he seems to be doing what is unforgivable in a democratic politician, for it will make life difficult for all the others who come after him: He is keeping, or trying to keep, his election promises. Could anything better prove his complete lack of probity?
Now, of course, this does not in the least prove that what he is doing is right, prudent, wise, or moral: One can, after all, make a bad promise and keep it. The fact that you are keeping a promise does not establish that what you are doing is right. If I promise to punch you on the nose and do punch you on the nose, I cannot use my promise as a moral or legal justification for my action.
But let us return to the abused child in the newspaper photograph. I am sure it…