History – Attention Must Be Paid

Vanity Fair cover 1933 July Despondent Sam Illustration by Paolo Garretto

We need to take a hard look at history. A Vanity Fair cover from July 1933 showing a despondent Uncle Sam seated on the Western hemisphere with storm clouds above can serve as a somber harbinger for our own times. Illustration by Paolo Garretto


History has never seemed more relevant.

That anti-Semite Steve Bannon who made white nationalism mainstream through Breitbart, is now to be President Elect Donald Trump’s Goebbels…er…Chief Strategist.

This past summer with  the weight of history hanging heavy as the Republicans nominated Donald J. Trump as their candidate for president, historians spoke out as never before.

We didn’t listen then.

We need to listen now.

It’s a post worth repeating, so we don’t repeat history.

It’s Worth Repeating

A dozen distinguished  historians from David McCullough to  Ken Burns have bonded together to create a Facebook page called Historians on Donald Trump, dedicated to educating the voters on the disturbing threat trump poses to American democracy.

Historian Robert Caro called Trump a “demagogue” who appeals to the ugliest parts of human nature.

“History tells us we shouldn’t underestimate him,” Caro said. “History is full of demagogues and sometimes rise to the very heights of power by appealing to things that are unfortunately a part of human nature: racism, which I think is a part of human nature no matter how hard we try, and excessive virulent patriotism that goes by the name xenophobia.”

Joining them are Historians Against Trump, a group of  history professors, museum professionals, public historians  and scholars who are concerned about the ominous precedents for Trump’s candidacy. In a published open letter they wrote: “The lessons of history compel us to speak out against a movement rooted in fear and authoritarianism.”

They are all  urging us to take a hard look at history.

I didn’t need the urging

History surrounds me on a daily basis. Literally and figuratively.

Vanity Fair Covers 1933

The Depression era discrepancy between “the haves” and “have not’s” is illustrated in this Vanity Fair cover “Fat Cat and Hobo” from October 1933. The Vanity Fair of May 1933 (R) illustrates an unpredictable Washington DC , optimistic one minute, foreboding and disastrous the next. Illustration Vladimir Bobritsky

The flotsam and jetsam from over the past hundred years, the  vintage advertising, articles, newspapers, booklets and illustrations that permeated the American Twentieth century mass media play in an endless loop through my mind, cluttering it like so many teetering stacks of  vintage magazines and books that clutter my art studio.

In my constant field of vision, are a series of framed vintage Vanity Fair magazine covers from 1933 that powerfully illustrate that most tumultuous year, a year that would have far reaching global consequences. and offer a somber forewarning to our own troubled times.

Many are illustrated by Italian artist Paolo Garretto arguably one of the great European illustrators of his time, his graphic covers expose the unsettling climate of the 1930’s including Hitler’s rise to power.

These compelling images of that unsettling time  serve  as a cautionary tale.

Vanity Fair cover Dec 1933 Illustration Paolo Grarreto

The cover of Vanity Fair December 1933. Figures representing U.S. Italy, France and England “tangle’ over Hitler. Illustration Paolo Garreto

As I listened to  a speech in Cincinnati a few weeks ago, a rambling  Trump maniacally defending the use of the Star of David in his anti Clinton image,  it was clear he was  pandering to his racist anti-Semitic supporters. As  I looked up at the vintage Vanity Fair covers that hang directly in front of my computer, I felt a chill.

An expert demagogue whipping discontented  working class voters into a frenzy, stoking racial resentment and exaggerated threats, giving the disenfranchised a bogeyman to blame misrepresenting the facts and exploiting economic insecurities.

Sound familiar?

Vanity Fair 1932 Fascism

Vanity Fair Covers 1932 Hitler and Mussolini

The use of ethnic stereotypes,the exploitation of fear of foreigners, and the concerns about national decline  is an ugly stew of propaganda straight from  a fascist recipes book .

It’s a recipe for disaster.

But confused and angry voters can take the bait.


In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Rachel Maddow said  that she has been studying Adolph Hitler in the first few months of his tenure as German chancellor:

“Over the past year I’ve been reading a lot about what it was like when Hitler first became chancellor. I am gravitating toward moments in history for subliminal reference in terms of cultures that have unexpectedly veered into dark places, because I think that’s possibly where we are.”

Vanity Fair Nov. 1933 Paolo Garretto illustration

Cover Vanity Fair November 1933. Artist Paolo Garretto envisioned the globe as a bomb with a fuse waiting go off as diplomats stand at the top of the world seemingly oblivious.

1933 opened with Adolph  Hitler becoming chancellor of Germany.  The great theme of his speeches throughout the previous year was that “politicians had ruined the Reich.”

Some thought a Hitler government would be a farcical affair. The right had the illusion that Hitler was a lightweight, a ridiculous Austrian demagogue whose oratorical gifts they could exploit while “managing” to contain him.

Over the course of the one year these magazine covers appeared,  Hitler was elected as chancellor of Germany, the Reichstag’s Enabling Act was passed after the burning of the Reichstag, enabling police to bypass courts giving Hitler everything he needed to set up a totalitarian state making him dictator of Germany

This was quickly followed by massive Nazi Book burnings, legalized eugenic sterilization, boycotting of Jewish businesses, prohibition of trade  unions and forbidding all non Nazi political parties in Germany.

The very month FDR was telling a frightened nation we had nothing to fear but fear itself, Dachau the first Nazi concentration camp  opened.

It was a frightening time.

Out of the Disturbing Darkness

There are compelling reasons to feel grave concern today.

Pulitzer prize winner Ron Chernow, one of the historians on Historians on Donald Trump page remarked in a video :  “I have been deeply disturbed by the Trump campaign — more deeply disturbed than by any other presidential campaign in our history.

“We’ve all been horrified by the many shocking statements this man has made, but no less frightening have been the omissions,” he continued.

“I’m disturbed by the words missing from the Trump campaign: liberty and justice, freedom and tolerance,” he added. “The only historical movement that Trump alludes to is a shameful one: America First,” he said, referring to Trump’s foreign policy slogan, which shares its name with an anti-Semitic group from the 1940s.”

“Please, please, please folks don’t let it happen here,” Chernow pleaded.”

We have the power to stop it.




  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    History is sadly repeating itself…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The risk of setting the bar so low for this man is that he can do outrageous things yet slip past our view without raising an equal level of alarm.

    Thanks for posting the link to the Historians on Trump Facebook spot. I definitely and going directly there after finishing this comment.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: History – Attention Must Be Paid | Envisioning The American Dream | Just Merveilleux

  4. Pingback: Trump’s Rallying Cry | Envisioning The American Dream

  5. Reblogged this on Rcooley123's Blog and commented:
    We must remain vigilant in not allowing the incoming Trump administration to demoralize and bully us into accepting a totally unacceptable future for this country and the world at large. – RJC

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Donald Trump is the hero Nationalist have been waiting for. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this post. I wish that the people who need to read this had the interest.


  8. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    We have the power to stop this


  9. carlalouise89

    Reblogged this on Coalition of the Brave.


  10. I just came on board – this is a great article. I have to make a confession: I have always hated America, obviously because of the massive fraud it has perpetrated upon the rest of the planet but also upon Americans. When I say “America” I don’t mean Americans – people are people, and basically the same the world over – I mean Washington, D.C., in collusion with Wall Street and Zionism. Let’s also be clear that I consider Zionism to be the enemy of Judaism, so this isn’t an anti-Semite statement. I wanted Trump to win this election because I wanted someone, something, to destroy “America,” to bring it to its knees, to wipe that smug pretend “conscience of the world” from its face forever, and to end it’s wars of aggression and oppression. Trump, if he is allowed to proceed, is about to satisfy some of my wishes, and the rest will come later. Since most Americans still believe in America as a moral state with a God-given mandate to subdue non-aligned democratic nations and impose pro-Wall Street/Corporate puppet dictators on them, they deserve Trump and the harm he will do to the nation when he has to make a choice whether supporting the hegemonic empire, or the nation. Obviously the money and the power lies in the hegemon and that’s where “Dollar” Trump will focus his narcissistic, psychopathic pea-brain. Cookie Monster: Cookies! Trump: Money!


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