In 2017, then 21-year-old Madison Cawthorn told his Instagram buddies: “The vacation house of the Führer. Seeing the Eagles Nest has been on my bucket list for a while, it did not disappoint. Strange to hear so many laughs and share such a good time with my brother where only 79 years ago a supreme evil shared laughs and good times with compatriots.”
Now he is congressional candidate Cawthorn. Perhaps his immature enthusiasms and apparent idolatry should not be held against him. Probably there is also no reason to question the name of his SPQR Holdings or some of the other critiques in the Jezebel magazine article about his alleged use of white nationalist tropes. That may be speculative overreach.
But his visit to Berchtesgaden and his comments there raise troubling questions that he has failed to answer. And now that he has been criticized, he defensively uses the Trumpian projection blame game to silence critics. The comic book language (“supreme evil”) suggests a teenage misunderstanding of the Holocaust. The “supreme evil” sharing “laughs and good times with compatriots” suggests an admiration for the perpetrators of the Holocaust and the attempted conquest of Europe, which he should now be very eager to explicitly and vigorously deplore.
On his “bucket list” trip, did Cawthorn visit any concentration camp to try to even minimally comprehend the Nazi industrial project to murder all of the Jews of Europe as well as millions more people they considered inferior? Has Cawthorn visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., about eight hours from here? How has he educated himself about neo-Nazi organizations now destructively active in our country, sometimes with links to white nationalist militias? Does he even understand that there is an active domestic terrorism threat from such groups, or does he think that is “fake news”?
It is good that Cawthorn understands that the Nazi regime might have considered him inferior and worthy of extermination because of his disability or for other reasons. Yet his indiscriminate opposition to all government makes one wonder whether he supports the bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush. And one wonders whether Cawthorn told Trump, when he had the opportunity last month, that he objects to how Trump mocks people with disabilities.
Sadly, Cawthorn clearly has never considered how his white privilege lets him make believe that white America paid its debt to Black America because 600,000 people (Black as well as white) died during the Civil War, a war that the slave states initiated in order to preserve white rights to own Black souls. He somehow has no awareness of the subsequent organized destruction of African Americans’ hard-won freedoms by the KKK and ex-Confederate politicians and mobs when they forced the end of the Reconstruction era.
He must not know the phrase “Jim Crow,” nor the systematic use of lynching to intimidate both African Americans and their white allies (not just in the South). He must not recognize that lynching as a policy anticipated many Nazi tactics in the lead-up to the Holocaust. He must not know that the civil rights movement was no cakewalk to victory and that the civil rights acts of the 1960s have not automatically removed all remnants of the systematic disenfranchisement — political, economic and sociological — of Black Americans that had endured for four centuries up to and beyond the 1960s. Reasonable people can argue about a program of reparations, but instead of engaging a very difficult issue, Cawthorn has chosen to vilify the very notion that there is still something to repair in our nation’s four centuries of destructive dealings with people just because of the color of their skin.
I wish Cawthorn well as he grapples with the complexities of life in the United States, for all citizens and residents whether they are like or unlike him. He would do well to drop the sloganeering and whining claims of victimization and focus instead on resolving problems in our community, region, state and nation as a whole.
— Paul Weichselbaum
Editor’s note: Weichselbaum reports that he is volunteering for Moe Davis’ campaign.
In addition, Xpress contacted Madison Cawthorn’s campaign with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from spokesman John Hart: “Madison Cawthorn has consistently and unequivocally denounced racism in all its forms. The notion that he would celebrate a regime that would have had him — a man in a wheelchair — exterminated is absurd.
“He understands that millions of Americans still face racial injustice and that the work of making our imperfect union more perfect is far from complete. The Jim Crow era was largely managed by Southern Democrats who betrayed our founding principles. Madison wants to undo the Democrats’ legacy of racial injustice and mismanagement by creating a future of opportunity, equality and prosperity for all people. As he said in his convention speech, he wants to help America realize MLK’s dream in which we can be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.”