On February 27, 1933, one month after Adolph Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, arson broke out in the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament in Berlin.
A recent Dutch immigrant and council Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for setting the fire. The Nazi party cited the Reichstag fire as evidence that communists were plotting against the German government.
Hitler successfully urged German President Paul von Hindenberg to pass an "emergency decree" that suspended civil liberties and "pursue a ruthless confrontation" with German communists. The government ordered mass arrests of Nazi political rivals, which led to vacant seats in parliament and the consolidation of majority power in the Nazi party.
Thus, historians view the Reichstag fire as a seminal event in the rise of German Nazism.
Trump isn't nearly as intelligent, canny, or calculating as Hitler, and America is no Nazi Germany--at least not yet. But the United States is now helmed by a guileless egomaniac and power-thirsty narcissist surrounded by manipulative yes-men who are salivating for America's "Reichstag fire" moment.
They're going to get it.
Trump's ineptitude is beyond reasonable dispute, and it's only a matter of time before the terror attacks playing out in Europe happen here. Regardless of immigration policy, it's incredibly easy for individuals--both citizens and non-citizens--to insinuate themselves into crowded American cities, gatherings, and transportation infrastructure and visit death and mayhem upon civilians without warning.
That's the entire point of terrorism.
I know what civilian terrorism feels like. I was 23 years old when I watched the worst terrorist attack ever unleashed on American soil unfold from the second American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. until that building collapsed at 10:28 a.m. I've written about my odd, dissociative experience on the Brooklyn Bridge--during the collapse of the South Tower--that changed my view of death forever.
I read the 585-page 9/11 Commission Report in two days from cover to cover on the day it was published, trying to understand how this could have happened and why. I joined a sweeping health study to see if my asthma and immunological issues were tied to working next to Ground Zero during and after 9/11. Over the years, I've wondered about the children of my parents' next door neighbor, Bill McGinn, who worked in FDNY Squad 18 and died at age 43 in the North Tower while responding to the attacks.
I've given all of this a lot of thought, and I think things are worse now than they were on September 10, 2001, at least in terms of the social and political impact the next terrorist attack will have on our civil liberties and our so-called "American way of life."
If his giddy weekend tweet-storm is any indication, Trump (or let's be honest, Steve Bannon) is going to open to page 1 of Hitler's playbook when the next terrorist attack comes--and come it will.
Trump's actual "policies" are nonexistent, and his so-called "travel ban" is unconstitutional, at least as long as we still have the constitution. Even if it weren't, it would be utterly ineffectual. There's nothing Trump can or will do to stop terrorism in this country or keep us safe.
All Trump can do--all he knows how to do--is incite violence, hysteria, and alarm with his vacuous, uninformed, impulsive tweets. He is morally and intellectually bankrupt at best, and senile at worst. He doesn't know how to lead period, much less lead with the type of steady and informed deliberation the public will need when the inevitable happens.
So who will help us? We can't count on Trump or anyone around him to lead or protect us. We need to hold our government to account ourselves, because America's Reichstag fire moment is right around the corner.
The only open question is what we as American citizens will do in response.