|Hitler, the politician campaigning
One of the ways you can always tell when someone has run out of facts to support their argument is when they trot out some comparative reference to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime of the 1930’s and 40’s.
Even though most of us didn’t personally live through that evil hell, we are well-enough acquainted with what took place to recognize it for what it was; a regime of single-minded brutality and oppression that resulted in the deaths of more than 13 million people including the outright senseless, systematic slaughter of more than 6 million Jews.
|Two students being humiliated by
fellow German students simply because
they were Jewish.
One would think that any comparison to Nazi Germany and anyone today would pretty much be reserved for the likes of the Syrian or North Korean regimes or that of the former Iraqi dictator Salaam Hussein. Typically it isn’t.
Typically it is used in democratic countries by one group of citizens against another group with whom they disagree but don’t really have much in the way of facts to support their argument.
Glen Beck, an American television personality, is constantly comparing people to Hitler and sometimes in very contradictory ways. American and Canadian politicians have used it quite freely at times, including Canada’ own prime minister who used it recently against the leader of the official opposition party’s new leader, Thomas Mulcair and of course, you see it almost every day on social media. Susan Sarandan called the current pope a Nazi because he was forced to be a member of the Hitler Youth as a child. It is a comparison that lacks substance when it is used so fatuously.
What got me thinking about all of this was that I saw it again the other day on Twitter. I had written a piece in which I criticized Michelle Bachmann in passing and that led to an argument in the comments section below the post. The tweet was to the point that those who criticized Michelle Bachmann were no different than those who had allowed the Nazis to come to power. I wasn’t offended; I was bemused that someone could have so little knowledge of history.
|Early in his rise to power, Hitler received the support of
big business, the Catholic Church and special interest
The Nazis came to power for two reasons. The first was that not enough people opposed them in the beginning when they were weak. Some sided with the fledgling Nazi party because it offered a perverse kind of hope to people who were impoverished, crushed by what had been imposed on their country by the Treaty of Versailles. They were fed scapegoats to blame for their poverty, runaway inflation, high unemployment and an overwhelming sense of frustration with the continual failure of the Weimar Republic. National pride had been devastated and the once powerful nation reduced to third world living conditions.
Others sided with the Nazis because the party appealed to their misogynist and xenophobic views of society and the Nazis provided convenient targets for their prejudice including: liberals, socialists, communists, gypsies, the mentally infirm and, of course, Jews who were identified as the root cause of all of Germany’s problems.
Some sided with the Nazis in the ridiculous notion that Hitler could be controlled and that they would find some advantage in supporting him while keeping him on a short leash.
|The autobiography of Adolf Hitler,
required reading for every
German during the Nazi years
After a failed coup d’état and a bit of time in prison where he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle) Hitler rose to power and he did it by turning the citizens of his own country against each other. Although he initially paid lip-service to blaming the reparations imposed by the allies after the First World War, his real success resulted from appealing to people within his own country only too willing to see other citizens of their country as the enemy.
He played on people’s fears, prejudices and anger. He provided convenient and easy targets to blame and invariably those scapegoats were fellow German citizens. In the end, when it was too late to stop Hitler, he simplified the enemies list to define anyone that didn’t support the Nazis as an enemy of Germany.
Michelle Bachmann is not a Nazi. She isn’t even close but she shares one thing in common with them. She is only too willing to trample over the reputations and rights of other American citizens using suspicion and fear to garner support for her simplistic politics.
The United States is a country that takes individual rights and freedom seriously and I have always admired Americans for that. Too many people in other countries, including my own, are too willing to trade away their freedoms and personal liberties for what they think of as order and good government. Because there is no such thing as good government, it is a bad trade.
Lately, however, I have been saddened by how many in the United States have allowed their fears and prejudices to interfere with that singular dedication to the right of all to pursue their lives in freedom and to both hold and voice their opinion openly and without fear. There was a time when America’s unofficial motto was “I may not agree with you or what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Now, the unofficial motto seems to be, “If you aren’t like us or what we perceive to be us, you are the enemy or an agent of the enemy.”
Where once the United States embraced the politics of liberty, it is now ruled by the politics of fear.
This had led to the American government violating its own constitution through the use of torture and the violation of jurisprudence at Guantanamo. It has resulted in oppressive security measures that have gone far beyond the safety of air travel and even resulted in an American school board imposing absurd security restrictions out of fear of the very people it represents at their public meetings. And it has led to people like Glen Beck and Michelle Bachmann to pointing the finger of suspicion at born and raised American citizens like Huma Aberdin for no other reason than because of an accident of birth.
Ms Aberdin is the daughter of an American citizen who immigrated to the United States from Iran more than forty years ago. She was born, raised and educated in the United States and is as American as Abraham Lincoln. Michelle Bachman has suggested that Ms Aberdin is a possible security threat to the United States because her father had an association with the Muslim Brotherhood when he was young and lived in Iran. It never occurs to people like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann that someone like Huma Aberdin could have been positively influenced by her life, her education and her career as an American citizen. All they see is the ghosts of the things they fear, hiding in the shadows.
I am not an apologist for extremist or terrorists from any background, including Islamic groups like Hezbolla and Al Qaeda. I fully support attempts to protect ourselves from those who would harm us, including taking the battle to where they live. That does not mean, however, that I am prepared to support an attack on citizens of our democracies simply because they look like the bad guys. If all citizens of our democracies are not entitled to the same rights and protections as I am, then my rights and freedoms are at risk too.
Originally founded as a religious social organization, the Muslim Brotherhood was pan-Arabic and had the stated objective of political reform, democracy, freedom of the press and it officially opposes violence as a means to achieving its objectives. It is banned and repressed in countries like Syria and the former Egypt regime and is condemned by Al Qaeda for its belief in democracy as the means to achieving a successful society.
Because it is a very large, loosely connected organization that spans many countries, there have been some within the Muslim Brotherhood who have resorted to violence and extremism to make their point. It is not, however, the original intent or purpose of that organization. It is also something with which many organizations, including those in democratic countries have struggled. The lunatic fringe sometimes undermines the good work and intentions of the broader organization. Timothy McVey comes to mind.
At the time Ms Aberdeen’s father immigrated to the United States, terrorism of the magnitude we see today didn’t exist. The Shah ruled Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood was accepted world-wide as a benign organization with democratic objectives and strong family values.
People like Ms Bachman look back on history through the distorted lens of what is happening today. They accuse based on a history that doesn’t exist but which they replace with the political prejudice and fears of what is happening now. It’s an old political trick and it is how the Nazis were able to overcome political opposition within their own country.
Ms Bachmann does not have a monopoly on defining what makes a good and patriotic American, no one does. In a free society, every citizen has the democratic right to bring their own ideas, heritage and understanding to what they believe constitutes being a good citizen. The only provision is that it is not a violation of the constitution or the law.
This brouhaha started by Ms Bachman specifically mentioned Ms Aberdin and had no basis in fact. It was just more innuendo and accusations based on prejudice and political opportunism.
That is not the America the founders envisioned and it is not what made America once the strongest and freest nation in the world. It is what built the Third Reich and led to the virtual destruction of much of Europe. It is the same uninformed paranoia that allowed both the Canadian and American governments to round up and imprison in concentration camps, all American and Canadian citizens of Japanese descent after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour. Some of those citizens had fought alongside fellow citizens during the war in Europe in defense of a liberty their own country would soon take from them.
It was then, as it is now, the politics of fear driven by careless and sometimes racist but always irrational and poorly informed anxiety that allow one group to trample the rights of another group of citizens. It is not prudent democracy; it is democracy at its most cowardly.
It isn’t the people who criticize people like Michelle Bachman that are like those who allowed the Nazis to come to power, it is those who allow their prejudice and their fear to suppress the rights of fellow citizens who are innocent of anything other than having a different racial heritage. Rather than defend their fellow citizens from specious and unfounded attacks and defend the principles they claim to embrace, they buy into the paranoid attacks on the innocent and that has always allowed regimes like Hitler’s to flourish.
People gave their lives so that citizens like those in the United States could be free to live their lives openly and without fear of repression from government, from other nations and from each other. When people forget that and react out of fear to trample the same rights of other citizens that they demand for themselves, they dishonor that sacrifice and undermine the very principles and values of their own constitution. They will too soon learn, as many did in Nazi Germany, that when they support those who attack the innocent, there will be no one left to defend them when it is their turn to be attacked and oppressed.
There can be no united nation when its citizens live in fear of each other. There can be no freedom or liberty when fear reigns.
© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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