Are we traveling down the same road the Germans took in the early 1930’s? I can’t say – but some of the landmarks sure look familiar.
People get upset when I raise that issue, but for different reasons.
- One extreme: “That’s ridiculous! Bush isn’t trying to kill people; he’s trying to save America! He’s a true Christian-American hero! Your remarks are outrageous, if not worse!”
- Other extreme: “Yes! I see the similarities, and they are outrageous and terrifying!”
- Middle: “Please don’t talk like that. Bush may be incompetent or even a crook, but he isn’t a mass murderer. You hurt our case against him when you overstate it so grotesquely. Please show some sense and restraint.”
Well, I didn’t say Bush is trying to kill millions of people. I said (and say) that there are frightening and outrageous similarities between Germany in the 1920’s and â€˜30’s and the US today. Nazis in the 1920’s and 1930’s were not killing Jews or Gypsies or anyone in large numbers. But there were other very dangerous things going on that are similar to things going on here. If that means we’re on the same road, or a similar one, then I want us to get off. Here are some areas of similarity.
I. The belligerence and aggressions of this US administration, its transparent deceptions in support of such activities, and its contempt for all other nations and for international promises and commitments we have made, is frightening and outrageous and it is indeed comparable to Nazism in the 1930’s.
II. The strong and sustained attack on our proud American rights before the law, on our freedom as American citizens from snooping and harassment by our own government, on our freedom from government police and arbitrary arrest, is a very Nazi way of approaching the world. The heavy Administration domination of popular media outlets and their effective use of many churches and religious groups fit right in. Those who have the power (tied to money, of course) make the rules and present the news, and they push to the hilt every advantage they get.
III. BUT THE HATE-TALK IS THE THING THAT REALLY GETS ME. Destroying the Constitution and international law should get them all that they want. Why is all the hate-talk necessary?
Because hatred is an extremely powerful motivator. Hatred is a profound depressant of free and healthy mental activity. Hatred is a major ego-trip. And hatred sets the stage for purges.
The hate-talk is aimed against “liberals” in particular, though they have plenty to go around to lots of groups. But “liberals,” or people with liberal ideas, is a big bunch of Americans! It includes
- people who want more money spent on schools,
- people who think those who benefit most from our economy owe quite a bit in return
- people who want credible reasons before invading small foreign countries
- people who don’t want others (or themselves) locked away for years without charges, counsel, or accountability
- people who believe health insurance should be very broadly available
- people who want free access to Presidential appearances, speeches, and news conferences
- people who think torture is not a virtue, nor even a good idea
- people who think the government should be supervising boardrooms at least as much as bedrooms
- people who think gay male prostitutes should not have extensive, unscreened access to the White House,
- people who voted for a true war hero and highly honored US Senator to be US President
In fact many, many of us are “liberal” and thus their “enemies” – and they do indeed use that phrase “the enemy” about us! They motivate their supporters by using hate-words like that about their fellow-Americans, fellow-voters, fellow-tax-payers, fellow soldiers, fellow-worshipers.
And THAT IS how the Nazis behaved in the 1930’s. The cattle trains full of German citizens were not rolling. The ovens burning bodies of Germans citizens murdered by their own government were not yet fired up. But the hate-talk and the re-structuring of power systems in German society and government were in full swing â€“ just as they are in America today.
Of course it’s “insane” to write, in an American context, about cattle cars full of people on the way to extermination. But it was also pretty unbelievable to talk of such things in Germany in 1935. But by 1945 it had happened to multiplied millions. It’s the road you travel that takes you to the destination you arrive at – even if you’re not there yet, and even if you didn’t think that’s where you were headed.
HOW DID THEY DO IT? Claudia Koonz [The Nazi Conscience, Harvard, 2003] writes, “Germans, before 1933, were among the least anti-Semitic people.” Wow!
Question: How did that “least anti-Semitic people” turn, in fewer than 10 years, into mass exterminators of their fellow citizens?
Answer: the Nazis just kept working at deliberately altering that “least anti-Semitic” German cultural conscience into “the Nazi Conscience.” Just stay on the road and keep driving, and great “progress” can be made in a few years.
The Nazi conscience in the 1940’s still did the same kind of WORK; it told Germans what they should or should not do, should or should not support. But it’s CONTENT had been replaced. So, Koonz tells us, in 1940 a Hitler Youth member named Alfons Heck could watch the Gestapo take away his best friend Heinz, and all the Jews in his village, and think
- not “How terrible that they are arresting Jews,”
- but “What a misfortune that Heinz is Jewish.”
- corrupted Nazi racial “science”, in concert with
- the relentless cultural and political aggression of the Nazis in control of the government
literally transformed good German consciences.
Not all of them, of course, but many. And those many came to see Jews (and other groups) as intrinsically evil and a great menace to German civilization. That is hate with boots on, hate getting “practical”. The visceral hatred behind Nazi planning and operations produced a (falsely) “educated” hatred in multitudes of Germans. The engine driving the discipline and organization and deadly heroism of Nazi Germany was hate.
And that is how our own home-grown radical right talks and acts today. I don’t know if their hatred is honest or feigned – after a certain point it no longer matters. In their churches, on Fox, through Limbaugh’s mouth, in the halls of Congress, in many many places, they lie about fellow Americans and talk hate. They are re-training the American conscience.
They legislate manipulation and oppression, and they violate laws, treaties, and conventional standards of decency whenever they think they have anything to gain thereby. These patterns ARE VERY MUCH COMPARABLE to the German â€˜30’s, – and that’s not a good road to be on. Those religious leaders, Fox “news”, Limbaugh, etc. etc. etc. will have much to answer for when they stand before their Maker-And-Judge. But it would be far better for everyone if we could get them to start answering for it much sooner than that.
Koonz further says, “This transformation did not just happen. The expulsion of Jews from Germans’ universe of moral obligation was carefully engineered.“
How many people on this planet – how many fellow Americans – how many of US – are being deliberately expelled from the moral universe of this present American regime and its radical rightist supporters?
Jesus would have a LOT of trouble with all of this. Do you remember how he answered the question, “And who then is my neighbor?” He answered that the neighbor they must love (“as yourself”) was the foreigner with the corrupted language, the outsider from the dangerous culture, the practitioner of a repulsive religion. It was the one kind of person all of Jesus’ â€˜holy’ listeners despised as beneath them in every way. THAT’s who Jesus picked as the star in his little drama about “Who is my neighbor?” (“The Good Samaritan,” in Luke 10)
That goes the opposite direction from the hate-talk ways we are being led in by this regime.
Here’s a list of some of my prior transgressions in this Hitler-comparison matter – with titles like,
“US Churches, Senators, and a Priest Under the Nazis”
“Hitler’s Respect for ‘My Lord and Savior Jesus'”
“Hitler Did Promote Christian Morality and Family Values”
and a couple on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
* This is a republication of a post from June, 2005. It bears repeating!