Nazism, Fascism

Sorry, But Some Hitler References are Legitimate and Needed

What’s wrong with mentioning Hitler or the Nazis? At best we use the word “fascist”, which is like swearing with the word “darn.” The fascists were 2nd stringers. The Nazis were the epitome. Why are we afraid to see how they operated?

Evil is still evil and humans are still humans. We do have some things to learn from how “we” (humans) have behaved in the past. Hitler appropriately represents to our minds a massive and almost-contemporary evil in a civilized, European, and “Christian” nation. Thus he is very likely a valuable point of reference as we watch the unfolding of certain evils in our own society.

The question is not whether “we” will do exactly the same things. It’s not possible to repeat exactly the same things. The question is not whether the power-lust, or even the hate, define themselves in the same ways. That also is not possible. And the question is not the size of the victim-lists, as in “Look how many he murdered. We have a LONG way to go before we can be compared to that.” That is not a moral argument. If only size matters in this universe then the human race is nada.

But humanity and morality are greater things. Hitler and his methods were evil even if he’d been assassinated in ’39 or ’40 before the “final solution” really got rolling, or in ’31 or ’32 before he came to power and began implementing other specific aspects of his program. Still we need if possible to discern the evil character? What are those evil patterns? Are they being repeated in general outline, or even in specifics, today?

It looks to me like we’re having an emotional reaction, a problem with what Hannah Arendt called the “banality” of the evil she saw in the Nazis who implemented Hitler’s policies. She use the word “banal” because the evil was NOT extra-terrestrial. It was not sub- or extra-human. It was us. It was humans living in our time on our planet, raised in similar cultures, with spouses and children, going through life one day at a time. We must not imagine that good ‘Christian’ Americans could never go to similar lows. Both Christian theology and the ideals of American constitutionalism should keep us more realistic than that.

The American founders 220 years ago knew the terrible potentials. They knew the oppressions their relatives in England were visiting on India and elsewhere. They knew the evils that could arise within themselves. So they made us a Constitution. It isn’t perfect. But if it is despised and rejected by those in power, then the doors really are open to anything, even here, even by us.

This American government has access to the greatest powers for war-making and oppression the world has ever seen. They could, if they chose to, surpass Hitler with very little effort. We already know our current leaders are willing to use those powers. So far that use has not been just and good.

Of course there is hope. Perhaps they are so monumentally incompetent that they can’t do even apocalypse well (but that also is a sobering thought). Perhaps – and I do think this will happen – perhaps there will soon enough be too many of us seeing too much and pushed beyond what we will endure. But we are not playing checkers here. It’s really not just business as usual.

As I said in yesterday’s article, “It is not pleasant to study the face of evil, but it seems good [to review] its common habits, intentions, and techniques. I’ve been browsing again in the speeches of Adolf Hitler. There are several patterns of manipulation and verbal violence that quickly stand out to me.” In that article and an earlier one I gave some small indications of how Hitler talked and proceeded, suggesting that some similar patterns are at work around us today. That certainly is the case.

Obviously history does not repeat itself with the same personalities, or the same paths of development or sequences of events. But values, patterns, personal moral character, techniques of manipulation – there’s a lot of repetition there, and we would be safer for recognizing some of those repetitions, no matter how emotionally distasteful it is.

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7 Comments

  • As to the current arms build-up, we are living at the end of the first century where we can finally see a practical function for that fearsome lake of fire – it would serve as a place to put all the abominations invented by mankind in the name of warfare, and there are so many. What else might be done with them (and I do believe that the Lord will reign here – “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”). He is coming back to one very hideously polluted planet. My concern: help build the lake of fire, and it’s yours… I keep praying for the church in the US because through things like this we are disobeying God and not doing what we were created to do: “Then God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” Now we have become corrupt to the point where the Revelation 11:18 says: …and the time came for the dead to be judged…and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” The Greek word used here is not “cosmos,” the world system, but rather the one meaning arable land (same as the Lord’s prayer). For this reason I feel it is consummate sin, to buy into this warfare. Let us continue to pray for the church in the US.

  • Good point, William. And it’s things like the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General that have me worried that we’ve already begun the slippery slope. We’ve passed the line — it is now OK in America to torture people. That scares the crap out of me.

    It starts because of public complacency, and Americans are among the most complacent in the world. We live in a society that is excusing torture, but pays more attention to a small group of liars who dare question the patriotism of a major presidential candidate, one who acted in no way but heroic.

  • My wife was watching some TV show about this kind of social injustice the other day. Afterwards, she commented on how glad she was that it could never happen here. I shocked her when I told her that I had seriously considered the possibility that someday soon, I might end up in a concentration camp because of my beliefs, and my opposition to the current regime.

    The next day, I found an article that stated that Daniel Pipes, who President Bush appointed to the United States Institute of Peace, had recommended concentration camps as a good option for dealing with the Muslims in our country, similar to the way we treated Japanese immigrants during WWII. When I showed it to my wife, I think she finally understood why I had said that.

    Germany did not wake up one day and decide to elect pure evil, and become a nation of murderers. They were gradually mis-led into it, sure that the wars they were fighting were being fought for good patriotic reasons. They were a good people who, if someone had suggested things like genocide and concentration camps were a possibility, would have said, “It could never happen here”. Then it did.

    Keep looking for those “patterns of evil”. We all need to keep watch, so it can’t happen here.

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