Thursday, December 21, 2006

The "N" word (no, Michael Richards, not that one)

An article in Slate raises the question of references to Hitler and the Nazis in the course of political debate. The piece quotes New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's advice that politicians should "have little Post-its on their microphones reminding them not to compare anything to the Nazis."

Ah, the Nazi analogy...

Yes, the Nazi image occupies very different positions in our national psyche, from tired conversational cliché to dramatic movie image to video game villain to the tortured memories of those touched by what may be our closest incarnation of true evil. It is also certainly true that our government, even under the grotesque incompetence and criminality of the current administration, does not sink to the level of human baseness that was Adolph Hitler.

Analogies are teaching points, however, and certain similarities must be noted. Many are characteristic of all ambitious power seekers, but others [hopefully should] give us pause. Both Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush exploited national tragedy, patriotism and fear to move nations comprised largely of decent people to wage unnecessary, unlawful and horrific wars of choice. These chosen wars were both sparked by near messianic visions, one of a Third Reich and the other a “New American Century,” and both conscripted the media, the corporate community and much of organized religion to support them.

Both men craved power to conceal their failures in life. One, a failed artist, sought greatness in being "der fuehrer," while the other desired redemption from myriad failings and shortcomings by being a "war president." Late in both conflicts, the two leaders were also reduced to pathetic desperation. One ordered non-existent divisions to face the Russians and cursed those who brought him the grim news of reality, while the other said that November's Democratic election victories were “a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed” (and I’m assuming he also cursed those who brought him the grim news of reality.)

However, as the article cited above points out, those together do not represent the most telling and frightening similarities. That will remain “the banal ordinariness of the citizens who perpetrated it. The relevance of Third Reich Germany to today's America is not that Bush equals Hitler or that the United States government is a death machine. It's that it provides a rather spectacular example of the insidious process by which decent people come to regard the unthinkable as not only thinkable but doable, justifiable.”

We let it happen. Say that again, we let it happen. Sure, I, and many of you reading this opposed this monstrosity from the beginning, while others came later to see the truth.

But still, despite our best intentions, WE LET IT HAPPEN. Yes, of course, I wrote about how wrong this was, I went to meetings and I corresponded with government officials, but in reality, I did nothing. I let it happen. I went to work, I went to the beach, I ate, I drank, I laughed, and I LET IT HAPPEN. I let it happen in the midst of my "banal ordinariness."

1 comment:

schmidlap said...

I've had the same feeling from time to time. I let it happen, too.

But in our defense: what more could we have done? Protested in the streets? Taken up arms? What good could we do from jail, or dead?