Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Getting Hitler Right
We really shouldn't have to go over this, but when even intelligent people with PhD's and MDivs are suddenly nervous that we have yet another Hitler on the rise, I feel some obligation. These are my people and they are going mad, similarly dangerous to those they so righteously oppose. Somehow, they've gotten themselves convinced that this is about about COURAGE! And REFUSING TO BE SILENT IN THE FACE OF EVIL! or whatever. It's not. It's about VIRTUE SIGNALLING! And yeah, I'm looking at you conservatives too.
The Nazis drew heavily from the artists, journalists, philosophers, and university students of the day. Those who the Nazis originally opposed, the communists and some versions of socialists, also drew from those groups. Absorbing this one fact should set the bicoastal elites on their heels just enough to wonder "Hey, maybe it's not all those ignorant people in flyover country who never went on Junior Year Abroad who are the potential pool of tyrant-supporters. Maybe we aren't the auxiliary possibilities of oppression, but the most likely suspects." Why should the 21st C be different from the 20th C in that respect, after all?
Germany had recently lost a war in devastating fashion and was in economic shambles. Even then, only a revolution-savvy minority, similar to the Bolsheviks co-opting the Russian revolution, were deeply in favor of Hitler. They used thugs, but they were not the thugs.
Hitler was opposed to Jews, a group that had been in the area for centuries, had an extremely low crime rate, had not killed thousands of Germans in the past few decades for overtly religious reasons, had contributed heavily to the arts, sciences, and prosperity of the country, and had largely assimilated. Deciding to send them to work camps and then, aw hell, let's just kill them, is not equivalent to wanting to deport people who are here illegally, or have a high crime rate, or semi-shelter coreligionists who want to kill us, or use an extraordinary amount of government services. If you want to claim that is only a matter of degree, and where do you draw the line, fine. I grant that. That is an entirely reasonable point to bring up when discussing "Well, what should we do about these illegal Oaxacans, Chinese, Guatemalans, or these Syrian/Lebanese/Yemeni/Somali/Palestinian guys who seem so angry at us?" But it's not a reasonable point when discussing whether American Politician X is Hitler. There are orders of magnitude difference. German Jews were generally harmless.
Hitler's racism was rather thoroughgoing. It was not some version of not being in favor of affirmative action, or thinking one's own group was a bit special, or not being sensitive to the experiences of the downtrodden. It was about expelling citizens or killing them. The argument that Hitler started small once, so everyone else who we don't like should be crushed because they could grow up to be big someday eventually means that every molehill irritant is Hitler. Conservatives work up a lot of outrage that racism keeps getting defined down to mean whatever liberals want it to. I've ridden that train myself. But while the counteraccusation of reverse racism may be just in that context, it's just not in Nazi territory. Take a breath.
Nazis were patriotic or nationalist in a quite difference sense than Americans are. They saw Teutons/Aryans as a narrow group, some of whom lived across borders in the Sudetenland or in Transylvania. Americans are nationalist around ideas, not tribes. That some Americans are patriotic when they should consider that there are even higher loyalties than nation, fine. Be loyal to the Church Universal, or to humanity in general, or "all decent people" or whatever. But do not equate the very expansive patriotism of Americans, which includes several races, many nations, a few major religions and a lot of smaller ones, with the tribalism of National Socialism. American nationalism and patriotism is largely what defeated the Germans and the Japanese in WWII, after all. So it must have a little something going for it. It just isn't the same nationalism, and it's not close.
Feel free to add (or, I suppose, subtract!) as you wish.
Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at 9:23 PM