Please Stop Calling Everyone You Disagree With a Nazi
A few weeks ago, Glenn Beck compared churches that advocate for social justice with Nazism. The Tea Party protesters tend to carry around signs accusing Obama of being a Nazi (Goebbels, Mengele or Hitler). During the administration of George W. Bush, plenty of lefties compared him to Hitler. Nothing makes me more upset than the abuse of the word "Nazi." It is never OK to casually throw around the term "Nazi" or compare people to Hitler and his ilk.
Let's be very clear: There are people and governments whose actions are so evil that they merit the Nazi label. Any government or group of people that advocates for the eradication of another group of people based on race, religious beliefs, ethnic culture and/or sexual orientation could fairly be compared to Nazis. But that's a pretty high bar. I hated George W. Bush and his cronies, whose actions certainly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as well as the revocation of basic human rights of millions more, but I would never compare him to Hitler. As far as I can tell, he did not have a plan to round up those who were different from him and systemically eliminate them.
The casual usage of the word "Nazi" is harmful. When everyone and anyone we disagree with is dismissed as a Nazi, we consistently change the meaning of what the Nazis stood for. Yes, they were totalitarians and oppressors. (And no, they were not socialists, even if the word "Socialist" was part of their party name, another gross misuse of a word that infuriates me. Nothing Nazis did even remotely meet the technical definition of socialism.) But again, they went above and beyond to hunt down and kill people in the most efficient way possible. To call someone a Nazi is to compare them to people who supported and perpetrated the worst acts of evil against humankind. Assuming that most people probably are not involved in such horrific activity, it then makes the acts of the Nazis meaningless.
To accuse someone you disagree with of being a Nazi insults the people who died at the hands of Nazi and other brutal regimes of mass murder. It means that we do not respect what happened to these people. It means that we do not care to understand why or how these things happen.
I don't know if it is true that the national discourse has really declined in quality over the last ten or twenty years, but I do know that I am disturbed by how little people seem to care about the intent and meaning behind the words and phrases they hurl at people. Do we really not have enough of a collective moral compass any more to realize the differences between genocide, invading a country, and health care reform? I fear that we might not, or worse, that people just don't care.
I care. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors. No one should have to experience the horrors, grief, and suffering that they and millions of other people did. When I say "Never again," I do not just say it for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust with millions of other people who were murdered because of their ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. (Or political beliefs.) I say it because we should do everything in our power to make sure that people are treated with dignity and respect, even if we disagree with them. "Never again" means ensuring that we never lose sight of what the Nazis stood for, that we treat it with the level of moral outrage that it merits, and that we stop people from demeaning the enormity of genocide. I'm not letting another Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day -- which ended on April 12 at sundown) go by without saying why this means so much to me.
These Women Wrote About the Carnage Wrought By Nazis of Various Kinds:
- For Miep, Every Day is Holocaust Remembrance Day
- Srebrenica Apologies: "Sorry" Doesn't Cut It
- For Those of You Who Don't Know (scroll down to the middle of the post for insight on Darfur and Rwanda)