Stop comparing your foes to Hitler
March 2, 2012
As America hurtles toward the November elections, can you please stop comparing people with whom you disagree to Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin? If you consider my plea irrelevant, then just close our eyes and you might hear men, women and innocent children butchered by the two regimes plead with you not to make light of those who caused their horrific deaths.
The Hitler/Stalin comparison almost always plays out the same. Someone is likened to Hitler or Stalin by a partisan or politico, it becomes a controversy, and they usually walk it back – but by then, the negative imagery link has been made.
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently got into hot water after making this comment, which he later insisted did not compare Obama to Hitler:
“Remember, the greatest generation for a year and a half sat on the sidelines while Europe was under darkness. We’re a hopeful people. We think, ‘Well, you know, it’ll get better. Yeah, he’s a nice guy. I mean, it won’t be near as bad as what we think. This will be OK. I mean, yeah, maybe he’s not the best guy after a while, after a while you find out some things about this guy over in Europe who’s not so good of a guy after all. …”
Yes, I know you’ll say this came during the Republican primaries, where heated GOP rhetoric is at melting point. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called the GOP’s atmosphere “toxic … about just being able to say, ‘I’m more angry at the Obama administration than anyone else.'” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said: “I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective.”
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But the use of Hitler/Stalin labels isn’t restricted to one party’s supporters.
Billionaire George Soros said a “supremist ideology” guided the Bush White House and: “When I hear Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans.” Moveon.org had an online video contest online that produced a commercial with the Hitler comparison. Some anti-Bush websites and celebrities used the comparison. Google has many images of Bush Photoshopped as Hitler. A whole website is devoted to the references.
Obama has been compared to Hitler by Tom Sullivan, Rush Limbaugh, Hank Williams Jr. and others. A gun company ad on gun control compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin. Sen. Lindsay Graham said the Consumer Protection Agency is “something out of the Stalinist era.” Republican no-taxes activist Grover Norquist compared Obama to Stalin. And, again, Google has many images portraying Obama as Hitler.
Question: Has any American president ever arrested families, sent them to camps, killed women and children upon arrival then worked the men to death or gassed them? Has any American president murdered 3 million Jews in Poland alone? Has any American president seized lands and stuck the former owners in camps where they would starve or freeze to death at minus 40 degrees, or executed millions of perceived opponents by assembly-line shots in the head?
Several times before his 1973 death, my grandfather Abraham Ravinsky would open his family photo album and show me pictures of men, women and children who had been our relatives in Russia who were among the many exterminated by Hitler. He’d point: “Killed by Hitler … killed by Hitler … killed by Hitler” He’d look at me, then go on, telling me a murdered relative’s name. I still think of those doomed little kids.
So can we leave those two monsters of history in a special class, and not use phony comparisons to minimize what they did? Can we let the dead lie, and leave the truly monstrous to stand out as special examples of the truly monstrous?
• Joe Gandelman is editor-in-chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.