Though you’ll find stout defenders of freedom of speech at our house, there’s a word appearing more often these days in our politics – nationally and locally – we’d actively work to abolish from any public political expressions in this country. It’s a despicable word. It’s a word with no place in thoughtful political dialogue. In nearly all cases, it’s a clear demonstration of the ignorance of those that use it. It has no place in any intelligent discussion of America’s politics.
The word is “Hitler.”
Used as a name, the word’s moat terrible meaning has been around our national culture since the 1920′s. Used as a political brickbat – a demeaning, disgusting weapon – the word was roundly resurrected in the early days of the tea party. It showed up in much of the literature – was repeatedly flung to crowds from microphones – and was on many, many placards, banners and signs announcing the arrival in the streets of the loony, far-right fringe of the Republican Party.
The other day, Sen. Grassley – an Iowan whose recent public rants have become more weird than usual – reached into the verbal dung pile to attach the word “Hitler” to American foreign policy. Grassley said this country “has no foreign policy” and the last time that happened was in “Sept. 1939, when Hitler started WWII in Poland.” There is so much wrong with that bogus claim Iowans of all political stripe should be embarrassed.
Here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, the word popped up recently
in a local column about an 84-year-old woman who sells guns out of the back room of her home. Lots of ‘em. She was referring to the latest nutty far right conspiracy tale that the Dept. Of Homeland Security is buying up all the ammunition as a means of gun control.
“We saw the same thing during Hitler’s regime and I’m old enough to remember it” was the quote. Pure crap. But she made it into the local almost-daily, almost-newspaper with it.
I’ve used this space before to dispel the oft-told lie about Hitler taking guns from Germans in the 1930′s. He made it tougher for Jews to have guns and required them to be registered, yes. But Hitler actually loosened gun laws and encouraged all “pure Germans” to arm themselves – a complete contravention of the Treaty of Versailles which required disarming of the German Republic following WWI.
But the lie persists. I ran across a Georgia gun dealer’s site on the old I-net the other day. Prominent picture of Adolph giving the salute behind and to the right of a picture of President Obama with a Hitler moustache and the warning “This one’s after your guns, too.”
Our nation is awash in controversy. Too much of it real. A great deal of it not. The unlimited access of anonymous nut cases to publish their crackpot lies on the unedited Internet with the same freedom as the New York Times or the Washington Post is feeding the nation a mixed bag of information and B.S.. It would be comforting if all of us would take the time to know the difference – learn from the one and ignore the other.
But fact is, we’ve become a nation of readership – and listenership – of too many folks who read or listen to only what supports what they already believe. Hundreds of surveys and national polls have shown we have less tolerance for what’s different from what we believe and that we seek out media and other people who share our preconceived views. Factual or not.
Now that might be fine for the church you belong to. Or the community you live in. Or your circle of friends. Whatever makes you socially or religiously comfortable. But, just as we need a balanced diet of food for good health, we all need a balanced diet of information for good mental health and good decision making. However, such well-rounded choices are becoming more rare, we’re told. And that’s not good.
For those who like to ignorantly throw the word “Hitler” around, there’s one Nazi quote that’s very accurate – even today. Information Minister Goebbels’ words are as true now as when he was cranking out all that Nazi propaganda.
“Tell a lie big enough, often enough and it will become truth.”
Those that fling the word “Hitler” around in our politics are doing something like that. Trying to make a bad lie legitimate. It’s up to the rest of us to see they don’t.