I love the commenters here on Public Catholic. You are an intelligent and thoughtful group of people. It touches, educates and amazes me to read the things you say and the honesty with which you say them.
However, every so often you get into a hairball of an argument and all I can see from the outside is a giant wroth of confusion with waving arms and a few feet sticking out.
The question in the title of this post is the result of one such hairball/wroth in the making.
It is an internet adage that if a combox conversation goes on long enough, somebody is going to call somebody else Hitler. I don’t think that people are referring to the failed Austrian painter, Iron Cross wearing, vegetarian occultist who caused the worst war in human history and masterminded the extermination much of Europe’s population of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Catholic clergy, liberals, mentally ill, mentally challenged, disabled and various what not (deep breath) when they say this.
I’m not sure that Hitler, whose resume reads like half new-ager and half serial killer with one of the most advanced societies in history at his disposal, rises (or falls, as it may be) to the level that we give him.
First all, Hitler wasn’t and isn’t an evil god. He wasn’t and isn’t a demon from hell. Hitler was evil. But he was not Evil. Hitler was a man. He was killed by a bullet to the brain.
Hitler, by himself, could never have been more than a lone serial killer, knocking off individual people in the alleys and by-ways. Hitler, alone, was just another John Wayne Gacy wannabe.
What made him different was the confluence of the rise of nihilist philosophies and movements such as eugenics, a first World War that no one anywhere can explain, the fall of Russia into Communist hands, an unjust and vindictive peace that heaped all the blame and crippling punishment on Germany, and a worldwide economic depression that sucked the hope out of ordinary people all over the globe.
This welter of confusion and rage left people ready to listen to anybody who could give voice to their emotions and who sounded like he knew what he was doing. Germany had fallen into the hands of an ineffective government after World War I. The people were suffering on many levels. It was an easy and obvious march for a vegetarian, occult-following serial killer with a gift for driving oratory and a willingness to lie to take charge.
Hitler didn’t begin by telling the German people that he was going to kill everybody except the ones he deemed worthy of life. He certainly didn’t tell them that he was going to start a world war on three fronts. He told them that he was for peace and prosperity. He made up obfuscations and propaganda about how doing away with those who were, in his movement’s words, “useless eaters,” “life unworthy of life” was a kindness; a means of putting them and society both at the same time out of their respective miseries.
Hitler lied to the German people about his intentions and appealed to their baser instincts about other human beings, and, for their part, the German people colluded with him in committing crimes that were, before then, beyond imagining. By his lies and obfuscations, he was able to conjure a political spell that beguiled an advanced and Christian nation into following him down to the mouth of hell.
He lied to a lot of people and got them to give him a lot of power. Then, when he got the power, he repudiated the hated peace agreement and put Germany on a war-time economy, which in turn brought jobs and prosperity. He also used his power to consign those who opposed him to camps. Prosperity and the snuffed out silence of fear bought him the power to do his worst.
Most people in our modern America are too uneducated about history to know how Hitler really functioned or who he really was. All we know is what we see on tv, and what we see on tv is, at best, edited for ratings and, at worst, edited for propaganda purposes. Still, there remains the conviction that Hitler is the last great evil-doer that we can safely conclude in this relativistic and intellectually stifled world we inhabit was in fact an evil-doer and not just the misunderstood product of a bad upbringing.
Hitler, because he is dead, and because he has become for us a safe repository for our cultural moral indignations, is the bogey man we drag out when we want to chide one another for our excesses. The “Nazis,” which is a sort of group code-name for Hitlerian cruelties and excesses, is has become a working synonym for Hitler himself.
Regarded this way, calling someone Hitler, or likening a group of people to the Nazis in an internet combox is the verbal equivalent of kids yelling “Oh yeah? Sez you!” at one another on the playground. It’s right up there with the slurs about their mothers that opposing teams in football games hurl at one another before the play starts.
Just for the record, let me state categorically that gay rights activists are not Nazis.
By the same token, people who believe in the sanctity of marriage are not “haters” or “homophobes.”
I will also add in defense of a combox slur that was directed at me, that opposing the farming of women’s bodies for eggs and also opposing the use of women as for-hire pregnancy surrogates does not mean that a person “hates gays.”
There is, to be sure, an ugly totalitarian thread running through the new next step that comes after redefinition of marriage wherever that event has occurred. It is the trammeling of the rights of conscience and religious freedom of churches, individuals and small businesses by using government force to coerce them into complying with a whole host of activities that violate their deeply held beliefs. This totalitarianism is supported by a bogus application of the principles of the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. That is, in turn, supported by an equally bogus equating of sexual preference with race and the discriminations homosexuals have faced with the slavery and Jim Crow sufferings of black people.
We can talk about these things. We have talked about them over and over again on this blog.
But we can talk about them without calling each other Nazis, Hitler, haters, homophobes or any of the other verbal claptrap that blocks out reason and bastardizes our mental capacities. We can do it because we are — all of us — better than that.
There is not one person who comes to comment on this blog who lacks the capacity for rational thought and intelligent argument. They just need to learn to employ those capacities.
Feel free to discuss things on this blog. But use your higher thinking capacities when you do it. That way, you’ll walk away from the experience a bit better for it and will not degrade either yourself, your beliefs, or the many readers who come here.