Vandalizing History: Are American Politicians Guilty of Memory Theft?
Sarah, for a politician ordained to preach under the dual tablets of “morality” and “values”, where is your tongue? Accusing the media of blood libel is tantamount to confessing your ignorance of history. The appalling myth that Jews sacrifice Christian babies for matzo has been exploited by Crusaders, Communists and Nazis. Perhaps you don’t understand you are a role model. Your careless use of language is not novel.
Fortunately for Mrs. Palin, Rep. Steve Cohen, (D-Tennessee) came to her aid and intentionally and stubbornly stuck to a public nasty gram he posted on the floor of the House: “They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing.
“No it is not! And, Rep. Cohen’s premeditated verbal bomb warrants censure.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels was the Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment. Goebbels wrote in his journal in the last days of the war, “The Jews must be slaughtered while we can still do it.” He poisoned himself, his wife and children in Hitler’s bunker.
Mrs. Palin and Mr. Cohen are not the first conservative or liberal political celebrities to play games with language and history. In fact, the airwaves, audio-bahn and print media have been willing accomplices to what has been an all to common assault on memory and trivialization of the Holocaust.
Rush Limbaugh has compared President Obama to Hitler and likened the Democratic party to Nazis. Glen Beck spent several days debunking a myth he helped massage regarding FEMA’s operation of a concentration camp system. Ben Stein compared an Obama’s speech to rally by the Fuhrer. A former Pennsylvania Supreme Court jurist sent out a blast email claiming a vote for Obama would invite a Second Holocaust.
And for those of you of the loyal minority, make sure the stones you cast don’t ensnare you in your strategic silence. Dick Durban likened Gitmo Bay to camps under Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot, Jimmy Carter wrote a book comparing Israel to an Apartheid state, and Rev. Jessie Jackson referred to New York City as Hymietown and complained that he was “sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust.”
Liberals take a moment to rebuke stray comments coming from you own flock before you mount a decency weather vane atop the White House. When you find your voice, please refrain from associating law enforcement officers with Nazis, stop referring to legal searches as Gestapo tactics, and don’t refer to Jewish soldiers as Nazis.
Remember when William Buckley penned a 40,000 word essay in 1991 condemning Pat Buchanan’s anti-Semitic rants? It was not long ago, May 20, 2004. that John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) swiftly denounced Fritz Hollings for charging Bush went to war at the behest of “the leaders of the Jewish Community.” Mr. Kerry called-out Mr. Hollings the next day for giving credibility to “anti-Semitic stereotypes that have no place in America anywhere else.”
Where are the elected patriots when their colleagues and allies dance on the tombstones of memory and transform the sacred into the profane?
The media has fallen down and not called out the cult of demagoguery or held adults responsible for their words. Assuming the media recognizes the violations and trespasses (or even cares), is the Fourth Estate – who’s bread and butter used to be words and factual accuracy – too busy saluting Prince Harry, burying and reburying Michael Jackson, and obsessing on whether to report on the abuses of memory and gross linguistic distortions?
Gathering Storm: Left Hook; Right Jab
Former Robert Senator Byrd (D-West Virginia), parliamentarian and Senate historian, had a colorful past. He was affiliated with a rather unseemly civic organization that used to be referred to as the Ku Klux Klan. While this may fall into the “youthful indiscretion” bin of racial intolerance, Senator Byrd also adroitly used the filibuster to “manipulate law making” and oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
On February 28, 2005, Mr. Byrd likened a Republican filibuster to Nazi Germany. ”We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men. But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends.
“The number three Republican in the Senate at the time was Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-Pennsylvania) who called on Mr. Byrd to retract his statements.
Not able to hold his tongue or mind his manners, on May 19, 2005 Mr. Santorum matched Mr. Byrd’s comments on the outrageous and insensitive rhetoric meter: “It’s [the filibuster] the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, ‘I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It’s mine.”
History may an inconvenient detail for the former Senators. A filibuster is not the equivalent of Nazi occupation, and Republicans are not the Third Reich. If either ridiculous assertion had a modicum of truth, you would not be reading these comments in a free and open marketplace of ideas.
The reality is that Germany defeated France quickly, and an armistice was signed on June 21, 1940. In “unoccupied” Paris, 9,000 French police rounded up 13,000 Jews (4,000 children), and took them the Velodrome d’Hiver from July, 16-17, 1942, stadium. There was no food, water or sanitary facilities. The children were deported to Auschwitz.
Neither party debated their fate in the hallowed halls of the Senate. Where was the filibuster to slow the death trains?
Death, Taxes and the Holocaust
Hopefully, Senators Byrd and Santorum understood that we do not need the Nazis or the Klan to cut taxes. Unfortunately, Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, confidant of Karl Rove, and frequent White House guest during the Bush genre, gave a new meaning to death and taxes.
Perhaps Norquist forgot that the term “Nazi”, i.e., NSDAP is an acronym for the NSDAP or National Socialist German Workers Party. These German tax cutters instituted a rather draconian estate tax known as “Aryanization” which nationalized Jewish property.
Apparently, Norquist didn’t get the memo and compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. Yeah, you heard right, if you heard it all. The comments were aired on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” show with Terry Gross in October, 2003. Of course, nobody in their “right” mind listens to this propaganda. However, Grover’s comments were reported two months later in Harper’s Magazine and again in a column on by Richard Cohen on Tuesday, January 6, 2004.
Norquist: “I mean, that’s the morality of the Holocaust. ‘Well, it’s only a small percentage [2% of Americans,’ you know. I mean, it’s not you. It’s somebody else.”
Gross: “Excuse me…Excuse me one second. Did you just . . . compare the estate tax with the Holocaust?”
Norquist: “No, the morality that says it’s okay to do something to a group because they’re a small percentage of the population is the morality that says the Holocaust is okay because they didn’t target everybody, just a small percentage.”
To be fair to Norquist, he also compared the estate tax to Apartheid and East German communism. Norquist is an equal-opportunity offender.
Pat and PETA
Remember Pat Buchanan? He used to be extreme but now he’s extremely rich. In a March 17, 1990 column, Buchanan wrote that it was impossible for 850,000 Jews to be killed by diesel exhaust fed into the gas chamber at Treblinka. “Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody.”
In the same New York Post article, Buchanan referred to a “so called Holocaust survivors syndrome” which he described as involving “group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.” According to Jacob Weisberg October 22, 1990, The New Republic, “Buchanan stands by his bizarre claim about the diesel engines.”
Actually 870,000 Jews were murdered at Treblinka from July 22, 1942 and August, 1943. The killing began as the children from Paris were arriving in Auschwitz.
While Pat Buchanan may have a problem believing in the physics of mass murder technology, he seems to have made common cause with some political activists on the Left who view Holocaust terminology as a convenient prop.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”) associate animal experimentation, food “mutation” and exposure to environmental contaminants as non consensual medical experiments in violation of the Nuremberg Code. (Human Rights Declaration dealing with human medical experimentation )
Hmm, Pat Buchanan also compared Terri Schiavo husband to Nazi doctors.
PETA deployed a media campaign that depicted the meat processing industry as another Holocaust and refereed to these facilities as “Treblinkas.” PETA’s logic is eerily similar to propaganda principals utilized by the Nazis to dehumanize their victims as legalized and sanctioned by the Nazi in the Nuremberg Laws.
The Nuremberg Laws was restrictive anti-Jewish legislation passed on September 15, 1935 defining who was a Jew. The US State Department weakly protested the event. The laws were extended to Nazi-occupied countries and the definition often was a matter of life, and death to individuals. The Nazis “passed” 400 anti-Jewish laws between 1933 to 1939.
Equating humans to swine allowed for the industrialized mass murder of Jews. It is also a tactic commonly deployed in Arab propaganda.
Being an animal lover does not automatically endow one with compassion and altruism. Remember, Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian and a member of the German Humane Society.
The “New” Nuremberg Laws
Although the Nazis implemented abortions for “undesirable” reproductive segments of German society, this practice was forbidden for Aryans. In Nazi Germany, abortion was illegal for racially fit Aryans. Yet, segments of the American “pro-Life” campaign refer to abortion as a “hidden” or “invisible Holocaust”and equate abortion clinics with “Nazi concentration camps.”
Most of the disparate groups, organizations and causes which exploit these, terms for political expediency remained silent during the Nazis attempted destruction of Jews. Additionally, many of these entities supported immigration quotas before, during, and after World War II.
Some opponents of abortion have referred to Roe v. Wade as an “invisible Holocaust, and went so far as to create the “Nuremberg Files” on the Internet which listed the names of abortion providers. Although most people are familiar with the Nuremberg Trials, the term “Nuremberg” has numerous anti-Semitic connotations for Jews. To equate an abortion clinic to a “concentration camp” is a gross distortion of history.
The Holocaust is not the only term that has been abused, misused and expropriated by partisan interests. The relativization of the Holocaust and the minimization of Nazism is akin to murdering the memory of the victims and denying the value of military sacrifice.
Distorted language and misplaced history are not the sole domain of any one party, platform or person. The inability to engage in a vigorous and rational political debate can be traced to the misappropriation of language, civic illiteracy and infotainment.
As a nation, we are the losing the most important battle regarding memory and language. It is past time to call out and condemn those that manipulate, distort and abuse history and language for partisan gain.
If Americans truly value memory, then in its incumbent upon political and religious leaders to mind their provinces and quotations, and challenge the nation to nurture, rather than manipulate, memory.
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