Sunday, 19 April 2015

Hitler and Hillary: Sorting Out What's Evil (And What's Not...)

I’d like to begin with a brief reading list:

The War Against the Jews, by Lucy Dawidowicz;

Night, by Elie Wiesel;

A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism, by Phyllis Goldstein and Harold Evans;

The German Army and Genocide: Crimes Against War Prisoners, Jews, and Other Civilians in the East, 1939-1944
, by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research;

Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust, by Richard Rhodes.

I've read them all, and highly recommend them to give a thorough knowledge of the Holocaust in policy and practice.

One more thing: until you have read them, do not compare Hillary Clinton to Hitler, because you will expose yourself as a spectacular idiot.

I bring this up because of this photo montage that’s been making its way around social media since Hilary Clinton announced her candidacy for the US presidency:

Obviously, the intention is to draw comparisons between Hitler and Hillary in terms of a supposedly shared philosophy. If nothing else, the picture in some ways shows the loathing that many have for Hillary, and the level of danger that many feel she poses for the US if she were to win.

Of course, I’m not supporting Hillary’s candidacy for the simple reason that I’m an anarchist and am therefore not supporting anyone’s candidacy. But regardless of that, I find the photo appalling.

It shows, first of all, a fundamental ignorance of history- the history of Hitler, the Nazi regime, and its official policy known as Die Endlösung der Judenfrage (‘The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’), which led to the Holocaust, the prolonged, systematic genocide of the Jewish people and other untermenschen (‘inferior people’).

Secondly, I believe it shows a profound deterioration in political discourse in the US, an inability to disagree without immediately resorting to labelling a political adversary in the most hateful, malevolent descriptions available.

Finally, it constitutes a basic misunderstanding of the nature of evil. In his autobiographical manifesto Mein Kampf (‘My Struggle’), published in 1925 and 1926, Hitler laid out his political philosophy and his vision for the future of the German people. At its core is a monomaniacal loathing for the Jews and his belief that destroying them was the ultimate destiny of the German people. It is a vision of hatred, war, power, and racial dictatorship, laid out for the world to see long before he had the means or the power to implement it.

It is an evil book which led to unimaginable evil actions that led to global war, not unintentionally but by design. It led to evil so great that its survivors could only think of one word for it:

‘Holocaust’, ‘all burnt’…

Regardless of any of this, the creators of the meme would undoubtedly argue that they want to point out what they see as similarities on a policy-making level and a basic philosophical similarity between Hitler and Hillary. This cuts absolutely no ice with me. Anyone who believes a policy-making or philosophical connection can be made between the Third Reich and a moderately center-left(ish) establishment Democrat does not understand what went on during the Holocaust.

Does. Not. Understand.

Trying to compare the ‘quotes’ from Hitler and Hillary is a cynical and preposterous exercise. An un-cited and out-of-context quote attributed to Hillary, in which she says something about the importance of an individuals’ desires being thought about as part of society as a whole, is linked to an un-cited and out-of-context quote attributed to Hitler where he also comments on society vs. the individual. One might as well point out that, because both individuals once said something about 'trees', that they both hold similar ideas about the environment.

This isn’t the first attempt to equate Hillary with Hitler. Have a quick spin around the internet and other absurd comparisons pop up:

That Hitler and Hillary had similar domestic policies;

that Hitler- like Hillary- favoured ‘socialized medicine’;

That Hitler- like Hillary- wanted to ban guns.

Again, to even infer any equality between the two people shows a fundamental ignorance of the Third Reich and its diseased leadership. In short, the destruction of the Jews was Hitler’s domestic policy, the root of everything else. His ideas of 'socialized medicine' were that the destruction of the weak and the sick was far more humane than their protection, that the purpose in destroying ‘the weak’ was to allow for a flourishing of a pure, strong, superior race. Finally, the idea that Hitler banned guns is a complete myth. German Fascism was completely built around the propagation of war and armaments. Re-arming Germany after what he saw as the ignominy of the disarming of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles after WW1 was one of Hitler’s primary ambitions.

But of course, the point of making these comparisons in the first place isn’t part of some intellectual exercise pointing out interesting similarities between thoughts and policies of the two figures;

It’s about lazily and clumsily trying to defame a presidential candidate by associating her with the 20th century's preeminent monster, the man whose hatred of Jews was so singularly fixed that he concocted- and carried out- history's most extraordinary solution to 'the Jewish problem': harness all the resources and industrial might of Europe's greatest industrial society- all government, all transport, all infrastructure, all bureaucracy, all function- to wiping them out. 

And in large measure, he succeeded. The thousand year-old Ashkenzai Jewish society of Central and Eastern Europe- rich in culture, literature, and industry- was utterly destroyed;

All that survived were individuals;

Countries whose pre-war Jewish populations numbered in the millions, by 1945, might have numbered a few hundred...

So, if the meme-makers want to go on about the relative nature of society verses that of the individual, they should ponder that...

As to the spurious notion that a concern for ‘society’ is in some way, not only a negation of the ‘individual’, but also on some level tied to the evil of the Nazis, it might be worth mentioning that the Biblical text does not overly concern itself with the much-vaunted ‘individual’; in fact, no one did until the Enlightenment. The Hebrew Bible gives much more time and attention to God’s relationship with a ‘people’, a ‘nation’, and that through that people, salvation will be brought to the world. In the New Testament, again, the basic framework for the salvation of the world is a new type of society, the ‘church’, made up of all peoples and all nations. Does this mean that there is no thought, love, or care for the individual in the biblical text? Of course not, but the individual is always an intrinsic part of the whole of creation, and the restoration of creation is the work of the people of God.

What does all this practically mean? In the context of political discourse and electoral politics, we need to foster types of debate that don’t rely on demonization, slander, accusation, and hate;

We need to be able to see the humanity in those we politically oppose;

We need to respect the memory of the victims of the greatest crimes committed in human history by not making cheap equations to this or that current political issue;

And we need to draw a distinction between ‘evil’ and what we might believe to be ‘in error’…

Hillary is not Hitler, full stop.

No comments:

Post a Comment