July 25, 2005

Hitler: Did We Really Learn Anything?

I recently caught a show on the History Channel called "Hitler: Tyrant of Terror." I can't usually bring myself to watch the History Channel because it is so dumbed-down for mass consumption that it irritates me. This show was no exception. I am fascinated by history, and I don't need all the cheesy music, dramatizations, etc.

Anyway, the show got me thinking about two things. (This is not going to be about the usual "Was Hitler a Christian?" question, so if you are interested in that, go here instead).

First, it got me thinking about Hitler's skill in manipulating the German people for his own ambitions. Clearly, the GOP learned a great deal from Hitler. Don't get me wrong - I am not equating W (or even Cheney) with Hitler. These men are evil but in a very different way. Hitler was able to convince his people to do things (not limited to the holocaust) that were clearly not in their individual or national interest. It was painfully clear from the newsreels that they were not just willing participants but enthusiastically supported their leader. The GOP has accomplished a similar feat by convincing America's working poor to oppose their own self-interest by voting Republican. While watching Hitler's early rise to power, I found many parallels to today's post 911 patriotism, flag-waving, hostility to immigrants/atheists, and near blind devotion to a leader who continues to mislead his people. The Germans didn't know some of what Hitler was up to because they didn't want to. What is our excuse?

Second, this show forced me to confront the realization that any lessons we supposedly learned from Nazi Germany have all but evaporated. Visit the evangelical GOP websites. Neoconservatives are united in their opposition to multiculturalism and their desire to end affirmative action. Their "war on drugs" has had a disproportionate effect on ethnically diverse persons. While promoting "religious freedom," their Patriot Act strips the rights of a disproportionate number of non-Christians. Their economic policies are making the rich richer while turning the poor into a class of servants that drives our economy. Like the Germans, we look the other way. Even when evidence of crimes (e.g., Gitmo, Rovegate, etc.) surfaces, we look the other way.