Yeah, I Went There (With a Heavy Heart)

Hitlerrally

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When the “Soup Nazi” episode aired on “Seinfeld” in November of 1995, I was pretty much appalled that the same comedic genius who felt that cursing equated to cheating would go so low as to use a four-letter word – Nazi – so loosely.

A few years back, there were these clips of Adolph Hitler bellowing at people in German, but with English subtitles uttering non-related nonsense, that went viral.

When I expressed my concerns that it should not be a source of casual humor, I was told I should appreciate it because it was making him look foolish – maybe like Col. Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes” – but I wasn’t buying what they were selling.

Klink was fictional – and not overly funny to me, either – and Hitler was quite real.

Nazis, and Hitler, with or without Holocaust references, are just no laughing matter.

As a hard and fast rule, I never went there.

It was as close as I had ever come to a vow of silence.

With this regime in the White House, I have crossed a line I never thought imaginable.

Is it the same?

No, and nothing could possibly be the same.

Is your president (not mine) another Adolph Hitler (or even Benito Mussolini, despite similar pompous gestures during speeches)?

Nope.

But, in the similar but not the same realm, the similarities are too eerie to ignore.

So my vow of silence is broken.

I’m ready to make the comparison.

This is how dire our situation has become.

It was your president (not mine) dusting off the same coded language to tell mostly white Christians from the Heartland that they were the “real Americans” to gain traction in an unlikely rise to power.

You can go to Hitler’s speeches and, verbatim, find similar references to enemies of the state – including the press – and their nefarious attempts to keep Germany from returning to a vague past greatness.

Maybe your president (not mine), with the likes of Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, did it on purpose.

I tend to think he did, and that’s a decision that comes with consequences.

Maybe all his followers didn’t fully grasp the historical significance, let alone equivalence. Surely some didn’t. They just liked what they were hearing.

But some did, and they really didn’t care.

Scary.

And eerily similar to that dark past.

It wasn’t an accident that extremists were empowered enough by the campaign rhetoric to make Charlottesville happen, nor was it an accident he hemmed and hawed in the wake of it.

What your president (not mine) should have said was that his own daughter (Ivanka) converted to Judaism, meaning his grandchildren are Jewish. His other kids, at least at the time, were either married or engaged to Jewish partners.

Those white supremacists carried torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us” when, in his inner circle, they already had.

That thought could not be lost when Michael Cohen testified this week and reminded his inquisitors that he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors.

The coded MAGA language doesn’t directly target Jews anymore, as it did with Hitler, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t being used toward others.

That list would include immigrants (code for Hispanics) and potential terrorists (Muslims) while taking a lot of cheap shots at outgoing president Barack Obama, enough to remind his base they won’t have to deal with a black man in the White House anymore.

It seemed as clear that “Make America Great Again” meant “Make America White Again” as much as the “we want our country back” slogan of the Tea Partiers.

He didn’t have to say it, and didn’t even have to feel it in his heart, to know it was resonating.

Stirring up racists may be worse than actually being one yourself.

With the so-called mainstream media that is allegedly so against him providing an unfair amount of free coverage of campaign rallies, he was into Hitler’s playbook.

And tragedies have happened since, if only as consequences of his rise to power and then doubling down on it to appease his base.

Like it or not, it kept the Hitler parallel – one that I vowed I would never make – in play.

I’m being hyperbolic? Fine.

You go there, and I’ll stay here.

We can let others — Holocaust survivors who have had some strong things to say about your president (not mine) – decide on this.

They have witnessed what they never thought they would again in their lifetimes.

Yoka Verdoner, of California, is mortified by the separating of children from their parents at the border.

She said: “Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime. What’s happening in our backyard today is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings as children in Nazi Europe.”

The argument is that these children are “illegal.” It should be noted that mere pen strokes make it easy for a powerful government (Nazi Germany or the America that defeated it, ostensibly to keep the world free for democracy) to brand anyone “illegal” and then demonize — and dehumanize — them as a result.

“I have not compared them 100 percent to the Nazis, but we are on the way,” another survivor, Bernard Marks, who recently died at 89, told The Sacramento Bee. “What concerns me is we are breaking up families. We are turning justice upside down.”

Marks penned an Op-Ed for the Bee on the moral – and historical – equivalence.

His words should stand as a stark reminder: “As a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, I take this responsibility seriously. Today, as an America citizen, I feel compelled to raise my voice when I hear echoes of my childhood years in our current political rhetoric. The fear that immigrants (illegal and legal) in the United States must live with under the new administration’s approach is personal and familiar to me.”

And that should be enough for the rest of us without that first-hand experience to understand the similarities.

And break vows of silence.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on March 3.

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