For someone we claim dislike so much we seem to reference him all the time. In political discussions especially. There is no better way to score cheap points with your base than to draw some kind of tangential connection between your political foe and the most hated man of all time.
Hitler is a good guy to hate. If you can successfully caricature your opponent into his likeness your work is pretty much done.
The US isn’t the only country that shades its view of the world with a Hitler-name-calling bias. The Russian Federation does too. The memories of World War 2 still have deep roots in Russian history and culture. The war marched blood-splattered soldiers deep into their homeland. 30 million Soviets died in the fighting, something like 12-15% of their entire population was killed.
How many Americans died in the same war? Around half a million.
So, yeah, Russia has some skin in the game when they talk about the horrors of Nazism, and what a terrible guy Hitler was. Rightly so, modern Russians hold up the men who defended Stalingrad as national heroes. These guys fought in unbelievably poor conditions. Out numbered. Out gunned. Their sheer determination (and winter) literally turned the tide of the war.
Yet for all of their Nazi hatred, modern Russia apparently has no qualms about recycling Nazi land-snatching tactics. The slow-motion assimilation of Ukraine is literally IDENTICAL to the strategy Hitler used to annex Austria in 1938. Hitler justified massing troops on the border and walking into Austria because he wanted to reunify all ethnic and linguistic Germans under one flag.
That’s the same language Putin uses for his annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Just this morning a spokesperson for the Russian-planted-thugs squatting in Ukrainian government buildings said, “We will defend ourselves to our last drop of blood. We are ready to repeat Stalingrad.” The irony in this statement blows the circuits in the back of my brain.
Someone ought to take this spokesperson aside and say, “Umm… actually, the person playing the role of ‘Hitler’ in this scenario is clearly Putin. This makes you the de facto Nazis here. The people defending ‘Stalingrad’ would be the Ukrainians you’re taunting. So… uh… maybe rethink your analogy? Just a thought.” Not that it would matter. Apparently when nationalism, cronyism, biker gangs, and braggadocio get involved, it’s hard for anyone to see the situation objectively anymore.
The United States has done some fairly horrendous things in the last few years too. Iraq, for instance. Hiding assassination attempts inside third world vaccine drives. Blowing up weddings. Sterilizing folks in ways that would make Hitler’s eugenics labs proud.
Yet, we have a hard time seeing our own evil actions for what they are. It’s easier to take up the flag of patriotism, buy the media hype about our adversaries, and ignore things that make us feel uncomfortable about our own position.
Hitler succeeded because no one was willing to question Nazism as it was gaining power. Loyalty to country, party, and leader outstripped all other moral imperatives. No one looked at the situation objectively and spoke up about how Hitler was wrong.
It appears the same thing is taking place in Russia.
This is more than history repeating itself. It is a modern cautionary tale.
When we are more loyal to our party, group, or nation than anything else we run the risk of damning our opponents out of hand, while completely ignoring the ‘Hitlerisms’ cropping up in our own platform.
We are morally obligated to call attention to and root out malevolence wherever we see it.
Especially in ourselves.