They were out there again, in front of the post office. They’ve been there before. And likely they’ll be there again. Or coming to a post office near you. The people holding up the posters of President Obama sporting a Hitler mustache.
They were out there again, in front of the post office. They’ve been there before. And likely they’ll be there again. Or coming to a post office near you.
The people holding up the posters of President Obama sporting a Hitler mustache.
As a journalist, I wanted to talk to them. Get their side of the story. Find out who they are and what they stand for.
As a human being, I took a step backward, as if struck. A surge of electric anger gathered in my stomach and shot down my legs and up my spine, exploding in a momentary sea of red in my brain.
A Caucasian, black-haired man, neatly dressed in a shirt and light-colored pressed pants, standing next to a table laden with posters and pamphlets, asked me as I walked by, “Got a moment?”
“Not for you,” was all I could spit out.
I was afraid of what I might say if I lingered. The human being in me won out over the journalist, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Upon my return to the office, a message awaited me: “I’m a Republican. But those people with the posters of Obama with the Hitler mustache out in front of the post office — I don’t know if you’ve seen them — it’s outrageous.”
A little research shows those parading the Obama-as-Hitler posters generally compare health care reform and the non-existent “death panels” they say the health care reform law contains with the Nazi policy of killing those “unfit” to live — not only Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, but the sick, the physically challenged, the mentally ill and the developmentally impaired.
The poster’s great irony, of course, is the fact that, as an African-American, President Obama would have been classified as unfit by the Nazis — perhaps these people should see clips of the 1936 Olympics and see how one African-American named Jesse Owens put spike marks through Hitler’s theory of a master race.
It’s not just these poster people. More and more people on the left and the right compare someone they don’t like or a policy they oppose with Hitler. I remember the Hitler comparisons on the left when President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq.
Such casual analogies and comparisons diminish and cheapen the pain and suffering of the estimated 6 million who died in the Nazi death camps.
In reality, only a few events in modern history can compare with the Holocaust. Slavery. The Armenian genocide of 1915, in which an estimated 1 million to 15 million people were either killed or uprooted. And the Ukrainian genocide under Stalin in 1932 to 1933, in which an estimated 5 million to 10 million starved to death.
Page 2 of 2 - The 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which a half million to 1 million died, and the Bosnian genocide of 1995, in which an estimated 8,000 died and another 25,000 to 30,000 were displaced, are both horrific in their own right –– but by sheer numbers, they can’t truly compare with Hitler.
And yet we have President Obama with a Hitler mustache?
Perhaps such killing and slaughter falls beyond our comprehension, so it’s easier to trivialize. Perhaps the Holocaust is already too long past to carry the impact it should. And, so, we make casual comparisons without thinking.
It’s difficult for me to accept it casually when my own family lore tells of keeping Hitler’s photo on the backside of a painting of a vase of flowers on the kitchen wall. My family could flip it to the Hitler side when the Gestapo would come and check to see if everyone had their Hitler image displayed.
My mother remembers the screaming matches between her older siblings and my grandfather when he forbade them to join the Hitler youth, only to have his power eroded and see his children join anyway. My grandfather dressed my youngest uncle, Klaus, as a girl to keep him out of the fighting as the family fled the Russians in the east and escaped to Bavaria and, eventually, the advancing American armies in the west.
“If they catch me, they’ll shoot me,” my mother remembers Klaus, then about 12, saying.
And my grandfather responding, “If you go, you’ll be dead. At least this way, you have a chance. Two is enough for this.”
At the time, my grandfather and grandmother had two sons who had disappeared fighting for the Third Reich, and whom they presumed to be dead. Miraculously, both returned at war’s end.
Such family history, apparently, doesn’t fade as fast as larger history fades for some.
So disagree. Debate. Call the mandate to carry health insurance too much government. Argue that we can’t afford to expand health care coverage. Argue we can’t afford not to. But leave the victims of genocide and their families out of it. They’ve already paid the price of our human failures.
Dan Mac Alpine is editor of the Ipswich (Mass.) Chronicle and the Hamilton-Wenham (Mass.) Chronicle.