A basic principle upon which I’ve learned to live my life is that I should never be surprised at people’s ability to disappoint me. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, and begin relationships from a position of trust. I believe that most people want to do what is right and good and fair. I have simply learned that I am often wrong about that, and I should not let myself get too down when people reveal themselves to be of a different persuasion.
As part of that principle, there comes a corollary requirement to forgive those who disappoint.
I have been feeling a great deal of disappointment lately. Though I have remained steadfast in my insistence on not being surprised, I’m having more difficulty with the forgiveness part. So, before I begin my criticisms of the poor behavior I’ve witnessed, let me take a moment to embarrass you fools who clicked into my post solely for the title, believing this would be another outlet to reinforce the hateful and barely masked racist attitudes you’ve promoted. You’re not going to find what you want here. I do hope you’ll stick around, though. It will be good for you.
I’m disappointed in our President. I feel that President Obama has squandered a tremendous amount of political capital and good will, just as his predecessor did. The people in our own country and throughout the world looked at the election as a graduation from our own past. Because our national history is riddled with inhumane transgressions against people of non-white races, to see a brown-skinned man elected to the highest office in the land gave all a sense that we were moving on, and the change in attitude towards race was interpreted as a signal of further and greater changes to come. Our President and the newly-empowered Democratic Congress have unfortunately demonstrated a tendency to stay the course, and follow in the footsteps of the “leaders” who participate in a puppet-show of political debate while allowing and assisting in quiet Constitutional erosion. But, to borrow a common quote from our Chief Executive, “let me be clear.” My complaints about Obama and the Democratic Party are based in reality. Comparing Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, or shouting the word “socialist” every time a piece of legislation is designed to benefit all Americans (not just the rich ones) is nothing but hateful, lazy, and uninformed fiction.
Adolf Hitler is no longer simply a historical figure – a point of reference for those with an understanding of history. He’s the very opposite. He is a euphemism made possible by his wide recognition, and thereby becomes a simple and fast symbol to communicate negative characteristics to a populace without the time or inclination to think through such a comparison. He is a synonym for Darth Vader. Any person who dislikes another person can lazily invoke the name of Hitler as a slur and achieve some success at disparaging them. Just a partial list of the people who have been subject to that comparison includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, the nation of Israel, Clarence Thomas, Martha Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Howard Dean, global warming, and vegetarians. It’s absurd. It’s wrong. It’s offensive.
When people discuss Adolf Hitler, is the major criticism that he wanted to ensure health care for all of Germany’s citizens? I don’t see that as Hitler’s defining characteristic. Socialism? There are many nations of the world that operate under socialist governments, yet we don’t label each of their leaders as another Hitler. Even if you want to label Obama as a socialist (and I’ll get to that fallacy in just a minute), I still know that the following conversation has never taken place:
“Class, I’d like you to get your text books and turn to page 213. Today we’re going to begin studying World War II, the Holocaust, and the evil of Adolf Hitler.”
“Mr. Professor, what made Hitler such an evil historical figure that he still evokes extreme disdain and nearly universal condemnation?” asked young Johnny.
“Well, Johnny,” said Mr. Professor, “He was a socialist.”
Comparing a fascist dictator responsible for the extermination of 6 million Jews to a democratically elected President attempting to make sure all Americans have access to health care is reprehensible in every way. It might be wiser instead to remember that Hitler came to power and outlawed opposing political parties, which brings to mind Karl Rove’s blueprint for a permanent Republican majority. He cultivated a populist base by exploiting xenophobia and racial pride, like the Republican “birthers” and the persistent anti-immigration platforms of the Grand Ol’ Party. Those today so vocally opposed to same-sex marriage might be reminded that Hitler was also interested in the sanctity of that institution, and banned marriages between Jews and Aryans. He was a proponent of war and military expansion and was uninterested in the stress those pursuits might put on the national economy, an attitude mirrored by the last three Republican Presidents, at least. So if we want to draw comparisons, let’s make sure we draw them all.
It’s less offensive but equally absurd to paint our President or the Democrats in Congress as socialists. First of all, socialism is not a terrible concept. Like many other parts of our language it has been turned into a pejorative by people who have poorly understood it and misused it. It doesn’t help that the word became guilty by association with foreign governments that were often opposed by our own in the last century, even though those governments were not actually socialist but rather fascist. Have you ever seen those dreams of the future from the 1950’s, in which all of our lives were made better by robots and computers? The fantasies of a 20-hour work-week made possible by advances in technology – technology which would eliminate manual labor, solve the social ills of hunger, poverty, and illness? Those were illustrations of socialism – the application of technology and resources for the betterment of all members within a society.
Obama is no socialist, despite contrary misconceptions. He still supports the American capitalist idea that you can start with nothing, work hard, be competitive, and have it all. He’s actually not a bad example of that concept. He believes in that idea, as many Americans do despite the fact that they’ll never achieve it because they’ll never really be allowed the opportunity. Americans cling to the notion of rugged self-sufficiency without recognizing the publicly supported advantages they already possess, and remain willfully ignorant that barely-checked capitalism in this country has allowed the rich to get richer while the poor become poorer; that the gap between the two groups grows ever more wide; that the laws and organizations of the nation are undermined by corporate interests; and, that most citizens and a growing number of corporations benefit from “socialist” services all the time. I wonder how many people that have bandied about the word socialist at town hall meetings or at the dinner table or on Facebook in relation to their disapproval of our President have ever driven on a road, walked on a sidewalk, visited a public park, checked a book out from the library, had a relative on Social Security, called the police, learned something at a public school, left trash at the curb for pick-up, been thankful to have a fire department, cheered for a sports team at a publicly-funded arena, or supported our troops. Those services and benefits have all been as socialist as a national health care plan could be.
My point is simple. I’m not mad at you, just disappointed. Grow up. If you have a disagreement, discuss it like an adult. Name-calling has no place in civilized debate. It just makes it appear that you don’t know your facts because your ideas were spoon-fed to you in the first place.
Jake Negovan strives to shine a light on truth and hypocrisy when the mainstream media overlooks those small details. “…For the People,” Jake’s column, is his platform to address the issues that our country faces as we continue growing toward a society of equality.