Enough with the Hitler comparisons
Funny thing happened on the way to the podium at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Barack Obama ran into Raul Castro. As I watched it in real time, I winced, but not for the handshake. It was the dreaded bow. You see, Raul is much shorter than our president and so Barack lowered his head to make eye contact with Fidel’s little brother. In a panicky flashback moment, I was certain Fox would have a cow.
I was right about the cow, but it isn’t over the bow. The uproar is about the handshake with Fidel Castro’s brother. John McCain said it was like shaking hands with Hitler. Madiba would roll over in his grave, but he’s not quite there yet.
At the moment of the handshake, the entire world was celebrating the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela, whose legacy is steeped in forgiveness. He forgave the leaders of apartheid who persecuted the black majority for decades. He absolved his jailers and even befriended them. Yet the right wing pounced on President Obama, at Mandela’s service, over a polite and unscripted gesture of civility to Cuba’s president.
In honor of Nelson Mandela, I’d like to call a moratorium on all this hateful hyperbole. Those who invoke the Holocaust and Hitler are just plain lazy. “Use your words,” we tell preschoolers who are frustrated and feel their hands ball up to form little fists. Right wingers who can’t make a real argument using truth or facts conjure up Nazis and slaves and call it a day.
Bill O’Reilly said Mandela was a communist. And his guest, Rick “Frothy” Santorum, managed to equate apartheid to Obamacare. So, he thinks the injustice and cruelty of racial segregation and oppression is equal to affordable, government subsidized health care? How did Santorum come to this conclusion? Hmm… let’s see … apartheid was about black people. Obamacare is named for a black guy. Dots connected!
A more thoughtful and logical analogy for apartheid was made by quasi-conservative Matthew Dowd. He likened income inequality in the U.S. to South Africa’s government-enforced racial segregation. Our top one percent earns nearly 20 percent of the country’s household income and our top ten percent earned a record 48.2 percent of total earnings in 2012. It’s tempting to let that one fly. But to be fair, the moratorium must be honored even when the comparison is reasonable.
And then there’s the totally unreasonable fathead, Rush Limbaugh. He called Pope Francis a Marxist because he dared to denounce the theory of trickle-down economics and warned of the “idolatry of money.” The 99 percent (all of us) whose income grew by only 0.4 percent in the last three years may be inclined to side with Papa Frank. But Limbaugh and his fellow one percenters, who saw a three year increase of 31.4 percent in their wallets, will of course cry blasphemy on criticism of their worshiped and beloved “Ronnie-nomics” hocus pocus fantasy.
And perhaps it’s tied to the release of “12 Years a Slave” (a soul-wrenching, honest movie that still has me reeling) or the more obvious reason, but I can’t remember a time when I’ve heard more comparisons to slavery. The right delights in correlating Obamacare to slaves. Take THAT, first black president!
New Hampshire representative candidate, Bill O’Brien compared Obamacare to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. That statement would not have had the same punch if he used the law’s actual name, The Affordable Care Act.
For a bigger wallop, they even got a black guy to say it. Dr. Benjamin Carson spoke at the Values Voter Summit in Washington and said, “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that happened in this nation since slavery.” Really? Affordable health insurance – designed to keep the sick and poor out of emergency rooms we pay for, allow kids to stay on their parents’ plans longer, prevent insurers from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition, stop people from going bankrupt when diagnosed with a catastrophic illness – is the worst thing that’s happened to our country since slavery? What about cancer, AIDS, gun violence, hate crimes, heart disease, Katrina, Sandy Hook, 9/11? Nope, the black doc says it’s Obamacare.
And then there’s Sarah Palin. She said we are taking money away from our children when we borrow from China.
“This isn’t racist, so try it anyway, this isn’t racist, but this will be like slavery when that note is due,” babbled Sarah “Shuck and Jive” Palin.
Okay, first of all, when you start a sentence with “this isn’t racist” and say that again before you even get to whatever it is you’re planning to say, I’m pretty sure we’re about to hear some bat shit racism.
Her statements made a lot of us angry, but none more than Martin Bashir. I witnessed him live during his 4 p.m.show on MSNBC when he made an outrageous comparison of his own, later resulting in his departure from the network. I believe Martin wanted to teach Sarah just how awful slavery was and to make her think twice before she compared anything to such a horrible act.
Or maybe he just wanted her to eat shit and die; I can’t pretend to see inside the man’s soul.
If you missed it, Martin Bashir unearthed the personal diary of Thomas Thistlewood, the overseer of a Jamaican plantation, who kept a sinister, 39-year record of the injustices he carried out. It seems Thistlewood caught a slave, named Darby, in the act of helping himself to some sugar cane and decided his punishment would be to force another slave to go number two in Darby’s mouth. Thistlewood even named it the “Darby Dose.”
Just in case Bashir’s audience wasn’t freaked out enough, he shared one more entry from the journal of a man worthy of a Hitler comparison, if we were still doing that.
“Flogged (a slave named) Punch well and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper, made negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth,” wrote Thistlewood.
Bashir closed his commentary with, “When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her ignorance. She confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.”
Okay, so hateful rhetoric isn’t unique to the right. We all need to carefully choose our words, do a little research, Google what it is we think we want to compare, take a breath and stop making ludicrous comparisons.
Nothing is like Nazi Germany. There is no injustice equal to slavery. I can’t imagine anything more appalling than lynching a fellow human being. And if you don’t see that, in light of Nelson Mandela’s passing and in the spirit of the holiday season, well you’re no better than Ebenezer Scrooge.