If Republicans Don’t Want to be Compared to Nazis, They Should Stop Acting Like Nazis

United States of ChristWe have witnessed a great deal of conservative madness over the past five years, since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. Some of us during the intervening years have wondered where it would end. I was one of those who early on began to compare the Religious Right and the Tea Party to the Nazis. It was not a careless or spiteful comparison, but one based on the evidence of their rhetoric and avowed goals. There is a reason I made the above map resemble the Nazi flag.

nazi_propagandaIt is no accident that the Nazi cry of Germany for the Germans is echoed by the Republican cry of America for Americans. Once upon a time there were “real” Germans and our own time brought us “real” Americans – the obvious consequence of such claims being that everybody else was an interloper, inferior – the “other.” With a single utterance, people like Sarah Palin, like Hitler before her, was able to delegitimize half of the population. The “other” become parasites attacking the health of the country. This is a claim made by both Nazis and the Religious Right.

Of course, that horrified progressives, to say such horrible things. Godwin’s Law was, of course, invoked (we need a law about the invocation of Godwin’s Law – seriously). But a comparison should not be shied away from because it seems extreme. As I have argued repeatedly both here and elsewhere, the comparison holds water. If somebody acts like a Nazi, we should certainly be able to point out that they are acting like a Nazi.

Which brings us to first Kansas, a state which was driven to the brink of Nazification by Republicans, and then, perhaps in horror of what it had almost done, backed away, and then to Arizona, which is now our first state to embrace Nazism. Sure, S.B. 1062 is not a law until Gov. Jan Brewer signs it, and she says she needs more time, but who, really, needs more time to decide whether or not to oppose Nazism? Other than Ted Nugent, that is.

Many of us saw this coming. We were laughed at. We warned people what the Religious Right wanted, what it intended. As with the Nazi Party in its early days, far too many people did not take the forces of oppression seriously. This tendency to deny unpleasant realities, even while they are occurring, is frustrating to say the least. It is dangerous at the worst: People will not fight back against something they cannot bring themselves to believe.

Believe it. People used to talk about Nazi Germany in disbelief even after the fact. How could it happen? It could happen very easily. It had happened before in human history and there was no reason to believe it would not happen again. And again. It could happen here, too, if we are not vigilant. In state after Republican state, we are seeing what amounts to state-sanctioned violence against the other, from Stand Your Ground laws to Arizona’s S.B. 1062.

The one constant is intolerant conservative Christianity, the driving force of oppression dating all the way back to the dawn of the movement. When conservative Christianity achieved a dominant position in the Roman Empire, the first thing it did was produce the Theodosian Code, which I have warned of here on previous occasions. The Theodosian Code was, like S.B. 1062, a tool of oppression, a collection of laws passed by the emperor Constantine and his successors, “was presented to the empire as a Christmas present in 438.”[1]

The attitude of conservative Christians toward the “Other,” one of, if you can’t convince them, force them, is embraced today by Republican lawmakers. Bishop Caesarius of Arles told his sixth century flock to admonish unbelievers “harshly,” to chide them “severely,” and if this failed, to strike them, to pull their hair, even to forcibly restrain them. In this he was following the advice of John Chrysostom, a Saint, who advised “rebuke” by way of punching the unbeliever: “Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify thy hand with the blow.”[2]

As Sabine MacCormack observes of the infamous Book 16, “In the Theodosian Code…we can document the incorporation of sins into the purview of the criminal code; and as a result, the range of actions surveyed by the law and changed and expanded.”[3] In other words, Book 16 “articulates for the first time in a Roman law code, what religion and what religious practices ‘are to be done and what are to be avoided’; and what was ‘the True Religion.'”[4]

By the 450s, a generation after the publication of the Code, MacMullen argues that the “legal system became wholly an instrument of persecution.”[5] Look at the violence we see today and argue that we are not far from the Theodosian, or in more modern terms, Nazi precipice. As MacMullen makes clear, witnessing did not end with harsh words, or even with fists:

Government too, at the urging of the bishops weighed in with threats, and more than threats, of fines, confiscation, exile, imprisonment, flogging, torture, beheading, and crucifixion. What more could be imagined? Nothing. The extremes of conceivable pressure were brought to bear. Thus, over the course of many centuries, compliance was eventually secured and the empire made Christian in truth.[6]

Substitute America for empire, and you have the dominionist dream for our country and our time. From the top down, the deck was stacked against the other, whoever they might be, from Jews to Pagans and even to other Christians. There are good reasons you don’t see Gnostic churches today on your street corner. Nor more than Christians and then Nazis would abide a synagogue, will conservative Christians abide temples and mosques. Jews and gays were targets of Theodosian Christianity before they were targets of Nazism and finally, of the Religious Right.

The antecedents of the Religious Right’s war on tolerance are ancient. Nazism is ultimately but a way stop on that road, a product itself of all that came before, and the most recent example we have of what happens when intolerance is legislated into law – as is in danger of happening in America today.

Notes:
[1] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (Yale University Press, 1997), 20.
[2] Michael Gaddis, There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ (University of California Press, 2005), 175, 258 n. 21, citing Caesarius, Sermon 53.1 and Chrystostom, Homilies on the Statues 1.32 (trans. NPNF).
[3] Sabine MacCormack, “Sin, Citizenship, and the Salvation of Souls: The Impact of Christian Priorities on Late-Roman and Post-Roman Society,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 39 (1997), 362.
[4] Michele Renee Salzman, “The Evidence for the Conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity in Book 16 of the ‘Theodosian Code’,” Historia: Zeitscrift für die Geschichte 42 (1993), 362.
[5] MacMullen (1997), 30.
[6] MacMullen (1997), 72

16 Replies to “If Republicans Don’t Want to be Compared to Nazis, They Should Stop Acting Like Nazis”

  1. My biggest wish is that people would quit calling modern Republicans ‘conservative’. They are nothing of the kind – they are the most extreme radicals in US history. The so-called radicals in the Sixties at !east had facts on their side – today’s Republicans go by the lie-now lynch-later credo. If Democrats stopped recounts to win elections, lied about fake wars while having dinner with bin Laden’s family, staged fake town-hall meetings with an audience of paid actors, or pretty much what most Republican lawmakers do on a daily basis, they’d be nuked. Yet the new Republicans don’t seem to recognize “we’ll vote against anything you propose, even if it’s a breast-cancer cure” as the terrorism it is.

  2. This is vile. I am not a Republican but comparisons to nazis are not warranted and not helpful. It’s what they do and it shows an ignorance of nazis.

  3. My father and I would watch World at War back in the 70’s and since my father fought in WW2 it was a further bond between us. It was that series and other books that lead me to write a report for history class that my teacher said was very insightful and historically accurate. One thing I learned is that Nixon with some other conservatives went to Europe and returned with ex-Nazi’s to help shape Conservative programs, policies and election campaigns. I have been telling people that the Right wing would end up like what we see today in since 1972. Hitler was a Conservative and Jesuit Catholic, Mussolini was a Conservative Catholic and Franco was a Conservative Catholic. And Josef Goebells would be so proud of Fox News.

  4. On the contrary, where comparisons are apt, they must not be shied away from merely due to any unpleasantness they create in the minds of readers. The rhetoric coming from Republicans today is right out of the Nazi playbook, and if you read the article and follow it’s links, you will see these comparisons made in detail.

    People have to get over the image of Nazi death camps and go back to Nazi origins as agitators and street thugs. As Michael Gaddis observes, words themselves can be an act of violence; therefore one does not have to be physically beaten to be a victim of violence.

    In fact, SB 1062, like the Theodosian Code, is itself an act of violence, a logical outcome of another, earlier act of violence, the “construction of the other,” which in religion, dates to Moses coming down off the mountain with his tablets and creating the true/false distinction in religion.

  5. Yes Ohio Democrat I hear you, I’m also from Ohio. But they are not ignorant to what the Nazi’s did at all. In fact they have used and ARE using the EXACT same tactics as did the Nazi’s in the 30’s and during WW2. So I think we should continue to equate the Tea Party and the right wing with the Third Reich an back it up with factual presentations until the rest of this nation opens up their eyes. We should fight them using any and all Facts at our disposal until they are disposed of.

  6. I know the Nazi history pretty well…..through my studies. I can also say good things about the Jewish relatives, in Czech, oh so many years ago ad how they vanished.

    So, when I see the same thing starting to happen in the US, starting with that Ray-gun and truly manifesting into a fascist agenda ntion, under that evil fool, gw bush….I am afraid. You can march, talk to your supposed representatives until you are blue in the face….but the power of fascist in corporate America is all encompassing and is truly terrifying.

  7. where comparisons are apt, they must not be shied away from merely due to any unpleasantness they create in the minds of readers.
    =====
    Good job, Spartacus…I can actually see the metaphorical fist in the air.

    By calling political opponents “Nazis” because of policy disagreements, Democrats trivialize a regime responsible for exterminating 6 million Jews in a war that resulted in the deaths of over 50 million people. This cavalier “Nazi” talk seems to be quite the arrogant dismissal of “T-4”, the Hartheim Castle and the absolutely unthinkable. The memory of the Holocaust, serves no important purpose unless it arouses indignation and anger against all such atrocities, anywhere in the world.
    To suggest that the Republican Party of today is some modern-day equivalent of the Nazi Party, is nothing more than pseudo-intellectual bull.

    And fwiw, from a journalistic standpoint, the extreme overuse of the term is not only cliche, it’s lazy, cheap and easy.

  8. I think the comparison is completely appropriate. The Nazis didn’t seize power illegally. Before gaining complete control they were a political party operating in the political realm.

    There is no tactic the Nazis used during those years that the GOP isn’t using now. They lied over and over. And if they were called out on it, they doubled down on the lie. And because they told the lie so much, people eventually began to believe it.

    They vilified entire groups of Germans, blaming them for the country’s problems. While a minority party, they held enough seats in the Reichstag to block any efforts to turn the economy around, then blamed the government for not doing enough to turn the economy around. Sound familiar?

    The Nazis were genocidal maniacs, so everyone gets a pass when they use the same tactics as the Nazis did to gain power. While no one is saying the GOP are genocidal maniacs, the tactics they use are strikingly similar to those of the pre-Third Reich Nazi party.

  9. First one has to have a policy to disagree with. That being said, what party has demonize people of color? What party has restricted voting rights? What party has tried to take rights from a group of people just because who they love? You racist bigots bought into your Aryan supremacy now own it

  10. You racist bigots bought into your Aryan supremacy now own it
    !!!!!!!!!!

    Want me to start whacking half the country in the head with a hammer?

  11. tHEY WANTED TO ELIMINATE ALL jEWS. Their concentration camps deprived them of food clothing, decent shelter, medical care, and gassed women and children.Now the Tea Partyers want to see the LGBTs go away. They want to deprive the sick/elderly of care based on their efforts to dismantle Medicare. They will support all those corporations with tax write offs for employing “slave Wage” employees in third world countries. They reduced food stamps, they cut off unemployment benefits for those who CANNOT FIND DECENT jobs, Just like the Nazis they undermine the human element!@ They are self serving and the public be damned. They have regressed Congress to a bunch of “hand outers for a paycheck on the backs of taxpayers.

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