Time to stop the Hitler comparisons

Thanks primarily to a certain billionaire from New York, as the weeks have marched on in the Republican presidential nominating process, the rhetoric has continued to plumb new depths in crassness and incivility.  However, in the past few days, those vehemently opposed to Donald Trump have gone a bridge too far in comparing him, either overtly or by implication, to Hitler or Mussolini or even other brutal despots of the past century.

It has been somewhat of a staple of political bombast in the United States, first used primarily by the left but now increasingly by both sides of the political spectrum, to compare their adversaries to the primary villains of World War II.  Today, about 10% of the population was alive during those tumultuous years, and far fewer have any recollection of those days.  It has become much too easy to demean and diminish the genesis and consequences of that fateful period.

The indiscriminate comparison of one’s political opponent to the Nazis, Hitler, or his stooge Mussolini is indicative of the inability to present a coherent argument in support of their position.  The mindless references to the World War II period (including the 1930s) are an insult to and a denigration of the memory of nearly 60 million people who died in the war and the countless millions who suffered and were displaced.  None on either side of the political spectrum, who so glibly throw around these comparisons, has the slightest idea of the experiences of those who were there.

The frame of reference for some is perhaps a faded and grainy, impersonal black-and-white film of ashen faces staring into a camera, or of emaciated children begging for food, or of lifeless bodies strewn across a field.  To others, it is sitting in a movie theater for two hours, watching a Hollywood portrayal of the war.  In either case, these images are quickly forgotten as they go about their daily lives.  But those of us who lived through those days and the aftermath do not have that luxury.  Our experiences haunt us every hour, day and night.

Therefore, as a displaced war orphan and survivor of World War II, I must speak out and ask that these invidious comparisons cease to be used.  Donald Trump is not remotely close to being the next Hitler or Stalin or Mao Tse-Tung.  Nor will the people of this nation ever willingly go down the disastrous path these men laid out for their countries.

There are, however, a number of statements by Mr. Trump and some personal traits that have caused a chill to run down my spine and should provide pause for any American willing to vote for him.  Among these are his unabashed willingness to issue and demand that the military follow his illegal orders, his never-ending threats to and intimidation of his business and political adversaries, his subtle race-baiting, his near insatiable need for public adulation, and his willingness to do or say anything in order to win.  But these are traits of someone with a near clinical case of narcissism combined with an authoritarian proclivity, not someone bent on domination and destruction.

I am not a supporter of Donald Trump – in fact, I have openly endorsed and financially supported Ted Cruz.  If Donald Trump chooses to debase himself with his rhetoric, then that is his decision, but those of us who are opposed to him do not have to demean ourselves by making odious comparisons to those men in the pantheon of the most vile and evil men ever to walk the face of the Earth.

Recently a friend of mine in Israel, who as a child survived Auschwitz, passed away.  We had a discussion, a few months ago, about the worsening crisis in the Middle East and what it portends.  Among the points of conversation was the fact that mankind, because of an inability to control its base nature, never learns any lessons from the past.  One of the statements Abe made that has stuck with me is “You and I, along with the few others that remain, will soon be gone.  Who will be there to remind the world of the evil that was and how it came to be?”  That lesson can be learned only if the people and events of those times are not diminished by using them for political fodder.