Monday, August 10, 2009

A Lesson in History, Vocabulary and Orwellian Irony

"He who controls the past, controls the future." - Ministry of Truth, aka Minitrue, 1984, George Orwell
The clocks have been striking thirteen around the United States. Amid the unfortunate return of Harry & Louise, the pernicious hyperbole swirling around the hypercritical issue of health care reform has hit a pitch, crossed a line, sunk to a new low, and begun to be dangerous. This danger issues forth in form of arguments which are of a semantic nature, which twist important historical facts for instant gratification, and which reveal something about the so-called 'loyal opposition' that make it seem less and less loyal, if not to their elected president, then at least to American ideals.

First up is vocabulary. Lately there has been a concerted effort by right wing pundits, Jonah Goldberg and Rush Limbaugh in particular, to color the Nazi Party as a creature of liberal thought, and therefore to associate present liberal policies, in particular the Obama Administration's push for a comprehensive reform of the health insurance industry.

I suppose to those unfamiliar with the rise of Nazism in Germany might get a pass, supposing they failed to actually read up on the subject. The National Socialist German Workers' Party, NSDAP or "Nazi" for short, could be confused with socialism, which is a creature of left wing politics, due to the fact that "socialist" is a word contained in both political systems. However, if one but delved a tad deeper than just the names, one would realize that the word "national,"as in "nationalist," modifies the word "socialist."

"Nationalist" is defined by Webster's thusly: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interest as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

Therefore, inasmuch as the same crowd attempting to conflate Obama and Hitler also variously called Obama unpatriotic for failing to wear a flag pin or being a natural born American citizen, it would be a touch disingenuous to now say he is a nationalist, at least a hyper nationalist as is required by modern Nazis. Especially since he's half black. Check them out at:

Actually, it is a little more than revolting, considering the whole "White Power" thing. So, don't jump at the "s" word when trying to compare socialism and national socialism.

Now, let us move on to a lesson in history. In so doing, I shall cite to an actual Nazi, a contemporary of Adolph Hitler, and a higher up in the party before and during the Fascist takeover of Germany, Albert Speer, and his "Inside the Third Reich," Avon Books, 1970.

Nazi idealogy decried urban centers and promoted the uncultured rural peasantry for their simplicity. p. 43. Speer himself felt that his joining of the Nazi party was a frivolous move, and he inculpated his own failure to investigate and question the ideologies of the party, regretting it later in life. p. 48. This was notwithstanding the anti-semitism and anti-intellectualism of Hitler's rhetoric, which he rationalized would need to be moderated. p. 49. Hitler utilized the various Christian Churches to his own ends, maintained his own association with the Catholic Church, and demanded other party higher ups maintained theirs. p. 142. Among others, Jews, Socialists, Communists and Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted. p. 68. Nearly all high up Nazi leaders were unschooled, without "cosmopolitan experience" and had rarely left the country, and anyone who had gone to Italy for a long weekend was instantly a foreign policy expert. p. 173. These are the descriptions of Nazis by a Nazi member inside Hitler's inner circle.

Not for nothing, but some of this sounds strangely familiar, like when someone without a passport posited that there were more "Pro-American" parts of the country............. but I'm not going out and calling anyone a Nazi. However, people in glass houses...............

Furthermore, there has been some talk these days about "brownshirts," which is an allusion to Hitler's SA [Sturmabteilung] or Stormtroopers. This was an early paramilitary wing of the Nazi party which was used as a parade instrument to impress people, but also as a gang of thugs, and relevantly for today's discussion, to shout support for Hitler and drown out any hecklers and dissent.

I will not compare present day American conservatives and Republicans to Nazis. It is unfair to them, and more importantly, it cheapens the global disaster wrought by the Nazi party. Nazism is a disgusting, evil, and horrible ideology, a gross distortion of ethics, and is rightly detested by everyone. But when Americans are organized by interested and monied parties to not debate at but disrupt in total town hall meetings, to shut them down, to shout down elected representatives and their fellow Americans, this is something that gives me pause.

When those same monied and interested parties stoke what is irrational and otherwise unfocused anger at their elected representatives to the point that it has been said that if they can't get their way via the First Amendment, they'll do it with the Second Amendment, this is getting scary. And when people on Medicare or get their healthcare from the Veteran's Administration, decry government run healthcare, suddenly realization dawns that these people are angry, consciously or not, about something other than healthcare.

Personally, I believe we are witnessing the ideological heirs of that white haired kook who took the microphone at a John McCain rally and said she couldn't trust Obama because he's an Arab. This is the same train of thought underlying that angry lady at the Rep. Mike Castle's town hall meeting screaming "I want my country back" because Obama "is not an American citizen."

The birther movement, headed by the illustrious Orly Taitz, gave birth to the deather movement, which is headed by the illustrious Sarah Palin. Former Gov. Palin recently said that "The American I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Downs Syndrome will have to stand up in front of Obama's death panel so his bureaucrats can decide based on subjective judgment of their level of productivity in society whether they are worthy of healthcare. Such a system is downright evil."

Of course such a thing would be evil, and more importantly, it is outright false, and actually is tantamount to slander. This is dreadful misinformation, and Mrs. Palin has done her supporters a disservice in that 1) she has told them false information, and 2) she has acted like they do not have their own mind and cannot check the facts for themselves.

But Palin and the other "deathers" out there, like Rep. Virginia Fox [NC] and Rep. Paul Broun [GA] have said the same crap. And that's what this whole euthanasia fear mongery amounts to: a pile of crap.

But what this is a symptom of is framing President Obama as "the other," an alien, a person trying to rob good Americans of their entitled largesse. Why? This is because the GOP and their paymasters, the insurance industry and big pharma, are unable to debate the merits of maintaining the present system where tens of millions are uninsured and corporate profits are massive, if not record.

So they form their own "mob" [their words], to shout down the President, the Democratic Congressmen and Senators, and squelch debate. And such matters have become increasingly violent in tenor, purposefully seeking to intimidate supporters and elected officials alike. This cynical twisting of the town hall meetings to fit such a narrow agenda, to pit American against American, is not only a terrible thing, it is dangerous. Because when irrational anger is stoked and stroked and built up and upon, at some point push is going to come to shove. And someone is going to get killed.

So it is ironic that past totalitarian regimes are being redefined to smear the present leadership, and people are buying it. And it is ironic that proposals to pay for end-of-life counseling like living wills and health care proxies is equated with euthanizing the disabled and elderly for the sake of brief political gain. And it is ironic that the ones accusing the President of being a Nazi are the ones acting like the SA. And it is ironic that we see charges of racism against those who actually succeeded despite real racism, namely President Obama and Justice Sotomayor, coming uniformly from privileged white accusers. It is ironic because this is the essence of what George Orwell termed "doublespeak," the verbal accompaniment to "doublethink," the concept that 2+2=5 when Big Brother says it need be so.

Some have argued that universal healthcare is something Orwellian. However, Healthcare is not a subject touched on in Orwell's writings. Rather, government lies, rewriting history, constant war, ignorance as strength, political cognitive dissonance and state sponsored torture are his subjects. To think that a single payer system, or Obama's multi-payer system with a government option, is similar to any of this has not read Orwell, and should do so as soon as possible for their own sake.

What we are seeing is that we are not a post racial nation. We are seeing that people do need to read more books and less bumper stickers. We are seeing that people need to understand what is in their own best interests and to fight for that, not a CEO's big bonus. We are seeing that people are resting on the laurels of the sacrifices of their fathers and grandfathers who fought in the Second World War, and do not understand that we need to continue to make America great over and over. We are seeing that we do not understand shared sacrifice one whit, unlike the so-called "Greatest Generation," who did it all with an American form of socialism.

In parting for this post, I would like to address something that was forwarded to me from a conservative friend. It was a website set up by the White House seeking emails and websites that contain misinformation regarding the healthcare debate. The friend sneered he would like to see me defend it, as it is something that passed totalitarian regimes had done - that is, asked citizens to inform on their fellows. Here it is:

And to tell you the truth, I was taken aback. This is scary, whether it is from the left, right, center, or from on high.

Then I thought about it. On the site it requests: "If you see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to"

One thing you are not protected from is having your email or website kept private. You send it, you own it. You put it up on the 'net, you are responsible for its content. And any argument this might chill free speech is vitiated by the fact that there is no protected right to misinform your fellow American.

And while this is still a bit scary, I will not entertain any baloney arguments that this is "Big Brother" from conservatives, friend or otherwise, who think that unfettered government surveillance, lying to Americans to illegally invade non-threatening nations, paying private contractors to torture people, and creating prisons in Cuba for the express purposes of circumventing the Constitution while never intending on going to trial are still okay.

Obviously, they haven't read the book.

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