A plea for a Hitler-free gun debate
January 10, 2013By Dick Polman
Here we go again, with the Hitler stuff.
I know that the gun issue is passionate, but invoking the Nazis is no way to stimulate debate. On the contrary, it stifles debate. It cheapens our discourse, and dishonors the tens of millions who were beaten, tortured, bombed, and reduced to ash. And those who engage in rote Hitler hyperbole wind up looking like fools.
It's an old game, of course. Some folks on the left used to equate George W. Bush with Hitler; Rick Santorum last year equated Barack Obama with Hitler; Baptist leader Richard Land said that Obama's health reform law was akin to the policies of Hitler; Roib Reiner said the tea party movement was selling "fear and anger" just like Hitler, and on and on.
The latest episode occurred yesterday when The Drudge Report - the toxic online bulletin board of the Republican right - told its audience that Obama might decide to do something about guns via an executive order (at least according to Joe Biden). To illustrate the story, Drudge dutifully posted a photo of Hitler wearing his trademark twisted spider. Stalin got second billing, because it's the Obama-as-Hitler analogy that plays best with the paranoids.
Hitler was a big fave on tea-party protest placards back in '09. Hitler popped up again earlier this year when "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher - one of John McCain's laughable legacies - ran for Congress (unsuccessfully) with the help of a campaign ad which warned that gun control could be the first step toward a neo-Nazi Holocaust, just like when Hitler disarmed and killed the Jews. A Fox News personality, Judge Andrew Napolitano, has made similar arguments - as has radio host-hysteric Alex Jones, who, just the other night, harangued CNN host Piers Morgan, pointing out how Hitler used gun control as an instrument of Nazi oppression. (On the scale of good manners, Jones makes Glenn Beck look like the Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey.)
The gun debate, in the aftermath of Newtown, is sufficiently sensitive without that kind of garbage in the mix. Yes, Hitler cracked down on gun ownership - he merely expanded the tough gun restriction laws that had been enacted by the democratic Weimar government - as part of his master plan for fascist dominance at home and abroad. But only the truly unhinged can possibly believe that Obama is plotting to restrict guns as the first step toward totalitarianism. I receive viral emails alleging such things, and they prompt me to question people's sanity. Not to mention their abiding ignorance of history.
Hitler decreed that citizens turn in their guns, "surrender them to the local police authority." There isn't the remotest chance in heck that Obama (with or without Congress) will confiscate anybody's weapons. Rest assured - and sane people know this already - that the likelist post-Newtown reforms will be modest to the point of timidity. Federal agents aren't going to morph into the Gestapo and storm into suburban McMansions in search of legally owned Bushmasters. Nobody is going to be shipped to American death camps. The Drudge Report and Alex Jones, among others, insult the memory of Holocaust victims when they draw fatuous parallels between the two eras.
To fully appreciate the foolishness of the Hitler trope, think back to the 1950s, when we embarked on the construction of our interstate highway system. Imagine if a loose affiliation of paranoids had said, "Hitler built the autobahn, the German highway system, which later allowed him to speedily transport his troops during World War II. The autobahn was an important first step toward European oppression. President Eisenhower wants to build a highway system, too. Some day, he could use those roads to speed a military takeover. Theerfore, if Ike OKs those interstates, he'd be doing what Hitler did." You see the problem. Call it a specious syllogism.
So, by all means, let's debate guns. But let's leave Hitler in his bunker, rather than invoke him yet again and dishonor ourselves.
Speaking of guns, here's the latest news about our vigilant Second Amendment Well-Regulated Militia. From the Kansas City newspaper:
"Kansas officials are reviewing the events surrounding a man’s accidental shooting of his wife last week at the Longbranch Steakhouse in Lenexa. Police said the two were sitting across from each other in a booth about 8:15 p.m. Jan. 2 when the man reached into his front pants pocket and accidentally discharged a small pistol, striking his wife in the leg just above the knee. She was treated at a hospital and released. The man had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon..."
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