This commentary was originally published in BC issue
391 on Sept 2, 2010
was a very revealing story that made it in the news recently, but did
not get the attention one would expect. A DNA test was performed on
39 living relatives of Adolph Hitler. And the results were stunning:
The Haplogroup E1b1b1 chromosome
found in the samples, which is rare in Western Europe, and is usually
found among the Berbers of North Africa, and Ashkenazi and Sephardic
Jews. So, if we put two and two together, we may conclude that the
ultimate “Aryan” leader of the Third Reich was himself of
Jewish heritage, if not a person of color.
the most loathsome figure of the twentieth century— responsible
for the Holocaust, the genocide of 6 million Jews, as well as
millions of others, including Roma, homosexuals, political prisoners
and people with disabilities--was himself conceivably a Jew. The
madness and brutality of this man was daunting, as was his apparently
high degree of self-loathing. And yet there is much we can learn from
the Fuhrer’s legacy of death and destruction. Indeed, we must
learn if we are to avoid revisiting the tragic mistakes of the past.
People say “never again” because the idea is to ensure
that such inhumanity does not repeat, lest we conclude in our
smugness that “it could never happen here.”
yet genocide, and the ritual scapegoating that society perpetrates
against a defenseless minority, has happened in the six and a half
decades since Hitler’s demise—and more than once.
for Adolph Hitler, warped, delusional and paranoid as he was, he had
a lot of help. Criminally insane as he was to conceptualize a final
solution and then carry it out to the utmost, he had in Germany a
nation of willing executioners that was more than willing to oblige.
After all, it was a country suffering from hyperinflation and
economic deprivation, with a predisposition for virulent
anti-Semitism and an unhealthy respect for authority. And what do you
do when an entire nation, or most of it, is literally insane? As I
remember my Harvard professor, Holocaust survivor Erich Goldhagen,
saying over twenty years ago, it was as if the entire German society
was under a spell, or some type of fog that was lifted when the
regime was brought to an end.
Third Reich, we must remember, was democratically elected at first.
Hitler had a mandate, perverted as it was. People needed a boogeyman
to blame for all of their problems, and the fascist narrative was
made to order. Nazis wanted to restore
return to some nonexistent glorious past, the good ol’ days I
suppose. And they would deal with those segments of the population
they believed were the root cause of their social ills.
began with mob violence, the lynch mob if you will, with acts of
physical assaults, vandalism, desecration of property, and the
burning of “un-German” books. Racist
to soften up the populace and normalize society’s hatred
towards the scapegoats. The next step was to codify and fully
legitimize the hatred—that is, utilize the legal system to
marginalize Jews from every facet of society, remove them from civic
life, and neutralize them. Jews and so-called Aryans were
forbidden by law to marry.
Jews could not own property, attend school or hold professions, and
of their citizenship,
their personhood. And they were deported, ghettoized and thrown into
could it happen again?
of good will who observe today’s America cannot help but react
with concern, if not alarm. The U.S. economy is a basket case, or at
least will soon become one if President Obama does not channel his
inner FDR and bring on the second New Deal many are waiting for. In
any case, Americans are in pain, with massive
poverty and homelessness on the rise, and 40
million people on food stamps.
Many folks out there are looking for someone to blame. The Patriot
movement, including militias, neo-Nazis, Minutemen, Oath Keepers and
other armed hate groups are proliferating and boosting their
membership, united in a hatred of Latino immigrants, people of color
and President Obama. And political extremism has entered the
mainstream. The Republican Party— almost completely purged of
moderate voices— and the corporate-sponsored Tea Parties are
comparing notes, if they aren’t one in the same. This, as the
GOP hopes to score major political points via an updated Southern
Strategy of hating Muslims, mosques, Mexicans and marriage equality.
this nascent fascist movement to suit their narrow business
as its propagandist, inflaming racial, ethnic and religious tensions
on the airwaves, and setting up groups and individuals to be the
victims of hate crimes. There is a cable network that articulates the
frustration of low-income, low-information whites who are angry that
this neighborhood called America is changing, browning up to be more
exact, and that is the Fox News Channel. Fox News and Glenn Beck—that
opportunistic and delusional little jester of “restoring honor”
fame— would make Goebbels proud.
I use the term fascism, indeed creeping fascism, to describe what is
happening because no other words will suffice. Now is the time that
we refrain from dancing around the problems here in America. Burning
the Holy Qur’an, bombing and burning mosques, banning houses of
worship on private property, widespread denial of the president’s
citizenship, efforts to nullify the Fourteenth Amendment, states
scrambling to enact punitive, unjust laws to target Latinos—these
are the ingredients of which fascism is made.
crises outlined above are far too complex to be resolved in this
commentary. However, it must be said that these forces of right-wing
extremism are able to exploit the desperation of hard economic times
and seize the moment. Reforming America’s dysfunctional
casino-shell game economic system in fundamental ways, making people
whole, and restoring a sense of equity and justice are the things we
need. Tweaking at the edges will not do. President Obama, are you