Really, Ben? Nazis? Again? A scathing rebuke to Fox Commentator Ben Carson’s rant about the ‘secular progressive movement.’
Just two weeks ago, I found myself writing about Tom Perkins, the multi-millionaire venture capitalist who compared the current push by the 99% movement in this country to reduce income inequality with the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews during the 1930s and 1940s. In that article, I made the point that “crying Nazi” was an attempt to shift the debate from a rational discussion of how to address wealth disparity and its companion, poverty, to a debate over just how badly the 1% are being treated, and in doing so establish their mistreatment as the baseline for further dialogue. Such manipulative efforts are intended to take the legs out from under an opponent, by detaching the other side from its primary argument and forcing them to defend a different, often untenable position.
Yesterday, on my Facebook news feed, my brother shared another whopper: Fox News commentator Ben Carson, cited in a Huffington Post article, claiming that “progressives are turning the country into the next Nazi Germany.”
Wow. Just wow.
The article also mentions the phrase “secular progressive movement,” noting it as a term “coined by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to negatively characterize individuals with liberal or left-leaning values.” The word secular in and of itself is not negative, meaning simply ideas, activities, or other things that have no spiritual basis, as in not promulgated by any form of organized religion or related to religious belief. Democracy, for example, is a secular concept, as is the eradication of disease, or rooting for your favorite sports team. But O’Reilly’s intent is clear: to compare the “Godless left” with the pious, evangelical right, ignoring if you will that the teachings of Christ are all about generosity for the poor, caring for those less fortunate, and treating everyone as your equal. Shame on you, Bill. Or to use the Yiddish word—shanda.
Now for Ben Carson. Here’s HuffPo’s summary of his remarks, from his rant against Oregon GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby.
Carson said one of the main goals of progressives was to “fundamentally change who we are,” and part of that entailed “keeping a blanket of silence over the majority.” Most Americans have common sense, Carson added, but are afraid to speak out because they might be targeted or investigated by the IRS — a reference to the agency’s 2012 targeting of tea party groups. It was later found that progressive groups were also targeted, but Republicans have nonetheless used the IRS controversy to cast the Obama administration as authoritarian.
Carson then likened the status quo to Germany under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, teeing up what he later implied was the choice facing voters in the 2014 midterm elections.
“There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up. Think about Nazi Germany,” he said. “Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in? They did not, and you saw what happened.”
“And if you believe that same thing can’t happen again, you’re very wrong,” Carson added. “But we’re not going to let it happen.”
Apparently Ben Carson has a medical degree, and this is why doctors need the grounding of a liberal arts education that includes courses in European and American history.
Really, Ben? I don’t even know where to begin. Did the German people, much less the Jews, have a “choice” in “electing” Hitler? I seem to recall that he and his cronies burned the Reichstag, driving a stake in the heart of democratic government. Are you, in turn, suggesting that the so-called secular progressive movement is doing the equivalent of burning down the Capitol Building? The Nixonian overtones in the passages about the silent majority and the fear of IRS targeting are too rich to ignore. You do know, Ben, that President Nixon used that phrase to discredit and marginalize the “vocal minority” protesting the Vietnam War? Do you also know that Nixon himself used the IRS and its audit power vigorously and illegally to attack and attempt to silence those—both wealthy and not—who spoke out against his policies? Perhaps you should try reading some biographies.
And now for Ben’s next trick: “Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But did they speak up?” No, Ben, most of the Germans, not to mention their neighbors, did not speak up. They remained silent, not so much because they didn’t believe in what Hitler was doing, but because most of them didn’t give a damn about the fate of Jews. Hitler’s propaganda, his rhetoric, and his ability to capitalize on the economic misery of the German people while invoking centuries-old prejudice, captivated an entire nation—both eager for a scapegoat and predisposed to hate the Jews—and enabled a large portion of a continent to sanction mass extermination. That, along with the fear of being stripped of everything, shipped off to a camp, or shot and dumped into a shallow mass grave if you identified yourself as a sympathizer or, God forbid, actually tried to protect your fellow Jewish citizens. But some brave souls did stand up. And they should be lauded as heroes and heroines. To compare today’s Tea Party folks or anyone else in this country who is “standing up” against the progressive movement with Oskar Schindler, or Raoul Wallenberg, or Miep Gies who tried to save Anne Frank, or Corrie Ten Boom, or countless others, is not only disingenuous but utterly disgraceful. Shanda, shanda, shanda.
Ben, I’m going to leave you with the story of King Christian X of Denmark, a non-Jew (could you figure that out from his name?), and a mensch. You may not know what mensch means, because you’re certainly not one, but it’s another Yiddish word, meaning a person of integrity and honor. King Christian didn’t actually wear a yellow star in sympathy with the Danish Jews, as legend has it, nor did his countrymen. But the Danes did, upon hearing of the German deportation order for Denmark’s Jews, first hide them and then smuggle most of them out of the country before the Germans could get their hands on them. Nearly 8,000 Jews were saved, with under 500 captured. Another legend has it that when the Nazis tried to fly the German flag over their military headquarters in Denmark, King Christian demanded that the German sentry there take the flag down. The sentry refused, and the King said he would send a Danish solider to remove the flag. The sentry replied that the soldier would be shot, and the King countered with, “The soldier will be me,” causing the flag to descend. The story is apocryphal (that means of doubtful authenticity), but the larger truth behind the tale holds. King Christian stood up to the Nazis, protected Denmark’s Jews, and refused to countenance persecution and genocide.
By the way, Ben, genocide is the term for the Nazi’s program, also termed the “final solution,” to exterminate all of Europe’s and ultimately all of the world’s Jews by starving them to death, shooting them, gassing them, or incinerating them in ovens. As a physician who took an oath to first do no harm, I think you owe an apology to the Jews who survived the Holocaust as well as those who helped them for your thoughtless, politically-motivated, atrocious comparisons.
Elie Wiesel (You may have heard of him—he’s a famous author and Holocaust survivor who’s written a thing or two about the Nazis), said this: “Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.” I have that quote on the Facebook page that promotes my blog. The reverse of what Wiesel wrote is also true. Words can sometimes, in moments of disgrace, attain the quality of misdeeds. So Ben, I suggest you choose your words more carefully next time. Fortunately for you, in this country, you won’t be deported, imprisoned, or shot for speaking out.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons