Whole Universes Extinguished

Gather round, if you have a moment, for a brief history lesson.

I’ve read some comments made recently by conservatives comparing being conservative in the current US political climate to living in 1930s Germany.

Let’s talk about 1930s Germany for a moment. There are volumes of pages of material written on the subject and I’m going to share just a tiny fraction here.

One of the first concentration camps to open in Germany was Dachau, in March of 1933. This is the very same month of the passage of The Enabling Act, which gave then Chancellor Hitler the power to enact law without checks or balances from parliament, paving the way for dictatorship. This is important to understand – in 1930s Germany, Hitler, and subsequently the Nazi party was law. It was the government, holding absolute power.

Back to Dachau. When it opened, its earliest inhabitants were those who opposed the Nazi regime, members of opposing parties and political ideologies, as well as those convicted of crimes in court. The sign over the door read “Work Will Make You Free” and the political prisoners (again, I remind you, most of whom were German citizens who opposed the party in control of the government at the time), were forced into labor, creating the very bullets that would murder their fellow countrymen in the years to come. It was forced slave labor, and that was just the early years. As the camp grew more populated by Jewish, gay, Jehovah’s Witness, and disabled people, prisoners were tortured in some of the most horrific medical experiments imaginable, the details of which I will not share here. You can look it up, this part of our human history is well documented. And, as we all know, they were murdered. At Dachau, and at other camps. By the millions.

Those who did not share the politics of the government in charge lived in fear for their lives. They did not speak publicly, and resistance to the Nazis in Germany was small, fractured and difficult to organize because the threats were real and could lead to death. Total allegiance to the government was required – pledges recited, flags hung on every door. You were with the Nazis or against them, and against them did not end well.

At the close of Cabaret at the Fox last week, the lead actor made the statement that each of the lives lost were whole universes extinguished. Those words haunt me.

To state that being a conservative in the United States is akin to 1930s Germany is so far-fetched, it boggles the mind. To begin with, our government is currently under conservative leadership in both the executive and legislative branches. Even if that leadership were a dictatorship, which it is not, conservative Americans would be on the side of the current administration. The behavior that conservatives are reporting range from name calling to possible exclusion from job opportunities to property damage to assault. I don’t support those actions in general, but let’s be very clear- those things are happening at the hands of private citizens and not our government. They happen every day to people of all political persuasions and the frequency of their occurrence does NOT make them right, but it is important to recognize the difference between disputes between groups of private citizens and systematic oppression from the government in power. The latter, at this moment in time, is not happening to conservatives or liberals in this country. We are still a free people. But most importantly, being on the receiving end of this behavior is not the same, by any stretch of the imagination, as what happened to those who opposed Hitler in the 1930s. To conflate the two is beyond disrespectful to the millions who were tortured, imprisoned or killed. It is shameful. If you are tempted to make such comparisons, I implore you to try harder to find a more apt metaphor. Because this one is wrong.

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