Sunday, November 7, 2010

Twisted History

A high school teacher put a question on a test -- I'm guessing Social Studies -- asking for the name of America's newest political party.  The hint she gave was that it was "left-leaning and closer to the Democrats."  Amazingly, the answer was "the Tea Party."  This caused such consternation that the mother of one of the children posted about it on Facebook.  I commented that the Tea Party convention people who met in Nashville were slightly to the right of Hitler. One woman piped up that "Hitler was a left-leaning Socialist -- hence the NAZI (National Socialist) party -- who galvanized the (dumb) masses against a common enemy.  Sound familiar?"

No, it surely doesn't, since Hitler was so ultra-right that he absolutely defines fascism -- right-wing extremism -- to this day.  I was astounded that the woman could imagine such a thing to be true.  Hitler a socialist?  Did she not know the U.S.and the U.K. allied themselves with Joseph Stalin, the murderous far-left Russian dictator, to fight off Hitler, the murderous fascist dictator?  That the word National, not Socialist, was the operative word in National Socialism, which has no resemblance at all to socialism as we know it?  Hitler was a nationalist, trying to create a "master race" of Germans by getting rid of all those who were not blonde, blue-eyed "Aryans".  Was she unaware of how he rounded up Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, Gypsies, cripples, trade unionists, political dissidents, Social Democrats (that's the actual German socialist party), Communists, the mentally ill,  developmentally disabled people and anyone else he found less than ideal, packed them off to concentration camps and killed about 12 million of them? Two out of every three European Jews perished in the Holocaust.  Something like 1.5 million Gypsies died in the camps. Did she not know that the Catholic Church secretly backed Hitler the right-wing fascist because they were less fearful of him than they were of the left-wing Russian Communists?   

And it dawned on me -- those images they carry on signs at the Tea Party rallies -- images of President Obama in whiteface, made up with a Hitler mustache -- the ones I have never been able to figure out -- whatever source of information this woman was operating on, calling Hitler a "left-leaning socialist" -- is the same idea that informs those hideous posters.  Apparently a whole group has swallowed this twisted take on history.  I was dumbfounded at this realization.  This indicates a degree of deliberate poisoning of the political well that exceeds my most paranoid political fantasies.  And these people truly believe that in opposing Obama, they are fighting against another Hitler!  That they imagine the very centrist Obama is a socialist is equally appalling, but that deserves a blog all its own.  The right has a propaganda machine that works very, very well.   I was able to write off the Rush Limbaughs and Glen Becks as media clowns not to be taken seriously before, but I now have to seriously consider their impact on otherwise reasonable people. 

That people so easily swallow this twisted history also indicates a lack of basic education that is appalling in a democracy, the future of which depends on our being well-educated and able to make informed decisions.  I skimmed through a high school history text one evening when I had gone with Laura to the class she was teaching, a college level class which met in the evening at a high school.  I was amazed at how dumbed-down it was, and how very little information there was in it.  There were only two pages to cover all of Hitler's rise and World War II -- and those were limited in text because of large print and about a third of each page taken up with  illustrations.  Two pages!  No wonder people so easily swallow such lies.  They are clueless about history, through no particular fault of their own. 

If I was not afraid for this country before, I am terrified now. 

Photo credit: the Washington Independent

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