An Open Letter to People Who Are Portraying President Barack Obama as Adolf Hitler During the Health Care Reform Debate.

Images like these have no place in the health care reform debate.

Images like these have no place in the health care reform debate.

Stop it.

Just stop it.

You are representing yourself poorly.

You are abusing history.

And you are disrespecting the practice of democratic debate on which this country is based.

Let me be clear about what I bring to this conversation.

I have a personal connection to the Holocaust.

My father was born in Germany and was sent by his parents to England on the Kindertransport just days after he turned 5 years old.

My Hebrew name is Yosef.  I am named for my great-grandfather Joseph Lowenstein, our family’s patriarch. 

He was murdered in the Auschwitz death camp, along with more than 1 million other people.

In other words, I carry the legacy of the Holocaust with me every day.

But this is not about me or my having a special stake in this topic because of our family’s history.

I don’t.

Although I can’t say for sure, I am confident that I would feel equally strong about this tactic if my background was different.

This is also not an attempt at censorship. 

The images of Obama with a Hitlerian mustache are permissible here under the First Amendment, though they would not be in Germany. 

I support your right to express yourself.

I am just asking you to stop this particular form of expression.

There are many reasons behind my request, but I’m going to focus on what to me are the most important.

To begin, Hitler was a genocidal megalomaniac who dismantled democracy in Germany and orchestrated and ordered the killing of millions of people simply because of who they were.

They were Jews.

They were Communists.

They were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They were Roma Sinti.

They were gay men and lesbians.

Obama is a democratically elected leader whose campaign elicited unprecedented levels of participation and donations, many from people who had previously been excluded from, or not participated in, the electoral system.

He is proposing to reform a health care system that many say is broken.

To link Obama’s proposal and Hitler’s actions two men not only distorts the issue to the point where rational discussion becomes difficult, if not impossible, it also demeans the suffering of Hitler’s victims.

We are talking about people like Ava Kadishshon Schieber, who survived by pretending she was deaf and mute for four years on a Serbian farm, only to find out after the war that her father and sister had been killed.

We are talking about Elizabeth Dopazo, a Jehovah’s Witness whose father refused to sign the Loyalty Oath and was murdered as a result.

We are also talking about the Polish people, who suffered greatly at the hands of Hitler’s invading army.

Ironically, Obama himself, as the child of an African father and a white mother, would likely have been sterilized at the least, and killed at worst, had he lived in Hitler’s Germany.   These were the actions taken by the Nazi government against the children that resulted from relationships between the black African soldiers, many of whom were brought in from French colonies after the Treaty of Versailles, and white German women. 

Hitler called these children the “Rheinland bastards” and blamed their existence on the Jews.

And let’s talk about race.

Hitler had a distinct racial hierarchy into which every group fit.

He laid it all out in Mein Kampf, the book he dictated to cellmate Rudolf Hess while in prison for attempting to topple the Bavarian government.

At the top, of course, were the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryans.

Below them were Slavs, who he said were fit to be slaves.

Below them were mixed race people like Obama.

Then black people.

Then Jews.

Based on this thinking, Hitler first of all falsely characterized Jews as a race, then used that assertion as the premise for major laws and hundreds of antisemitic ordinances.  

The Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, passed in 1935, defined who a Jew was.

That law was given life by the ordinances that forbade Jews from swimming at public beaches, from belonging to choral groups, from practicing the professions for which they had studied for years and on which their livelihoods depended.

Both the ordinances and the law were designed to take what had been an integrated if vulnerable minority and rip asunder their place in German society.

Obama has no such hateful hierarchy.

While he is unquestionably aware of the significance of his election as the first black president of a country that enshrined the odious practice of slavery three times in its constitution,  and while he has delivered major addresses about race, he studiously avoids injecting race into the health care reform debate.

While one could argue that his proposal will help many people of color, who are disproportionately among the ranks of the estimated 50 million uninsured Americans, there is no racial supremacy in his world.

Also, please stop accusing Obama on the one hand of wanting to bring in “socialized medicine”-a phrase reform opponents have used since the Truman Administration to stifle change and to raise the specter of Communism-while on the other saying that he embodies totalitarian fascism. 

This was a favorite tactics the Nazis used against the Jews, whom they accused of being simultaneously Bolshevik revolutionaries and capitalist conspirators.

You can see the images for yourself.

This is just one of several ways that your recent tactics resemble those of the man you charge Obama with being. 

Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels talked about how, if you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes true. 

Again, I want to be clear.

I’m not accusing you of being a Nazi.

I’m not saying that you believe in a racial hierarchy.

But I am saying that these tactics are not honest, not productive, not honorable and not democratic.

I am saying that you need to stop them. 

Now.

Are there problems with the bill?  Could Obama’s economic projections be too rosy?  Can a legitimate argument be made that the proposal should be defeated?

I’d give a hearty Yes on all accounts.

So, please, join the debate in a way that an actual conversation can happen.

But do it the right way. 

Lose the mustache and the fake German accent.

Make an argument.

You might win.

You might not.

But the country will be better for it.

And you might, too.

9 responses to “An Open Letter to People Who Are Portraying President Barack Obama as Adolf Hitler During the Health Care Reform Debate.

  1. Thurman Matthiesen

    Extremely well-written article. Hopefully it won’t fall on deaf ears but I fear those who propagate such absurd and offensive ideas will not change… but that, of course, wouldn’t be the target audience… it’s those that can be easily swayed by sick images and repetition that must be made aware of how outrageous and immoral these centuries old tactics are and that they, unfortunately work. The awareness of this is an achievable goal in speaking out so clearly, eloquently and diplomatically, and with full disclosure of your family’s personal experience during the madness and evil of The Holocaust which by no means biases someone’s opinion on such a destructive and disrespectful (not just to those who suffered and were murdered by Hitler and his henchmen) use of Hitler’s image and history. I’m not Jewish and would think myself disgusting if I had to be Jewish or any of the other groups that were targeted to feel as I do about comparing Obama to Hitler. In full disclosure I am half Black and White like Obama and millions of others who would’ve been targeted had I lived in Europe in those days, but I, also, know I am not biased by that. I’m outraged by any group throughout history that has been target, tortured and killed simply for being whatever race, culture, creed or sexual orientation. It’s simply unfathomable to use these insane scare tactics about anything!

  2. jeffkellylowenstein3

    Thanks, Thurman, for your good words, and know that I consider your comment extremely well-written, too!

    We’ll see what happens with the debate going forward. I like to be optimistic and I have my concerns.

    Hope all is well with you.

    Jeff

  3. Jeff, I, of course, feel the same way, and I am glad to read your post. I like your emphasis of your personal connection. Yes, we should remember your great-grandfather and all the others who were murdered by the Nazis. When this is spelled out how can anyone make parallels between Hitler and Obama. Of course those who need to read this and change are not generally going to be reading your blog, but this needs to be said bluntly and you did that. We need to not let the wackos have the stage. May the truth set us free!

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Dave, for your kind words. I hope you and Jane are having a restful and renewing time in Maine. We certainly are enjoying ourselves here, and riding up with you was the perfect way to start!

      Let’s talk soon, and please send love from our family to yours.

      Jeff

  4. Pingback: American Healthcare Reform Week « Motley World View

  5. Pingback: Thoughts on SB 1070 and Nazi comparisons « Jeff Kelly Lowenstein’s Blog

  6. Pingback: More Obama/Hitler references. « Jeff Kelly Lowenstein’s Blog

  7. Indignation carries a lot of voltage when delivered in a conduit pulsing with historical background. Your letter is a template for the way to manifest an emotional and intelligent response to a political tactic that repels you. You’re not hurling mud and innuendo at the wall to mislead. Honest anger, clear intent, and marshaled facts do just fine.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, PT, for your kind words. I’ll give you a call this weekend as it’s been a little while since we connected.

      Hope all is well with you.

      Love,

      Jeff

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