by: Johnny Gall
Readers, there are a lot of phrases still in use in the popular culture that really get under my skin. I hate the term “welfare queen,” I’m sick of folks being called “illegals” and I just cannot get behind the rampant overuse of the words “literally” and “ironic.” (Hint: unless the sporting event is The Hunger Games, no team will ever be “literally fighting for their lives.”)
However, no terms boil my blood more than “Feminazi” and “Grammar Nazi.” Because they don’t make any damn sense. My love of conjugation is in no way related to genocide, and the fact that I believe in equality for women does not correspond to any ambitions towards extermination. The term Nazi cannot and should not be used as a catchall for anyone with rigid views on the public access of soup, nor anything else, and we really should scale back our usage of it.
Which is why I am here today writing out of a hatred of Michael Musto, the writer for the Village Voice, who wrote of GOProud’s endorsement of Mitt Romney that they are:
Black Klan members!
…Roaches who moonlight as exterminators!”
Do you know the common link between Nazis, Klan members and exterminators? They kill members of a certain group, or more realistically, many certain groups. Mitt Romney, so far as I’ve heard, does not believe in killing the queers, nor does he mark them as an inferior race.
And let me make this clear: I don’t give a shit about defending Mitt Romney or conservative queers. GOProud, while they have every right to exist as a group and to voice their own ideas, is both slightly confusing and high infuriating to me. Mitt Romney, though he is certainly one of the less awful candidates from the Republican party, is reprehensible in his politics, and certainly no friend of the queer community, and no friend of mine.
However, I firmly believe that there should be a separation between “not a good person” and “the worst thing I can possibly think of.” After all, that is why we, as a society, default to holocaust references in the first place: it was the worst atrocity that is present in the public memory. We’ve all seen and heard many stories from the time period, each more staggering than the last in the dehumanizing nature in which victims were treated. It stands as a benchmark for the worst that is possible.
We should preserve that benchmark. Hitler should be the worst figure imaginable, the Holocaust should be the worst period of history; and the Nazis should stand as the worst possible outcome of mob psychology and hate. And if we start comparing every Tom, Dick and Mitt Romney to the absolute worst human being in recent memory, we corrupt that.
Every time a Tea Partier walks around with a picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache, Hitler becomes less a figure of staggering evil and more a politician, albeit an awful one. Every time you compare the American government to Nazi Germany, you make Nazi Germany seem less like a terrifying time period of government control and barbaric treatment. This is the way language works, when you create metaphor, each thing becomes the other, to a small degree. And we cannot afford to downplay the Nazis by constantly comparing them to YouTube commenters.
Now, I understand the point Musto intended to make; it is indeed ridiculous to participate in a political party that does not affirm your humanity, and I don’t get it either. But it exists also as one more example of a profoundly annoying cultural trend. Musto jumped straight to Nazis because we all jump straight to Nazis; you can barely exist in our culture without being compared to the Nazis at some point, unless you’re Jewish. But it demeans the struggles of those who lived through the real Holocaust to compare every person you disagree with to Hitler. It downplays very real and very formidable suffering.
So, I propose a new rule: we, as a culture, should only compare folks to Hitler or to Nazis if they actively campaign for the extermination of a certain group. Anyone who practices or advocates genocide should be compared to Hitler. Any supremely dehumanizing treatment should be compared to the Holocaust. Any group that seeks to mistreat folks they see as inferior should be compared to the Nazis.
But calling all Democrats or all Republicans Nazis doesn’t make any damn sense, and it weakens the metaphor. And it’s bullshit that Hitler is becoming a cliché in our culture. If there’s anything in the world that doesn’t need to become a cliché, it’s that.
So, instead of muddying up political positions by comparing everyone to the same three things, let’s just state things clearly. Mitt Romney is not Hitler; he’s just a dick who will gladly watch the country go to ruin if it means that he can gain more power. Republicans are not Nazis; they are just people who practice reprehensible politics so that they can exercise control over the country, which they will use to undermine civil rights, but most likely not to round up any group of people and starve them to death. Conservative queers are not Jewish Nazis, they are people who would rather protect their own privilege as mostly white, mostly upper-class, mostly male-identified people than fight for the civil rights of all queer people.
All of these things are awful enough in their own right; there’s no need to make them sound any worse than they already are.
Johnny Gall is so, so very close to completing his B.A. from NYU in English and Creative Writing. He has hopes of moving on to seminary, and then to ordained ministry and works with several groups which advocate queer equality in the Methodist church. He is a feminist, anarchist, person of faith, part-time librarian and an all-around good guy.