Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stop comparing people to Nazis!

It annoys me (and, to a degree, even offends me) when people throw the word "Nazi" around. You know, like calling somebody who likes good spelling and grammar a spelling or grammar Nazi, calling a feminist a Feminazi or even that time in The X-Files when Morris-Fletcher-As-Mulder asks Scully to buy him a pack of cigarettes and, when she can't believe he's asking her to do that because Mulder doesn't smoke, he asks, "'re not going to be a Nazi about it, are you?"

No, Morris. I sincerely doubt that she intends to revamp Germany's economy, invade Poland, attempt to take over the world, wage a land war in Russia or create numerous concentration camps where people die of experimental surgery or starvation and hard labour or in "showers" where they get gassed to death just because you want a pack of Morleys.

You see, that's my biggest reason for disliking it when people call other people "Nazis". Authoritarianism, strict adherence to rules or even political, religious or social extremism are not things which were exclusive to the Nazis. Furthermore, to imply that just because someone has a thing about following rules doesn't mean that they're one step away from trying to re-create the Third Reich. Yes, I understand that it's meant to be an insult, but it's being thrown around so casually these days that it seems to have been stripped of any meaning that it might once have had. It cheapens the history it refers to; the Nazis did a lot of things that were a great deal more destructive than insisting on the correct spelling and use of words or following a few simple rules when ordering soup or believing that because women are people, we deserve to be treated as people and not as lesser beings compared with men. (The Nazis, in fact, would probably have completely disagreed with the last part of that statement. Women didn't generally figure very largely in their view of the world.) There's a reason why they were looked on as a threat. They weren't a joke based on extremely rigid rules and adherence to those rules. They were well-organized, they were powerful and they just might have won the Second World War if Hitler hadn't made one of the same mistakes that Napoleon did—he tried to wage a land war in Russia. If it hadn't been for that, the world might be very different today.

And you know, I also have a personal reason for disliking the comparison of non-Nazi people to Nazis. You see, one of my uncles was born in Austria in the late 30's. For a brief time when he was a child, he was an inmate in one of the Nazi labour camps (one of the Mauthausen-Gusen sub-camps, I think, but I'm not sure). He still doesn't like to talk about it. When I think about the things that the Nazis did to the people in those camps, even—or especially—the children, I think that nobody deserves to be compared to them. Not even the people who I consider to be among the most despicable human beings alive today deserve it. And it seems to me that when "Nazi" is thrown around as a casual insult, it also serves as an insult to the people they victimized; it equates their suffering with a relatively privileged person's distaste for another person's views. Feminism is not equal to Dr. Mengele's experiments on children. An insistence on proper spelling and grammar will not send human beings to Auschwitz I, II or III. Rules requiring you to choose the soup you want to order, have your money ready to pay for it and get out of the way are not expressions of fascism, and surprise at a previously non-smoking friend asking you to buy them cigarettes is not an expression of a desire to send large groups of people to labour camps where they'll probably drop dead of exhaustion or starvation.

Got it? I sure hope so.

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