Imagine for a moment that former Governor Jesse Ventura had compared the campaign of his 2010 U.S. gubernatorial opponent Norm Coleman to Nazi persecution. Because Coleman is Jewish, and we all know that Jews were targeted for mass genocide by the Nazis, Ventura would have been rightfully derided by the press on the front pages, and rejected by many shocked Minnesotans. The outrage would have been widespread, because comparing the persecuted to the persecutors is one of the most outrageous things any of us can imagine.
Well, yesterday it was reported on the Star Tribune blog that an official from the anti-freedom-to-marry group “Minnesotans for Marriage” shamefully played his own Nazi card. Speaking to a group in Brainerd, Reverend Brad Brandon was selling the crowd on a parallel between Hitler’s suppression of religious freedom and the alleged suppression of religious freedom by supporters of the freedom to marry.
Perhaps because he saw jaws dropping in the audience he was addressing, Reverend Brandon did try to take a bit of edge off the argument:
“We’re not saying that one side or the other is equal to Adolph Hitler and the atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany. What we are simply saying is that when a totalitarian dictator takes place and wants to suppress the voice of a group…. they use certain tactics.”
Or to paraphrase, “We’re not saying the gays and their supporters are acting like Hitler, just that they are using the same tactics as Hitler.” Doesn’t that just make you feel SO much better?
Along with the obvious fact that fighting for the freedom for all American to marry in no way resembles the persecution and genocide carried out by the Nazis, there also is the small historical matter of the Nazi’s brutal persecution of, well, gays. A quick history recap from the Holocaust Museum website:
”The Nazi campaign against homosexuality targeted the more than one million German men who, the state asserted, carried a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany. Denounced as “antisocial parasites” and as “enemies of the state,” more than 100,000 men were arrested under a broadly interpreted law against homosexuality. Approximately 50,000 men served prison terms as convicted homosexuals, while an unknown number were institutionalized in mental hospitals. Others—perhaps hundreds—were castrated under court order or coercion. Analyses of fragmentary records suggest that between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps, where many died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, beatings, and murder.
In the racist practice of Nazi eugenics, women were valued primarily for their ability to bear children. The state presumed that women homosexuals were still capable of reproducing. Lesbians were not systematically persecuted under Nazi rule, but they nonetheless did suffer the loss of their own gathering places and associations.
Nazi Germany did not seek to kill all homosexuals. Nevertheless, the Nazi state, through active persecution, attempted to terrorize German homosexuals into sexual and social conformity, leaving thousands dead and shattering the lives of many more.
I know we all have outrage fatigue at this stage of the silly season. There are so many over-the-top statements being made that it all starts to get lost in the campaign clutter. But in terms of degree of outrage, comparing Nazi persecution to the effort to allow Americans to love whomever they want is in a category all by itself.
Note: This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota’s “Best of the Blogs” feature.