Politicians are notorious for their comfort level with hyperbole. In fact everyone of us is at least a little guilty of embellishment, to one extent or another. But overstatement is one thing — comparing people to Hitler is something else entirely.
I am shocked when I hear these comparisons, and I was appalled when I heard it made by Ohio Governor John Kasich. It dawned on me just how far some people are willing to go to deride an individual they despise or feel threatened by.
Kasich’s presidential campaign aired an ad late last year that paraphrased Martin Niemöller’s famous “First they Came…” and compared Donald Trump to the Führer. When called on it, Kasich never fully backed off that comparison, which opened the door for others, like former Mexican President Vicente Fox, to say the GOP candidate “reminds me of Hitler.” Then, yesterday, The Washington Post — a highly regarded paper — ran a prominent story called “The theory of political leadership that Donald Trump shares with Adolf Hitler.”
It’s similar to when PETA compared meat processing to the Holocaust. It was more than insulting. It’s dangerous rhetoric.
I’m sorry, but the Holocaust is too immense, too catastrophic to compare with anything other than similar historical periods of state-sponsored mass murder — Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward,” the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms.
Hitler’s crimes were too numerous, too barbaric, to allow for off-the-cuff or even well-considered comparisons to people we just don’t care for — especially when those people haven’t murdered a single human being, let alone millions.
This is not a pro-Trump message. This is not a pro-any candidate message. This is a statement that says it’s unconscionable to trivialize monsters and murderers by making political pronouncements that might earn an extra 15 minutes of sound bytes. This is a declaration that says shame on those who make light of the loss that survivors and their children still recall, wake up to and go to bed with.
We don’t need Holocaust deniers adding insult to injuries. We don’t need Hitler modifiers playing down acts of barbarism for political capital.
There’s a line that decent human beings ought not cross.
You can compare few others with Hitler. Maybe the Devil. Perhaps Pharaoh and Stalin. But Donald Trump?