Like everybody, I receive a lot of ridiculous chain mail, and like most people I simply send it through my spam filter or delete it. But occasionally I receive a message that irritates me so that I respond to it, especially if it's sent by someone I think would consider my comments.
Yesterday morning there was a chain email in my inbox suggesting that the Obama administration parallels the Nazi party in many striking ways. The article in the email was supposedly written by historian David Kaiser (it wasn't), and that, I was told, lends credibility to the argument, which it doesn't, because the argument is lousy whoever concocted it.
Below is my response to the email. All the information comes from Richard J. Evans' history of Nazi Germany.
"If there are parallels between the Obama administration and the Nazis, then there are just as many between the Bush administration and the Nazis. Their policies are no different. We're still fighting the same wars, torturing prisoners and holding them without trial, American citizens included. We have laws restricting who can marry whom, restrictions on free speech, enforced by the FCC, and endless other regulations that dictate people's personal behavior. Parenthetically, Republicans like yourself typically approve of everything I mentioned above.
But could you say there are parallels between Germany in 1930s and 40s and America today? Yeah, I guess. But my point is that the party you trust to change America for the better doesn't deserve that trust. In practical terms the Republicans and Democrats are nearly identical. If nothing changes, I think America may end up a totalitarian state, but we have a ways to go.
The parallels that Kaiser [not Kaiser, but some anonymous blogger] discusses are tenuous at best. The misery the Nazis rained down on Germany makes the Democrats look like dedicated defenders of individual liberty. For example, if you were to distribute a pamphlet in Berlin during World War II that was anything like this email, you would have been lined up against a wall and shot, you're family and friends sent to a labor camp to work until they died of exhaustion or starvation.
The German government controlled every newspaper, book publisher, radio station, theater and museum in the country. In fact, the Nazis assigned a Block Warden to every neighborhood in German cities to make sure the population wasn't listening to or playing unapproved music in their homes.
Even looking just at Kaiser's examples it's easy to see the difference. We don't have anything comparable to the Hitler Youth, Obama can't dissolve the Congress as Hitler did the Reichstag, there are no political party militias beating up dissenters in the streets and no secret police keeping a watchful eye on the public's behavior [ed January 2014: alright, so we might have this now].
There was also the attempted genocide of the Jews and mass murder of anybody deemed unfit for life. Good luck finding a parallel there.
I could provide many more examples, but you get the idea. So in summary, what I think you should do is eat a delicious sandwich and chill out. Though we should be informed citizens and remain critical of government, we still have a lot of freedom in this country.