In response to a request from BrandonM and buckeyekarl, I am going to expand on a comment I made the other day in response to GregMitch's diary "Colbert went where 'NYT' feared to tread on Glenn Beck."
Before you follow me below the fold, I should probably give you a Godwin's Law-related warning: the N-word (the other N-word, that is) will come up.
Well, here it is, the long version:
Whenever Pope Benedict comes up in conversation, someone (at least here in America) will bring up his Hitler Youth past. Actually, though, he was a rather reluctant member (automatically enrolled by being a public school student) who went to meetings only if he absolutely had to. He did not turn into Germany's equivalent of Pat Robertson until the late 1960s.
The same cannot be said for my Dad. He loved Hitler Youth meetings. It was great fun, like being in Boy Scouts. My father's young brain absorbed the ideology like a sponge. He was not the only member of his family who had bought into the party line. His father (my grandfather), even though he had Jewish ancestry (his parents were not married, and his Jewish father had been left off the birth certificate), was a Nazi with all his heart and soul.
During the war, when my father's hometown was bombed and 80% of the infrastructure destroyed, all public schools were evacuated. My father and uncle spent two years in a camp in Austria, with government-approved teachers, where they experienced the end of the war and the so-called Thousand Year Empire. Abandonded by the adults, the boys fended for themselves until one day they decided to take a chance and try to find their way back home, not knowing whether their parents were still alive.
In Germany, my grandparents' house was completely flattened and my grandfather was in a mental hospital, where he would stay for the rest of his life. The rest of the family, though, was reunited, and my grandmother found a job as a cook on the British base. My father, whose education had been seriously disrupted, left school after tenth grade and started a clerical apprenticeship in a publishing house, where he stayed until his retirement in 1996.
My Dad eventually completely abandoned his former political views. In fact, he became a progressive. In their younger days, he and my mother were both active in their union, and my mother is a member of the SPD to this day (when former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited San Antonio, I got to have a beer with him). When my father moved up in the company, he would be conflicted during labor disputes since he was now middle management and couldn't participate in strikes anymore.
In spite of his complete 180, my father never forgot the propaganda he was subjected to in his childhood. Whenever he was really drunk, he would start singing Nazi songs, and my mother had to drag him home before he got beaten up.
In 2004, my father visited me in San Antonio for the last time. Due to his strong opposition to the war in Iraq and the death penalty, he was not crazy about coming to Texas, but he was curious to see the new condo that I had bought. So he and my mother came for Christmas.
One day, we had the TV on, and for whatever reason (that I have forgotten), we were watching Fox News. My father watched for about ten minutes, then he said, "What is this?"
"Fox News," I answered.
"This is some kind of joke, right?"
"You mean this is an actual news show? Not satire?" My father obviously thought I was pulling his leg.
"No, it's not satire. Why are you asking?" I said.
"Because all you have to do is change a few adjectives, and it's Nazi talk."
Wow. I had never thought about why "conservatives" had always made me cringe. But he definitely had a point. Now I am not saying that Republicans are Nazis, but they do employ totalitarian rhetoric, and sometimes... well, they do sound like Nazis. Here are some eerie parallels:- "homeland" and all the imagery connected to it (also prominently featured in patriotic songs) - Invocation of patriotism, of which there is supposedly never enough - Glorification of the military while regarding actual soldiers as disposable - Glorification of motherhood with ulterior motives (the Lebensborn movement got started with homes for unwed mothers to prevent abortions) - "We" are the good guys, not because of what we do (or don't do) but because we say so - "We" are superior at anything and everything, again because we say so - Discrimination against a particular minority is morally justified to preserve national security - Even though racism and gender discrimation are considered morally right, ideology supercedes racial, ethnic, or gender affiliation. Minority members are tolerated ("We decide who's a Jew") and women can have careers if they are useful to the party - A crime or injustice was committed against us, so we must punish somebody, whether they had anything to do with it or not - If we lose a war, it's the left-wing traitors' fault - Everybody else is out to get us, and we must get them first - Messed up grammar and nonsensical sentence structures interrupted by bumper sticker-style slogans. If you ever tried to read Mein Kampf in the original (I don't recommend it), you would be reminded of a Sarah Palin speech. - speaking of Sarah Palin rallies, need I say more...
The one ingredient that the wingnuts are missing is the personality cult. They simply have not found a charismatic figure to build a movement around. There is Ronald Reagan (a.k.a. St. Ronnie), who is good for mytho-historical legend building, but, being that he's dead, he cannot go out and campaign. What they need is a Barack Obama with a military/war hero background. Alas, the characters they have been trying to sell us have come across as caricatures of what they were supposed to represent.
My father died in 2006, so obviously he missed last year's elections. If he had witnessed the McCain campaign, he would remind us daily what a bullet we dodged.