As I write this commentary on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am almost speechless, which for anyone who knows me is rare. I am upset and quite frankly outraged not because the day brings up reflections of family members tortured and murdered by the Nazi oppressors, and echoes of conversations with family who survived those terrifying years, but, rather, by what I perceive as the use and misuse of the Holocaust by some to justify and maintain the enormous economic disparity in the U.S. and across the planet.
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 2005 designating 27 January each year (on the Gregorian calendar) as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to memorialize all the millions of sufferers of Nazi atrocities. The day was chosen marking the anniversary of the liberation of the largest of the Nazi death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27 January 1945.
In a published letter appearing in the Wall Street Journal (24 January 2014), Tom Perkins, one of the world’s wealthiest men who made his multi-millions as a venture capitalist in California’s “Silicone Valley,” claims “parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich’.” Perkins continues: “From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.”
If his accusation of a supposed war on the rich were not enough, he goes on to compare this “very dangerous drift in our American thinking” to a Kristallnacht against the wealthy.
Let us be clear, Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) included a series of vicious and homicidal raids between 9 – 10 November 1938. This was essentially a government-sponsored pogrom directed against Jewish businesses and the Jewish people.
To compare the growing awareness of and call to address the growing and seemingly unfathomable income/wealth disparity in the United States and globally to the Nazi’s “final solution” of the Jews amounts not only to historical revisionism to the maximum, but more importantly it trivializes the extreme conditions under which so many people, Jews and others, suffered from the dehumanization, marginalization, surveillance, arrest, incarceration, torture, “medical” experimentation, rape, murder, and incineration.
Perkins sounds to me like one of the alleged “heroic” characters, Francisco d’Anconia, of Ayn Rand’s polemic novel, Atlas Shrugged, who states: “Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.”
Ayn Rand, the intellectual center for the economic/political/social philosophy of Libertarianism, constructs a bifurcated world of one-dimensional characters in her novels. On one side, she presents the noble, rational, intelligent, creative, inventive, self-reliant: the heroes of industry, of music and the arts, of science, of commerce and banking who wage a noble battle for dignity, integrity, personal and economic freedom, for the profits of their labors within an unregulated “free market” Capitalist system against the “looters” represented by the followers, the led, the irrational, the unintelligent, the misguided, the misinformed, the government bureaucrats who regulate, who manipulate the economy to justify nationalizing the means of economic production, who confiscate personal property, who provide welfare to the unentitled, the lazy, destroying personal incentive, motivation, resulting in dependency. Welfare Ayn Rand terms as “unearned rewards.” (Echoes of a contemporary “Rand”?) Capitalism she asserts must be an unregulated system, a separation of economics and state.
In Rand’s, and seemingly Perkins’s, historical/economic world view, to enact any sort of regulation, to call for proposals and enactment of policies to ensure greater access to economic resources by the greatest possible number of the world’s population, this is tantamount to a Nazi invasion and slaughter of innocent people.
How many more politicians and pundits (for example, Arizona State Rep. Brenda Barton, 10/7/13; Fox News Radio’s Tom Sullivan, 2/11/08; Ann Coulter, 4/3/08; Clear Channel’s Bill Cunningham,10/28/08) are going to liken President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and to Joseph Stalin (the two latter both of whom had opposing political philosophies, just sayin’) and comparing members of the Occupy Movement and others of us who advocate for economic equity to the Nazi SA and SS – the vanguards of the German murder machine? http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/region_northern_az/payson/lawmaker-compares-obama-to-hitler-arizona-rep-brenda-barton-angry-over-shutdown, http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/playing-the-nazi-card/
I hold both extremes – the Holocaust deniers and the Holocaust revisionists – as offensive to the good people who were all taken from us far too soon. Let them rest in peace. Let the truth prevail.
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.