On Saturday, D.G. Martin offered an apology to anyone who might have been offended by a column he wrote last week. It was the right thing for D.G. to do because of who he is, not what he said. D.G. is a strong Democrat and opinionated, but he’s also the quintessential Southern gentleman who would not intentionally belittle or besmirch anyone. He didn’t compare anybody to Nazis. He just found a quote by one that seemed appropriate for the times.
The knuckle-dragging wing of the Republican Party probably considers him a liberal elitist because he appreciates literature, art and stimulating conversations. But that’s their problem, not his. I find it quite ironic that the same people who complain about the “P.C. police” every time they’re criticized for making a racist, sexist or homophobic remark are incensed by a quote from a book. Methinks thou dost protest too much.
I read the book, “In the Garden of Beasts,” last summer and have also been thinking about the parallels throughout this session of the legislature. The book is an historical account of the first days of the Nazi regime in Berlin. They had been elected into power by an angry, scared and reactionary public in the midst of the worst economic melt down in generations. They were bankrolled by wealthy industrialists who thought they could keep the Nazis’ basest instincts in check. Like much of the world, the industrialists didn’t take a lot of the harshest Nazi rhetoric seriously.
But, as we know now, the Nazis were indeed serious about their intentions and they played on the ugliest sentiments of human nature to accomplish their goals. As they stripped away rights from Jews and other groups, they denied that they were moving toward any sort of excess. Instead, they used euphemisms for their policies and denied their intent regardless of the outcome.
In North Carolina we see similar tactics. Voter suppression is ending voter fraud, even though there’s no evidence of it. Closing abortion clinics is protecting women’s health. Discriminating against gays and lesbians is “defending marriage.” Banning Shariah law is not about stigmatizing Muslims, it’s about protecting our justice system. If a bunch of poor, elderly African-Americans don’t get a chance to vote, well, that’s the price we pay to make sure our elections are honest. It’s the same logic that destroys the village in order to save it.
While I don’t believe any of the Republican leadership have any sort of Nazi sympathies, I do believe that they are exploiting irrational fears and passing dangerous legislation to appease their most reactionary base. And, like the German industrialists, I believe that they think they can keep the ugliest impulses in check.
That’s why we no longer require permits for handguns and allow silencers on rifles. It’s why we now allow guns in bars, guns on campus, guns on playgrounds, guns any place you can imagine. Remember, this is the party that introduced legislation to authorize a state-sponsored religion. Thank goodness that leadership can keep a lid on them. Just watch out for an uptick in militia activity.