My maternal grandfather, whom I called Pop, enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. He fought in Europe and was awarded a Bronze Star. He was wounded in battle though never awarded a Purple Heart because of a problem with his records. My grandfather risked his life for his country, bravely and willingly. He was a hero.
So when people compare our president to the man who is responsible for World War II and the deaths of millions of people, I think it is pretty understandable that I get upset.
I’m not going to re-hash the history of WWII and the Holocaust. Presumably, if you’re reading this, you’ve at least graduated high school and have some understanding of these events, or you should. There’s no need for me to tell you again.
I will, however, tell this story. At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, there is a room dedicated to the children who died during the Holocaust. Not the child victims of war but the children who were systematically rounded up and murdered because of who they were or who their parents were. It is a dark room, lined with mirrors reflecting the light of a single flame. Visitors file through it as the names, ages and places of birth of every known child who was killed during the Holocaust are read aloud. Walking through that room was the single most haunting experience of my life.
When I combine that memory with the thought of my grandfather, who was about my age when he enlisted, sitting in a dirty trench somewhere in western Europe, it enrages me that people would compare Barack Obama with the man responsible for that.
Obama is trying to do the best he can. He inherited a mess and is trying to work it out. So he isn’t perfect and he’s made some mistakes. Are you perfect? I doubt it. And whether you agree with his policies or don’t, at the very least he hasn’t gotten us into any new wars, like some other presidents I could mention.
Adolf Hitler was a sick individual who desired, ordered and is responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Obama wants to make health care affordable and accessible to millions of people, saving their lives. Hitler hated racial minorities. Obama is one. Hitler started a war that involved almost the whole world. Obama has reduced the number of combat troops that the United States has stationed overseas. I’m not sure that you could pick two less similar individuals, and yet there are some who continue to draw the comparison.
One of the justifications I have heard for this ridiculous comparison is that Hitler was a socialist and so is Obama.
I can’t help but chuckle at that one. Seriously? First of all, Hitler was a fascist, not a socialist. Did you not pay attention in your high school history class? Just because the word “socialist” was part of the Nazi party’s name doesn’t make it true. If the world worked like that, I’d change my name to Dorothy 4.0GPA Powell. Second, Obama is not a socialist. There’s a reason why major socialist groups in this country haven’t come out and claimed him for their own. It’s because he’s not liberal enough for them. Though Obama supports some aspects of socialization, he is far from being a socialist (and even further from being a communist).
Once you come to grips with the fact that the Hitler/Obama comparison is absurd, you start to wonder why people make it.
The answer is pretty simple. People are afraid of change. And if there’s one thing Obama represents, it’s change. He is our first president who is a person of color. He has revamped our health care system. He has been trying, in some respects, to change the federal government and military’s policies regarding gay marriage. He does not accept the status quo, and that freaks a lot of people out.
I understand. Change is scary. But to compare the most nefarious historical figure of the last century (if not of the whole of recorded history) with a man who is just trying to do the best he can for his country is ignorant and offensive. To do so minimizes the plight that millions of people have suffered and brushes it off as something trivial.
The loss of more than 10 million lives (and that figure does not include those lives lost in war or those altered irreparably) in less than a decade is not trivial. It is horrific and inexcusable and unforgettable. To treat it otherwise is a disservice to those lives lost and altered, and to people like my grandfather, who gave up so much to try to stop it.