Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Why we need to stop the misuse of the word “Nazi”

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In recent years there has been a growing and concerning trend in regard to a word as familiar globally as any other word.  That word is Nazi. The trend I speak of is in the use of the word in a descriptive, subjective form, as opposed to the literally specific form necessary to keep an understanding of the evil it represents.

A number of people who knew that I intended to write this piece have actually thanked me for doing so.  Any attempt to try to change the thought pattern of an anti-Semite or other form of bigot that uses Holocaust denial as a means of forwarding a perverse agenda is a waste of time.  A more worthwhile venture is to make sure those who have open minds and pure hearts are afforded the opportunity to know the truth.  The truth is that improper use of the word Nazi dilutes the horrors of what took place under the Nazi-occupation in Europe.

This post is neither a political statement nor an apology for those that misuse power.  This is more of a perspective check. Calling someone a Nazi because they do something damaging to other individuals, or even worse calling them one because it is your perception they are doing so, detracts from some critical facts.

Adolf Hitler’s Nazi war machine sought out and killed in staggering numbers.  According to jewishvirtualibrary.org the numbers break down as follows.

Jews: up to 6 million

Soviet civilians: around 7 million (including 1.3 Soviet Jewish civilians, who are included in the 6 million figure for Jews)

Soviet prisoners of war: around 3 million (including about 50,000 Jewish soldiers)

Non-Jewish Polish civilians: around 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elites)

Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina): 312,000

People with disabilities living in institutions: up to 250,000

Roma: 196,000–220,000

Jehovah‘s Witnesses: around 1,900

Repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials: at least 70,000

German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory: undetermined

Homosexuals: hundreds, possibly thousands (possibly also counted in part under the 70,000 repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials noted above).

As a son of Dutch Jewish Holocaust survivors, the Jewish number hits very close to home, as it does or has done for many others I have known or still know over the course of my lifetime.  The Nazis destroyed entire worlds.  They wiped out an entire Jewish civilization in a large percentage of Europe.  They tortured, they raped, they conducted experiments, made people dig graves before shooting them in cold blood, and put together one of the most efficiently cruel means of mass murder by gassing to death multitudes of people.  Frankly, although these facts are accurate, this does not capture the true horror of what took place.  For that one needs to research the numerous pictures and accounts of the events that took place.

And yet many people today refer to anyone with ideologies opposed to their own as a Nazi.  This is not a left and right issue.  This is also not a justification nor a means of disregarding dangerous viewpoints or ideologies.  What this is instead is a specific statement as to what separated Nazi Germany from much of what people refer to today as Nazi behavior.  I’ve seen people on the right call Barack Obama a Nazi.  I’ve seen people on the left call Donald Trump a Nazi.  You can criticize, even despise the Iran deal or the situation on the border, but neither of these facts put either president even close to being in the same category as Adolf Hitler.  Furthermore, even if one would feel strong critique for Israel’s handling of the Palestinian situation or feel a disdain for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, invoking Nazi atrocities as a comparison to today’s Israel is nothing more than a disingenuous use of a term to promote a dangerous anti-Semitic political agenda.

None of this is to say that we should turn a blind eye to the dangers that exist both in our respective countries or abroad.  But it is important to note, that if one is to learn from history it starts by doing everything necessary to study it accurately.  What the Nazis did  between 1933 and 1945 is perpetrate an evil unlike anything the world had ever seen.  To improperly identify and remember what took place not only dishonors all those murdered, it puts us all in greater danger of seeing it take place once again.

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You’ll have to forgive me Mr. President. I’m a Jew and I’ve been hurt before

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I know as a Jew and a Zionist I am supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy today.  After all the President of the United States did greet the Israeli Prime Minister with great respect and they expressed their long lasting friendship.  To make it even better, President Trump went as far as saying that he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.  That’s never been said before. Oh wait. It has been said before. By just about everyone else to run or step into the office since at least the mid 90s.  So although I appreciate the nice words, right now they are nothing more than that, and as a Jew I am yet to be convinced.

For example, outgoing President Barack Obama, a disappointment to so much of the Jewish community started off by making the following comments.

“Let me be clear,“Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. … Any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders.”

“Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Go back to recently defeated candidate Hillary Clinton who wrote the following in a letter, dated July 2, 1999 to Dr. Mandell Ganchrow of the Orthodox Union in New York.

“If I am chosen by New Yorkers to be their senator, or in whatever position I find myself in the years to come, you can be sure that I will be an active, committed advocate for a strong and secure Israel, able to live in peace with its neighbors, with the United States Embassy located in its capital, Jerusalem.”

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton declared in February 1992, at the height of the Democratic primaries, that he supported recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a step that would alter U.S. policy, but never signed the 1995 congressional mandate to move the embassy.

Senator John McCain pledged to move the U.S. embassy in Israel “right away” from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as did Senator Robert Dole and George W. Bush who actually did become president.  Candidate Bush made the pledge to move the embassy on his first day in office. Once in office he said he went from doing it on the first day to saying he would begin the process on his first day.  Instead he signed a waiver every 6 months delaying the same 1995 congressional mandate and in the end never did it.

Enter President Donald J. Trump.  Yes he has said some very nice things. He too promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  But now he is looking into it. He promised to rip of the Iran deal on his first day.  We must have missed it. And he publicly stated the following at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“I would like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Donald Trump may end up being the best friend Israel ever had in the Oval Office.  I certainly hope so.  But forgive me if I’m not ready to throw a party yet. I’ve heard this song before.

 

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Open Letter to John Kerry regarding UN Vote on Israel

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Dear Secretary Kerry,

It took me less than 5 minutes of listening to your speech earlier today to get a very good idea of where the disconnect is between you and the administration’s approach and those of us who proudly and unapologetically support the State of Israel and its government. Since the problem is more in the method and approach than it is in the desired outcome, I am willing to assume, albeit reluctantly and mostly for the purposes of making the more important point,  that your intentions are at the very least meant to be fair to both parties.

Mr. Kerry, Israel is not your child and you are not its father.  I do not believe you have the right to sit in judgment over what she does as a sovereign state to protect her borders and the lives of her citizens.  The philosophical discussion of whether or not a two state solution is the only way to guarantee the continuing existence of the State of Israel is a discussion that can be had by any party coming to the table with legitimate and peaceful intentions.  The building of settlements, on land conquered by Israel when her very existence was threatened by hostile neighbors working towards her destruction, is an issue that can be legitimately addressed. However, like so many other things in life, things must be done at the right time, in the proper manner, and most of all prioritized correctly. The point being, until Israel’s rights are recognized and they can have an open and equitable discussion with a sincere partner in peace, discussions of Israeli policy and actions taken on any land falling under Israeli rule is not only inappropriate, it is hypocritical and immoral.

This is not a chicken and egg situation.  Before there was any violence or settlements, the very same United Nations that condemned Israel last week for the building of said settlements, approved the creation of the Jewish state that this same governing body now chastises.  The very same organization that once had Syria on its human rights commission, has done very little to protect the persecution and murder of Christians by ISIS and has repeatedly taken the side of terrorist organizations against Israel, now claims some high and mighty moral imperative.  The reality may just be that what it is actually doing is the bidding of the very wealthy Arab states that see Israel as a Jewish thorn in their proverbial sides.  This is the United Nations that you Secretary Kerry and the rest of the Obama administration have chosen to side with.

I have heard the argument that a large percentage of Israelis are against the settlements. Regardless of whether or not this is true, it is irrelevant, and frankly not the business of anyone outside of Israel.  In fact, and understand that this is coming from someone who has voted Democrat far more often than Republican, I find it particularly distasteful because of the recent evidence of Russia tampering in America’s elections.  How can we genuinely scream and shout in disgust over Putin’s actions when our leadership chooses to insert its influence over matters that speak to the very root of Israel’s existence?  The settlements may or may not be a moral or wise course of action, but they began with actions of self defense by an Israeli government, and unless an outside nation intends to put its citizens in danger, have their young men and women fight, or risk their very survival, what right do they have to dictate Israeli policy?  I do not question that the United States has done a lot to help Israel, but that means they are entitled to expect a fair and equitable friendship and alliance, not the right to control her destiny. It would be like my best friend saying that as a result of all he does for me he can determine how I furnish my home.  It’s unethical and the reality is that it just doesn’t work that way.

Mr. Secretary, I started the second paragraph by saying that Israel is not your child and you are not its father.  I use this analogy to make the following point.  There are only a few people I feel have had the right to speak out over how I live my life.  One of them was my father of blessed memory.  If anyone else felt they had the right to speak to my actions as my father did or mother does, I would have every right to react in a very harsh and critical manner.  Israel is America’s best and strongest ally, certainly in the Middle East and very possibly in the entire world.  That fact does not give you or anyone else the right to decide how they move forward in protecting their people and territory and representatives of Israel’s government are correct for their negative and critical reactions.

Finally I leave you with this thought.  When referencing all America has done for Israel, a fact I not only do not dispute but appreciate as well, understand the following important fact.  America’s friendship towards Israel has always been a way of strengthening her security and insuring her existence, not a bargaining chip to be held over her head.  Once the United States government takes the stance that because of its support they have the right to make demands, that friendship turns into something completely different.  It turns into a tool of power and control, something no Israeli leader, no matter how inclined to the left he or she may be is likely to respond to positively.  Something  I am even more thankful for. The actions of the current administration in showing support for these actions have been anything but friendly, and sadly and ironically have done more damage to the peace process than any action taken by anyone or any government in quite some time.  That Mr. Secretary will be most likely be your Middle East legacy.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Never Defend the Indefensible

World Leaders Gather In New York For Annual United Nations General Assembly

I have spent the past year, over the course of the US Presidential election cycle speaking out against the concept of what many might call the concept of defending the indefensible.  I take pride in being anything but a hypocrite.  So much so that I sometimes have views that are not in line with where I appear to stand politically. Therefore I can no longer keep silent regarding the current administration’s recent stance regarding Israel and the United Nations condemnation of the only true democracy in the Middle East.

This piece is not about Donald Trump, so I will only refer to him this one time, merely to make a point.  Those who have read my work over the past year or so are fully aware that I did not support him.  I found it bizarre and a bit scary when his supporters defended words and behavior many of us saw as indefensible. I can not be sure of what kind of person he actually is, but as president, to be blunt, I just don’t like him.  That being said, when I speak of dislike, my feeling towards the United Nations is on a different level.  So as I sit here and realize that my president, a man I voted for, has chosen as one of his last acts as leader of the free world to align himself with this bastion of corruption, I find myself in the position where I can not and will not defend the indefensible on a level far greater than any over the past year.

Ironically the issue, at least in my opinion, is not so much in the details.  There are many people in Israel who are opposed to the settlements.  There are also many people who believe the only real solution to the conflict is a two state solution.  But that’s not the issue. What is more significant here is the condemnation by the United Nations and the lack of loyalty and support the United States has shown to Israel in not only not obstructing this condemnation, but very possibly being a driving force behind it.  The United Nations has made a very lucrative business out of criticizing and condemning the Jewish State.  While nations have murdered and tortured their citizens, while terrorist groups have begun to form in various parts of the Middle East, and nations like Iran have called for the death and destruction of Israel and the United States, the United Nations has encouraged and arguably promoted the idea that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.  For any United States government to do anything other than oppose this, truly falls in the category of indefensible.

Just as a lie of omission is  still a lie, an abstention by the United States at a United Nations vote of this significance is the same as a show of support for the vote.  I truly believe Israel will get through this, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a clear act of disloyalty towards an important friend, and if it is personal and based on the relationship between President Obama  and Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is far worse than that. It interferes in Israeli politics in a manner not too dissimilar from a foreign government hacking America’s political parties and possibly influencing the election.  It tells the Israeli people, I don’t like the person you elected through your democratic process and subsequently as a result I am turning my back on you as I walk out the door.

This is not about being a Liberal or Conservative.  Alan Dershowitz, a man as liberal as anyone in the public forum has spoken out against this without any filter, and clearly feels the same sense of betrayal so many of us do at this time.  This is about how to treat a friend and knowing and acknowledging the difference between right and wrong.  Israel is a nation of equality.  A nation where people of all religions, races, nationalities and orientations have the opportunity to live in peace.  If an outgoing president and an international body decide to end the year attacking Israel instead of going after the real manifestations of evil in the world, this becomes nothing other than a vendetta, be it political, racial, or as many believe in this case, personal.  Regardless of the motivation it is an act that is truly indefensible.

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Americans are Looking for a Hero

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The ongoing saga surrounding the search for the next President of the United States is an almost overwhelming exercise in analysis and judgement flooding the press and social media.  It’s clear that everyone is in search of something.  The obvious question is what?  The answer is a very simple one.  People are looking for a hero.

8 years ago, some in America thought they found their hero in Barack Obama. Partisan politics pretty much guaranteed that a majority were Democrats, but that being as it may, a significant percentage of these people did hold hope that this president would save the country from its growing travails. Today, although there are some who still may see the current President in the same light, many people are disillusioned by their perception that he has been anything but the hero they so hoped he would be.  As the country narrows down it’s search to 5 people, potentially more depending on how the conventions go, what is glaringly apparent is that the people need a hero now more than ever.

Whether you like them or not, the two candidates feeding into that need the most are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It can’t be denied that to the liberal college student Bernie Sanders is a champion unlike any they’ve seen in their lifetime.  The fact that most are only old enough to be voting for the 2nd time at best, plays into this a little, but be that as it may, many of the more liberal and disillusioned of all ages are certainly”feeling the Bern”.

Although his supporters include different types of people, Donald Trump is most definitely the hero of a large percentage of white blue collar males.  Feeling forgotten and betrayed by their government, many of these people feel the message of Trump is either more important than his delivery, or are staunch supporters of not only what he says, but how he says it.  Many women who support him, even those distancing themselves from his, at best questionable behavior towards women, still see him as the one person in the race that can save the country or as he says,”Make America Great Again”.

This issue also magnifies the biggest problem facing Hillary Clinton.  There is a percentage of her supporters who are energized and excited by her candidacy, and some men and many women who find the prospect of her being the first female President heroic from an historical perspective, but the various scandals she is connected to or allegedly involved in, are certainly enough to cause someone to seriously question her ability to govern at all, let alone be that hero so many people are looking for.

Candidates like Ted Cruz and John Kasich may be getting more votes because of people that like them better than the other two, Trump being the third, than because of being seen as the statesman, or woman people are so desperately in search of.  In the case of Cruz, there are so many people who don’t like him, it’s impossible to imagine he would ever be seen as a hero to any significant majority of American people.  Then again, before 9/11 Rudy Giuliani was at best a good Mayor to some, many people did not like him at all, while after 9/11 some were comparing him to Winston Churchill.

It was Shakespeare who wrote, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”.   The truth is that as much as anyone seems sure of who would be good and who would be bad for the country, none of us know for sure.  We think we do, and we often vehemently say so, but until any one of these candidates is in the position of leadership we just don’t know for sure.  Many who felt that they knew Obama would be great now feel very differently and it’s safe to say that many people did not know that Harry Truman would have the courage to make what might have been the hardest decision a President ever made in order to end a war. What we can be fairly certain of is that whoever is chosen as the next President, he or she will most likely be severely tested.  The danger facing the country is twofold.  The first one, which is the more basic of the two, is that should the next President not be up to the task, failing these tests could be catastrophic, not just for America but the entire world. The second danger is that if the President is unable to accomplish the most basic needs of the nation, keeping it safe and improving its economy, the backlash will be so severe that the continuing search for that populist heroic leader could bring about a devastating collapse in the political structure.  It’s not far-fetched to say that the stakes have never been higher.


Why are America’s Major Political Parties so Surprised? They are Reaping what they Sowed

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With Donald Trump all over the media and the crisis facing the Republican Party taking center stage, it’s easy for people to overlook the issues the Democrats are dealing with almost simultaneously.  On the surface the two  most significant differences are the number of candidates remaining, and more importantly, the fact that the front runner for the Republicans is the candidate making the most noise and getting the most attention.  This does not necessarily mean he is the most controversial.  Objectively speaking, that distinction could at least as easily be given to the Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.  What both parties do have in common is that neither have any right to be surprised about where they are today.  In essence, both parties are reaping what they sowed.

It’s far easier to see this when looking at the Republican primaries.  Ultra conservatives and the Republican establishment have been attacking everything Democrat at least since the days of Bill Clinton.  Even before he got started Barack Obama’s opponents were attacking him from day one.  Whether you believe he’s been a great president or a failing president, his opponents assumed, almost immediately that he would be wrong on every policy move he ever made.  However, in reality it’s always been at least as much about his party as it was about his policies.

In fairness, the Republicans had just finished facing the same thing with George W. Bush.  After 9/11, and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, there was a short period of time, maybe the only time in decades  that the nation actually stood together as one. But as soon as things got a little better, the unity fell apart.  Nothing represented it more than the war in Iraq.   Very few people reading this will likely take an objective stance on that issue.  There are stances that Republicans and Democrats have taken that are clearly the party line.  Democrats generally say they opposed the war in Iraq. Ironically, even many of the ones that voted in favor of it now prefer to say they made a mistake than breaking away from the party rhetoric.  Republicans say the war was the correct move but it turned into a disaster once the Obama administration came into power.  I challenge people reading this to come up with an original thought on this issue possibly even in breaking with their party affiliation.  Why?  Because when you don’t look at things objectively and avoid telling people the truth, guess what you get? Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

America is facing something far more complicated than a country divided.  This is actually a country with its two main parties divided before we even get to the growing division between Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans.  The big question is, why is anyone surprised?  After years of vitriolic criticism from both sides, the 2 men that represent the subsequent backlash on both sides are a Socialist touting a political revolution and a Reality TV star and businessman with such extreme views he is garnishing support of the country’s worst racists and bigots. But what did people expect?  If you spend enough time telling people how evil everyone on the other side of the political aisle is, do you expect a happy populous?  Do you expect tranquil political discussion?  Or do you stop and realize that what’s been created is  an environment fertile to the growth of far left or far right extremism.

Sadly it never ends.  Even with the issue of Donald Trump’s rallies, supporters of Trump say one thing, detractors say the other.  People don’t seem to realize that this is part of what people are fed up with.  Not every “expert” on TV has to always sound like a paid representative of one side or the other.  Most people do some things wrong and some things right.  But when you listen to the pundits, their side does everything right, and the other side does everything wrong.  For once I would like to hear someone say something that both sides would disagree with.  At least then we would know they were being honest.

In an era when politics looks like wrestling, and I mean the fake kind, not the Olympic kind, and political nastiness and controversy is blown out of proportion for TV ratings-case in point the constant replay of the same punches from this past Friday night-we can hardly be surprised by what we are seeing in both parties.  After all, when true leadership is lacking, people are often left with strong expressions of anger and frustration.  What would really be surprising would be if it wasn’t happening.

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“Hitler” is not an adjective

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I’ve watched and listened in thorough dismay as people have thrown around the Hitler comparison. It started in earnest with people comparing current President Barack Obama to the Nazi leader and mass murderer, and has continued recently with numerous statements calling Donald Trump the next Hitler.  Fortunately, only for the sake of this discussion, the comparisons have been thrown around equally both in discussion about a current Democratic President, and now with the Republican front runner for president.  So it’s happened on both sides of the political aisle. Let me be very clear about my position.  Using this comparison is not besides being slanderous towards both, unintentionally diminishes the importance of remembering those murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

It is believed that Adolph Hitler was responsible for the murder of close to 20 million innocent men, women and children.  6 million of these were Jewish victims of a Holocaust of devastating proportions.  The majority were murdered during World War II, but it’s extremely important to note that Hitler’s anti-Semitic intentions were made very clear long before the war started.  Yes Hitler looked to disarm the masses, but when people use this as a reason to draw a comparison to President Obama, all they are showing is a disingenuous use of a political platform.  I am not making any political statement regarding the gun control discussion, merely stating how disgusting it has been to use this issue as a justification to compare our current president to Hitler.  I hate the Iran deal.  I also believe there is plenty of reason to question whether or not this president is a friend of Israel’s.  However, unlike Hitler, there have been reasons to make the opposing argument, like a Chief of Staff with Israeli parents and funding for Iron Dome. Again, I am not making a case for President Obama being a friend of Israel’s or the Jewish people, but I am emphatically saying that he is not only not like Hitler, to say that he is like him is despicable.

Donald J. Trump is loud, abrasive, insulting, and maybe Marco Rubio is right that he is a con-artist.  It’s also possible that he is a straight-shooting successful businessman who loves America and is primarily well intentioned.  I’m not necessarily thrilled about the President Trump scenario.  But I will tell you what I do know.  Donald Trump has had too many positive interactions over the years with minorities to be classified as an outright bigot.  He even has a daughter who converted to Judaism. And yet people compare him to the most disgusting, most proud, most murderous anti-Semite that ever lived? I think a strong case can be made to not vote for Trump merely on his faltering when asked about the David Duke endorsement, but I don’t think he did it because he supports the KKK, I think he did it because all he heard was the word endorsement and it’s hard for Trump not to like anyone who likes him.  That in itself can be a dangerous thing, but it still doesn’t make you Hitler.

For those of you who have read this far, I am sure you are clear on the fact that I am not emphatically standing behind any one politician or viewpoint. I am merely stating something I wish I didn’t have to state.  If you are looking for a Hitler comparison you need to go no further than the leaders of ISIS or Hamas, people who have preached death to the Jews and persecuted and murdered groups that do not tow the line with their way of life.  It doesn’t have to be about murdering Jewish people to merit a Hitler comparison.  The ISIS leader Baghdadi’s sanctioning and ordering the murder and persecution of Christians is already enough to do so.  To compare Obama or Trump to Hitler is not only an insult to the Jewish people murdered by the Nazis, it’s a blatant insult and disregard for the treatment of the Yazidis by ISIS.

Now let me be clear about something. I am not saying I support Donald Trump.  In fact I will accept what former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman said, that Trump’s language regarding Muslims reminded her of “the kind of rhetoric that allowed Hitler to move forward.”  I take no offense to calling Trump a danger. That’s an opinion that may or may not prove valid.  But there is a big difference between calling someone evil, or saying someone’s words creates a fertile ground for evil.

Hitler was a man.  An evil man. He showed hatred to the Jewish people and other minorities from the very beginning.  He spoke early in his career about annihilating the Jewish people.  Sadly he came closer to achieving this than anyone in history.  Millions of innocent men, women and children were murdered by this man.  “Hitler” is not a word in the dictionary that means a politician with viewpoints, sometimes extreme, that represent an opposing and sometimes prejudicial viewpoint.  Hitler was a man who murdered millions of people.  Today we have people using that term to describe people of who there is no evidence they even murdered one.  There are not 2 types of people in the world.  Good and Hitler.  There are many in between.  These may be bad people who people sometimes call Hitler.  But to be a “Hitler” is something that needs to be earned by perpetrating savage, brutal, heartless  torture and murder.  Not by saying things we don’t like or even saying things deemed hateful.  Not even by merely being dangerous. If we minimize the significance of who Hitler was, we minimize the seriousness of what he did.  That may create a simpler path to another mass murdering tyrant than anything else taking place today.

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