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Hitler is 123 today, and he is alive and well. The Führer is going strong not because a vast neo-Nazi conspiracy is about to take over the Western world, kill the Jews, expel the Muslims and make April 20 the Day of Aryan Rebirth, but because he is an all-time favorite of the neoconservative-neoliberal duopoly at home and abroad.
When you advocate bombing a faraway nation of which we know little, call its leader a new Hitler (and, by extension, condemn the failure to bomb as a new “Munich”). When you want to discredit domestic opponents of migratory population replacement or abortion, compare them to Hitler. When you want to demonize the European civilization, Christian religion, national identity, or traditional culture, Hitler is ready. Six decades after the phenomenon was defined by Leo Strauss as reductio ad Hitlerum, the practice is more widely spread than ever. If you dislike a person/policy/idea, find a Hitlerian point of contact and thus prove that the PPI in question is a priori bad, mad and worthy of criminalization.
The final corollary of the concept is that we are all potential Hitlers, and only by vigilantly guarding against deviant thoughts (“I like Americans better than Somalis”), emotions (“I enjoy the Master Singers more than Porgy & Bess”) and practices (“I enjoy walking my German Shepherd in the Bavarian Alps”) can we protect ourselves from the lure of the inner Adolf.
There are literally thousands of offerings to illustrate the syndrome, starting with A for AHMADINEJAD…
… and ending with T for TRIFKOVIC (e.g., with Michael Sells on “Hitler in full oratorical flight” in Breivik, Trifkovic, and Radical Serb Ideology) and W for WAGNER.
One-hundred twenty-three years after Hitler’s birth, an attempt to advance towards normalization of his person and legacy is both possible and necessary. It need not and must not end up either in trivializing his grotesque record or in succumbing to the temptations of the historian’s prejudices. Perhaps a barrier will always separate us and him, but the effort is intellectually and morally legitimate.
It cannot be done for as long as he is alive and well, thanks to those who profess to abhor him. On current form the world deserves him. Many happy returns, Adi!
He is the only historical villain many know. Imagine how cross-eyed some would become if you compared someone to Tamerlane or Savonarola
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