(Part II of "A President English Teachers Can Be Proud Of")
Unfortunately, this is not a headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion: Barack Obama, the first African-American president in U.S. history, who earned that position by building a broad coalition of people from all races and social classes, is being compared with genocidal nutcase Adolf Hitler, who would have been all too happy to put the President-Elect in Auschwitz for his skin color.
Seriously...are you 'effing kidding me?
Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell devotes an entire essay to the analogy which is first laughable, and then horrifying when one realizes Sowell is utterly serious: "To find anything comparable to crowds' euphoric reactions to Obama, you would have to go back to old newsreels of German crowds in the 1930s, with their adulation of their fuehrer, Adolf Hitler."
But Sowell isn't a longhaired kook with library access to the net; he is writer for a "mainstream" conservative magazine the National Review, a professor, and a fellow of Stanford's Hoover Institution.
And even more frightening, Sowell is not alone.
The Daily Show shed light on this trend, hilariously pointing out recent comments by Georgia Republican Congressman Paul Broun: "We can't be lulled into complacency...You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential." (Broun later apologized for his comments).
Jonah Goldberg, author of the book Liberal Fascism, also writes an essay arguing that Obama is essentially a fascist, and a cartoonist draws a strip depicting the Obama camp as Nazis.
And the list doesn't end here.
Lest you think only conservative sharks are to blame, HuffingtonPost blogger Glynnis MacNichol shows us that extreme analogies aimed at Obama are bipartisan. Back in the primary, MacNichol associated Obama to another mass-murder Jim Jones, with an article titled "Obama and the Kool-Aid Test," a clear reference to the Jonestown massacre in which more than 900 people died. And while MacNichol makes it clear she is not calling Obama Jim Jones, she nonetheless bashes his followers, invoking fascism in the same breath: "There are no shades of grey where Obama is concerned. And not only is there no room for Hillary, but any mention of her is greeted with the sort of response that might lead one to believe I was in fact speaking of some evil Eastern European dictator."
But the award-winner for the most outlandish Obama analogies goes to an anonymous writer, for a website called "Stop the ACLU," which promises to beat them "with their own sickle and hammer." This writer is able to hammer Obama together with pretty much every mass murder in modern history in a single sentence: the "cult of personality" surrounding Obama leads to "situations that produce over 900 poisoned corpses because they drank Koolaid." The writer, not content that this association is extreme enough, compares Obama to Hitler and Charles Manson, who were "skilled at charming others to their ill will."
It's easy to dismiss each of these as incoherent rants from extremists, which are not worth our time.
But these attacks are worth studying, as they speak to a greater hatred, a greater fear than Obama himself: a fear of words, and of those who can use them well.
Or, as one insightful commenter posted in response to an article I recently wrote applauding Obama's command of language: "You may be surprised how intimidated those with a high school education or less can be by someone with a vocabulary and a command of the language."
In the same circles that "fear" Obama, George W. Bush's legendary incoherence was an asset, as it suggested he was just a regular American (which doesn't, unfortunately, speak well of regular Americans), and not a "slick politician," who speaks in complete and sophisticated sentences. Sarah Palin, who rivals Bush in linguistic incompetence, had the same appeal, as Dick Cavett (of the classic Dick Cavett Show) pointed out in a wonderful article "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla". In response, one commenter wrote that he appreciated Palin's "honesty," contrasting it against Obama, claiming that "i am soooo not impressed by those who speak properly with good grammar and know how to say the right thing for the right people at the right time....in street language we call them 'con artists..'" (Apparently, capitalization is for "con-artists.")
A similar sentiment is expressed on another website: "I still believe Obama has a secret agenda...that's the way it is with all the smooth talkers...just like Bill Clinton!"