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January 12, 2020

Civility, Nazis, 2020 And Other Musings

Letters To The Editor

Dylan Diggs

I tried to avoid some of the quick-fire reactions to the recent controversy that has been boiling over in Frederick about the recent Frederick Democrat’s Facebook Post. The war room mentality of instant hot takes responding to the latest injustice or offense faster than a gunslinger in a Western serial has only been detrimental to our political culture. In the social media age it has reached a fevered status.

In case you missed it, the offending Frederick Democrats Facebook Page included the following post on its page: 75 years ago Patriotic Americans went to France to throw out the Nazis. Next year all you have to do is go to the polls. #bluewave.”

I first discounted it as primarily a tasteless appeal to mobilize voters in today’s meme-culture. However, it was concerning to see the Frederick Democrats, including some prominent members of the party, double down on this language.

The language is inflammatory, irresponsible and inaccurate in a way that paints one’s opponents as tantamount to one of the more murderous regimes of the past century. Am I personally offended by this language? No. Even if I was, our political pages are too littered with the latest outrage. It is part of the bile that pesters our political discourse these days. That doesn’t mean it is not offensive. More to the point, it is disappointing.

It is probably prudent for everybody to abstain from Nazi analogies. Such hyperbolic historical analogies are best avoided as they tend to be subject to contexts and ideologies that are unhelpful within our current situation. The Nazi regime in Germany was so particularly onerous in its violence and the emotion it inspires that conjuring these sentiments for political utility amounts to a moral disservice. If one must engage in historical analogies, there are better comparisons for either party that do not denigrate the sacrifices of those servicemen who fought that brutal regime, or the victims who suffered under it.

This disservice is compounded by its inaccuracy. The two major parties in America are both committed to non-violent, democratic elections and share very little resemblance to actual fascist ideologies of the early 20th Century. Even in our current political climate, which at the moment feels turbulent and frayed, neither come particularly close. The debates about which might be better compared are missing the point. There are real Nazis around today. Blurring those distinctions is questionable.

My greatest concern is how this incident exhibits one of the more disconcerting, yet all too common, political tactics: the use of fear in politics. So many political issues are painted as crises that should necessitate that we suspend or circumvent traditional democratic processes and institutions. Every election is treated like it could be our last, unless our team wins. Our parties, or factions, are treated like tribes that should be defended regardless of their actions. Politics is treated as an ultimately zero-sum contest while the folks who most benefit from it present our political world as perpetually sitting on a knife’s edge. This post is similarly another blow to the political culture in our community.

Language like this is simply dangerous. Largely as a result of the aforementioned dynamics, we see all too often the political violence that can result from such irresponsible language that inflames fear among people. Using such words doesn’t just degrade our political discourse, but it has the potential to endanger the safety of innocents. I don’t know about our national leaders, but I know we can do better here in Frederick.

It’s yet another election year. I encourage everybody to be passionate, informed and engaged in politics. The issues on the table are critical to the future of our community, and the linkages that define our communities. Unfortunately, some of the current language in today’s rhetorical barrage can often crowd out many of the voices that should be heard.

We should be engaged, but be responsible and mindful. This was not a great way to start out 2020 in Frederick, but, thankfully, we all have the opportunity to be better. We can build linkages, rather than burn them down. Let’s rebuild our political culture, one opportunity at a time.

**Dylan Diggs is the vice-president of the Republican Club of Frederick County. You can follow him on Twitter @Diggs4MD or Facebook @Diggs4MD**

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