Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tarred with a Dangerous Brush

Final exams began for me on Wednesday  (December 9) and I’ve got tests also on Thursday and Friday. After that I’ll be grading so I won’t be visiting blogs for a few days, probably not until Monday. I did want to share a little something before hunkering down with a red pen, though.

Those of you who know me, know that I’m a Liberal. You may or may not know that I’m not a fan of the current GOP front runner. I’ll call him the “Grump” in keeping with the season of the Grinch. I’ve never had any positive regard for the Grump, never watched his TV show, never had the remotest interest in his thoughts about the world. However, I now find myself in the unpleasant position of having to defend him on one, very specific matter.

In the last couple of days I have seen the Grump accused—and “accused” is very much the right word—of having “read” both Mein Kampf and the speeches of Adolph Hitler. This is clearly an attempt to paint him with the Nazi brush. Despite the Grump’s rather uncanny physical resemblance to Il Duce, and despite disagreeing with everything I’ve heard out of his mouth so far, I don’t find the “he’s a Nazi” attacks terribly compelling. That’s not my point with this post, though. Others have made a closer study of his behaviors and can certainly express their opinions on the matter.

No, what I’m saying is that you can’t judge an individual’s personality simply from his or her reading material. Maybe Grump considers Hitler his role model, but you cannot make that judgment based just upon what he’s read. You literally do not know what his reasons were. I’ve also read both Mein Kampf and many of Hitler’s speeches. I read them for a couple of reasons. First, I was a history minor in college with a particular interest in WWII, and I thought at one point I might go to grad school in history. Second, as a psychologist, I’m also a student of people, and of why and how people do the things they do. Reading these works both educated me on the dangers of fascism, and also helped cement my own opposition to it.

Reading Mein Kampf does not make you a Nazi any more than reading the Bible makes you a Christian, or reading the Quran makes you a Muslim, or reading Roots makes you African American. As a reader, I protest anyone’s attempt to say differently. Would you want to be judged on the basis of that one erotica novel you read? As a liberal, I think this kind of tactic is beneath us because it is irrational. There is plenty enough to criticize about the Grump without reaching for straws, and this is a very dangerous straw indeed.


Cloudia said...

Well and thoughtfully said Charles!



eric1313 said...

My Trump theory:

His running for president on the GOP ticket is a Clinton plot. This plot is designed to expose the conservative base as being largely populated by bigoted chauvinists.

Many of us already knew that, most really. But this election, he is so over the top, saying things that make me think he can't be serious, saying things that drag us back 50 years or more, really...

I call shenanigans. He's not serious.

But if his TrumpFoolery can be used to expose the backwards ignorance that the GOP ticket relies upon and put it on higher stage than ever before, in the face of the entire world, well, that's intriguing and worth watching things play out.

No, I'm not a fan either. I don't hate him, but if he keeps talking stupid, I might start, lol...

There's my $00.02 Criticism or debate welcome, because I know nothing. :-) Just like Socrates said.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, thankee!

Eric1313, I've wondered about this theory. It makes a kind of twisted sense, and if that turns out to be the case maybe I will have to like him, sort of like how Snape became the hero of the Harry Potter stories.

Oscar Case said...

Some people use tripe like that as an argument. I say, if you don't like Trump, just ssy so.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, yes, agreed

SzélsőFa said...

You are a true Liberal, my Charles. Your approach is something 'liberal~minded' people around me seldom display. I appreciate that and salute you.

(We have our own copy of 'My Struggle' both in Hungarian and in gothic print German. From time to time we do read passages because history is always written by the winners and one is entitled to have his/her own opinion formed not by the media, but by their experiences, by their ancestors' experiences and by all the materials one can get their hand onto.)

And now grab your red biro :)
It's exams season for my husband (a university teacher) and my son (1st year University student)
Merry Christmas, too!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, we have our share of political weirdos too.

Angie said...

Total agreement. Heck, I've read Mein Kampf too, for similar reasons you did; I majored in history, and it was one of our readings in a lower division Western Civ class. And yeah, it's a good idea to figure out how the people you oppose think. Even if you don't change your mind about opposing them, understanding where they're coming from is always useful.

I've had people assume I was a Christian because I've read the Bible. It's pretty annoying. I've read chunks of the Koran, and of the Book of Mormon. Spoiler: I'm neither a Muslim nor a Mormon, either. I know people who own and have read The Anarchist's Cookbook; none of them are anarchists, nor have they ever blown anything up.

I've heard/read the old chestnut about how "You can tell what someone's like by examining their bookshelves," quite a few times over the years. There's some truth to it, but not if you take the simplistic read=agreed=allied POV.


Charles Gramlich said...

Szelsofa, exams everywhere. I supposed it is a good thing to have the regularity.

Prashant, it is a human affliction.

Angie, Certainly, if someone's book shelves are filled with only one or two types of books, you can probably draw some conclusions about their focuses and biases, but, as you say, not in a simplistic fashion. I always feel positive about people when I see their shelves have a wide variety of works on them.

sage said...

Agreed! I remember Marilynne Robinson in an essay question why more Americans haven't read "The Communist Manifesto', suggesting that she'd thought we'd want to know our enemies mind as much of the world was supposedly borrowing from that philosophy. I have not read Mein Kampf, but I've read lots of Marx and don't consider myself a communist.

That said, my daughter was quick to shout "fascist" when she heard Trump say he wanted to identity all Muslims in the US--it does seem like it was a first step for the Nazis

the walking man said...

I read Atlas Shrugged and just thought it a horror of a piece of writing, not a way to a true socially just economic system. Mien Kampf bored me too, more ranting and raving that seriously I wonder if it was Hitlers or his cell mate Goebbels writing, I doubt the propagandist had no input to the verbiage.

As for Grump let him go one, let him take up air time and column inches. Let him be the 3rd straight conservative nominee in a row, let him be the standard bearer his own party is afraid to confront. let his bombast flood the ears of them tuned into the uber right. He may be the only way common sense voters overcome the gerrymandered nation, he may be the only way that more than the normal 25% of voters get off their collective ass.

But honestly, I doubt he has an ice cubes chance in hell if he were nominated--Cruz scares me much more because them that find Grump too extreme look at "Nuke the Middle East Cruz" as a moderate. *shudder*

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, I read the Communist Manifesto in college, but that's about the only Marxist material I've read. Was always fascinated with the power of such tracts. Trump is undoubtedly not my cup of tea. That's for sure.

Mark, I agree with you completely on Trump. I think it would mean an overwhelming Demo victory.

jodi said...

Charles-the Grump is an as but at least he is kind of amusing!

G. B. Miller said...

I tried reading both Mein Kampf and The Satanic Verses and I found both be wanting. So wanting in fact that I gave up after a few pages. I've always tried reading some of the books of yesteryear and of today that have given people fits and almost to a single one, I found them to be highly uninteresting.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, absolutely

G. B., I haven't tried the Satanic Verses. I have it around here somewhere.

Erik Donald France said...

Right on Charles ~ !!!!! p.s. I saw somewhere that a new critical edition of 'Mein Kampf' will be released soon, if it hasn't been already.

As has been noted above, Cruz is more menacing than Thump.