Sunday, June 06, 2010

The "SB1070 supporters = Nazis" analogy is a strong one, but not an overdone one

Not by a long shot...

Many of the more vocal opponents of Russell Pearce's SB1070 (the "show me your papers" law) have likened him, Governor Jan Brewer, and the other supporters of the law to the Nazis.

Brewer finds this analogy so offensive that it caused her to stick her foot in her mouth, inflating her father's record of service during WW2 in order to bask in some reflected Nazi-fighting glow.
The analogy is such a powerful one that even Pearce himself has taken to "disavowing" any connections to white supremacists or Neo-Nazis. Of course, given his history of anti-immigrant rhetoric (Operation Wetback, anyone?), nativist legislation (SB1070 and many, many, more), and "curious" campaign activities (like emails touting a white separatist website), Pearce's protestations seem more pro forma than substantive.

Even Jewish commentators have objected to the analogy, mostly expressing the idea that the "Nazi" analogy and related rhetoric is overheated in this case and only serves to minimize the evil of the Nazis and the Holocaust.

While I understand the commentators' reluctance to give credence to the analogy (and also why Pearce and Brewer don't want to be equated to the greatest evil of the 20th, and perhaps any other, Century), it fits.

The Nazis started slowly, and legislatively, enacting a series of laws meant to demonize and isolate Jews and other "non-Aryans" from German society, economically, legally, and socially.

To whip up public support for the ever-stronger anti-semitic laws, the Nazis ratcheted up their rhetoric, blaming Jews for all that ailed Germany in the post-WWI era, economically, socially, and intellectually.

There were laws to remove Jews from Germany's civil service, restrict the number of "non-Aryans" in schools (both as students and as professors), forbid Jewish physicians from treating non-Jewish patients, and more, culminating in laws revoking the citizenship of Jews.

And that was just the start, when the Nazis were still attempting to put a civil face (of sorts) on their pogrom.

Here in 21st Century Arizona, the state's nativists, led by Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer (and Joe Arpaio and Tom Horne and Colette Rosati and Ron Gould and so many others), have trod a similar path, starting with laws restricting, underfunding, or even defunding English Language Learner classes in AZ's public schools, blocking the poor from taking advantage of public services and benefits unless they prove their U.S. citizenship first, banning ethnic studies courses, removing teachers with accents from classes, and the now-infamous SB1070 "show me your papers" law.

Now Pearce wants to follow up his recent successes with moves to deny citizenship to babies born to undocumented immigrant parents and to force the children of non-citizen parents to pay tuition to attend Arizona's public schools.

Combine that with an escalating anti-immigrant (mostly anti-Hispanic immigrant) rhetoric (like blaming undocumented immigrants for crime in Arizona, even though actual statistics show that those claims are false), such as that which resulted in demands that the faces in a mural at a school in Prescott Valley be lightened because they weren't white enough.

Update: During the writing of this piece, news started hitting the internet that the decision to force the artist to lighten the faces has been reversed. Apparently, being the epicenter of worldwide outrage over a blatantly bigoted decision was too much for the powers-that-be in Prescott. (Further background from Prescott eNews here)

The laws, proposed and enacted, and the rhetoric both demonize and isolate Arizona's immigrant community, just as the Nazis' Nuremburg and eugenics laws did more than seven decades ago.

I understand the reluctance of many observers to accept the Nazi/SB1070 analogy - no one wants to believe that their friends and neighbors (or even themselves) are capable of great evil.

And to be sure, Arizona's nativists haven't racked up the body count the way that Germany's Nazis did.


One should remember that the Nazis were in power for more than a decade before their "Final Solution" of assembly-line efficient genocide was fully up to speed; Jan Brewer ascended to the Governor's office less than a year-and-a-half ago.

And one should not confuse "lack of time" with "lack of desire."

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