Unique wrongs


Holocaust-era imagery seems to be getting a lot of press these days, and I find it very disturbing. In the most recent issue of Time magazine, a photograph depicted several individuals from a Middle-Eastern country holding aloft a sign comparing President Bush to Hitler. Apparently inspired by this image, a Law School student decided to draw a Hitler-style mustache on a picture of Bush and hang it on his dorm-room door. On Friday, CNN reported on a story involving a PETA website that compared the Nazi concentration camps to the plight of animals raised for slaughter. The site apparently features photographs of human prisoners in the camp placed next to photos of the animals.

People are entitled to express the belief that any particular act is a horrible wrong. If you believe that a war in Iraq would be a horrific wrong against humanity, or that raising animals for slaughter is similarly reprehensible, then by all means make your opinions known. However, it is inappropriate to use a past atrocity to make the case that some current or future event is or will be itself equally bad. Certain events are horrific in and of themselves, and should not be used either in comparison with other events or to advance the causes of those predicting a future wrong.

Drawing comparisons to the Holocaust trivializes the actual event. The systematic genocide that happened in Nazi Germany is not something that should be thrown around lightly. If the Holocaust or Hitler’s name is invoked every time there is a possibility of military action, they begin to lose their distinctions as unique evils.

Consider the comparison that the aforementioned student wishes to draw between Hitler and Bush. Hitler was a maniacal dictator whose war machine overran Europe and murdered millions. On the side, he attempted to carry out the extermination of the entire Jewish race as well as millions of others who displeased him. Innocent people were rounded up, deposited in death camps and slaughtered. Bush wants to use military force to remove a brutal dictator who brings misery and death to his own people, has been thumbing his nose at the international community for more than a decade, and would happily assist any future terrorist efforts against the United States. Given the facts, George W. Bush is either not even remotely close to anything that even superficially resembles Hitler, or else he is simply the worst Hitler-imitator ever.

Comparing Bush to Hitler, or Nazi concentration camp prisoners to animals, is a lazy method of making a case. If war in Iraq is wrong, or if raising animals for slaughter is wrong, then those who hold that view should articulate reasons in support of their position independent of the evils of the Third Reich. Using the death of millions as fodder to support completely unrelated cases does great disrespect to those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis.

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