Friday, March 05, 2004

The Road of Bones

Kim du Toit takes us on a walk through Dachau. It's a deceptively quiet piece of writing. You can almost hear his footsteps echoing on the cement floors and the wind whistling past the cold iron bars set into the walls. Some trick of words suggests fleeting figures in the shadows. Or the sound of a child's voice just below the threshold of hearing. But it's just the wind. Dachau is empty. Then we hear Kim's own voice:

And now I have a personal message for the wiseguys: the ones who think they're being clever by walking around with their silly little protest signs which read "Bush = Hitler".

There are no Dachaus in the United States. There will never be any Dachaus in the United States. If there were a Dachau, maybe outside Quincy, Illinois, I would be there now -- and so would you.

When you equate Bush to Hitler, you're wanting to dishonor the President. I don't care much about that.

What I care about is that by trivializing the issue, by using your absurd hyperbole, you dishonor the suffering and the loss suffered by the people who were victimized by the real Hitler. Your own illusory suffering at the hands of this Republican president is not only trivial, it is non-existent, and do not even think you can begin to equate the two.

I can take it further. Your grotesque equation of the two leaders is a profound exaggeration: and it's the same kind of gross exaggeration used by Hitler and his henchmen to inflate the "Jewish problem" into a manifest danger, whereby people could ignore the excesses of places like Dachau as being justified. In case that isn't clear enough to you, let me connect the dots. George W. Bush isn't using Hitlerian tactics, you are.

Dachau and the Road of Bones, a pointless twelve hundred mile track built by Stalin's zeks, are temples to the totalitarian religions of the 20th century. There, millions were sacrificed begin a new history, the kind that did not start from the birth of Christ but the Year Zero. Their acolytes today still toil toward their imagined future sustained by the memory of their great days. And if they mention Hitler's name a trifle too often it is only because they knew him well. So spare their feelings Kim, and the next time you see them with their silly little protest signs reading "Bush=Hitler", gently correct them. It is "Bush=Stalin".


P.S. A lot of people have wondered about "Bush=Stalin". When I talk to people on the Left, it takes about a second, sometimes two before they get it. You can actually see the exact moment it dawns on them, even when they are walking away. The technical term is called "caught on the horns of a dilemma". But it is more subtle then that. The real effect is to reveal the inner contradiction in their own thinking. If Dachau=Road of Bones, then Hitler=Stalin, and if Bush=Hitler ... At that point the average man of the Left is really face to face with his own heritage because you are using the third term to bolster the second. You see he doesn't want to equate President Bush with Stalin. He thinks it reflects badly on Stalin. Here is where you usually press the advantage. Insist on "Bush=Stalin". Don't you want to denounce Bush? Come back mister, don't you want to denounce Bush ...