22. Have we Godwin’s Law-ed ourselves out of having rational discussions? #LifeWideLearning16@bhwilkoff
— Zac Chase (@MrChase) January 22, 2016
I have been watching The Man in the High Castle a lot lately. In this Amazon Prime television series and corresponding Phillip K. Dick Novel, the allies did not win World War 2. Rather, the US was split into a Nazi-controlled portion on the east coast, a Japanese-controlled portion on the west coast, and a neutral zone in the middle. I found this series endlessly fascinating.
I also find the study of Hitler’s rise to power interesting. I will watch documentaries about Himmler or Goebbels too. It isn’t a morbid fascination with death or an overt interest in fascism. Rather, I am incredibly passionate about understanding the ways in which propaganda can manipulate people and how wanting to belong to something larger than yourself can have terrible consequences.
Our words matter.
Even though some folks take the easy way out by comparing the opposing side to Hitler or the Nazis (Godwin’s Law), I think there is something deeper to the comparison any time that it is made. Hidden inside a flippant and obviously hyperbolic comment is an undeniable fear of being manipulated or trampled. It isn’t that we want to call someone a terrible name, like “Hitler.” We want to call attention to the fact that we don’t want to be duped again, as the German people were when they started democratically electing fascists.
We are not beyond rational discussions, but we have to stop shutting down whenever we resort to shorthand like calling someone a Nazi. The shorthand serves to tell us that we have hit a nerve and that we need to dig deeper in order to understand the fear pulsing through the conversation. It is clear that Donald Trump is not actually a Nazi, but many fear what his brand of hatred will do to our country. This is a real fear, and cannot be dismissed.
We must embrace the worst of our insults in an effort to become better aware of what they mean for each of us. In that way, reaching Godwin’s Law within a discussion should not be the end, but rather the beginning of seeing one another complexly.