This editorial was published by the Idaho Statesman of Boise.
Comparisons of Idaho’s stay-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic to the Holocaust are not only ignorant, they’re dangerous.
Some ill-informed Idahoans — including, unfortunately, two people who hold elected office — have foolishly worked to compare Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order to the Holocaust, which resulted in the killing of 11 million people: 6 million Jews and 5 million Polish, Roma and others in Nazi Germany.
“The Holocaust was the systematic annihilation of a very specific group of people,” Dee Simon, executive director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, told the Statesman by phone Tuesday. “It’s a government-sponsored targeting of a specific race or religion. That’s very different than what we’re looking at today. Today the enemy is a virus. And our government is trying to protect all people from this virus. The virus is not targeting any group and neither is a cure.”
This is not the first time in recent history for outrageous statements regarding Adolf Hitler’s regime. Presidents ranging from George W. Bush to Bill Clinton to Donald Trump have had the comparisons lobbed at them regarding their actions. A billboard once was erected targeting President Barack Obama.
There’s just not any reason for people to compare something to Nazi Germany.
People, especially politicians, still do it for shock effect and because they are trying to be inflammatory. It serves absolutely no other purpose.
Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, speaking to a podcast host, referred to Idaho Gov. Brad Little as “Little Hitler,” according to The Spokesman-Review.
“I mean, that’s no different than Nazi Germany, where you had government telling people, ‘You are an essential worker or a nonessential worker,’ and the nonessential workers got put on a train,” Scott said.
No, Rep. Scott, that is complete and utter nonsense. The measures are meant to safeguard health and prevent death, and wrongheaded, ignorant people like you are comparing staying at home to being put on a train to a concentration camp. Does Heather Scott even know what happened in the Holocaust?
In a speech at an anti-shutdown rally, Ammon Bundy also compared the temporary closure of nonessential businesses to the Holocaust, according to Boise State Public Radio.
Even worse, he suggested Jews were complicit in their own genocide.
“Just look at the pictures of the Holocaust,” Bundy told the crowd. “It always amazes me how you see pictures of men and women stripped completely naked, lined up and facing a mass grave, where they are shooting them in the back of the head and falling in the grave.
“Now the answer to that is not easy but it is this, and I have been there and I know for a fact that this is true. When you have faced so much tyranny in your life, there is a point when you would rather line up naked and get shot in the head. And my friends, why we’re here today right now is to make sure that never happens!”
In the Holocaust, Jews were routed from the safety of their homes. The stay-at-home order keeps people safe in their homes. How could we possibly compare the two? Such an incendiary comparison underplays the largest genocide in history, the slaughter of 6 million lives. A stay-at-home order is a long way from a hate-driven imprisonment, with 21st century conveniences like curbside service and digital living still at our disposal.
Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, in a Facebook comment, compared a store requiring customers to wear face masks with Nazi Germany requiring Jews to wear yellow stars of David, according to Boise State Public Radio.
No, Rep. Boyle, a store requiring customers — all customers, not just a certain segment of customers — to wear masks for safety purposes is not just like the Jews in Nazi Germany wearing yellow stars. What an idiotic comparison. Does Rep. Boyle even know what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust?
Making such comparisons is more than just a misreading of history or talking in hyperbole, according to Simon.
“I think what it does is it trivializes the Holocaust,” Simon said. “It allows us to think of it as not as unique as it was, the idea of the government murdering 6 million people ... with complicit individuals murdering millions of people.”
Trivializing the Holocaust, Simon said, prevents us from recognizing its true hallmarks — scapegoating; treating a group of people as subhuman; using race, religion or ethnicity to turn citizens into noncitizens of your community; and eventually forming a justification for murdering millions of people.
In other words, trying to paint a necessary, well-meaning stay-home order as the equivalent of the Holocaust means forgetting what the Holocaust really was.
“As soon as we start to diminish its meaning and start to compare it to many other things, we lose its ability to educate,” she said. “And I think that’s the greatest risk we run when we minimize our costs.”
When false comparisons like this arise, it’s necessary to speak out against them, to call out people like Boyle and Scott and Bundy — and tell them to knock it the hell off.
“I think this is a difficult and stressful time for everyone,” Simon said. “And what history has taught us is that in these times of fear, people tend to react, and we have to find a place of reason, and I think that’s the responsibility of our entire society, to find this place of reason and comfort each other, but at the same time, make sure that we are all being upstanders, that we’re all doing and saying what is true.”
We’re not confident we’d be able to convince the likes of Scott, Boyle and Bundy of how ridiculous and reckless they’re being. But it is incumbent upon us all, when we recognize such an unenlightened comparison, to call it out for what it is and condemn it in the strongest words possible.