Wilma Counts: Slogans should not define Americans

Family Values. Country First. The Christian Way.

The Far Right (think tea party) loves to toss those slogans around. They warm the heart and conjure up images of the 1950s that era of Eisenhower, "Leave It to Beaver," and sock hops. These phrases also hark back even further to the 1930s. These are the same slogans Hitler and his ilk used in their rise to power. (You know: Hitler. The Nazis. The favorite comparison when the far right starts throwing epithets around.)

The National Socialists also were a party of no - anti-anything that did not fit their definition of the perfect state. They, too, took their nation into war on a trumped-up charge. They, too, wanted to keep the Aryan nation "pure." Oh, come on. Isn't this anti-immigration rhetoric mostly about keeping America safe for "us" against the onslaught of "them?" If job protection were the real issue, wouldn't legislation address those who hire illegal immigrants?

A favorite Nazi tactic was to stir up a crowd with vituperative shouting about how some amorphous "they" were taking away all the rights of the people and, of course, "they" were responsible for the genuine economic woes - high prices, joblessness, and so on and on. If you tell a lie big enough, often enough, and loud enough (think: "Obama is a Muslim"), someone is bound to believe it. And when anyone actually acted on some of the veiled, and not so veiled suggestions (think: "Second Amendment solutions"), the Nazis shrugged and disclaimed and dissimulated all over the place.

And what, really, do those slogans mean? "Family Values" seem to presume that everyone belongs to a family untouched by problems of alcohol, drugs, divorce, disaster. Show me one, please.

"Country first?" Like the pope is a first among equals. Is my Russian friend allowed to hold the same view? How about my French friend?

Is "The Christian Way" the only way? Do my Islamist, Jewish, and Buddhist friends have no virtues? Should they be denied a voice?

Mere slogans should not define what we are as Americans. Nor should we blindly ignore the end to which depending on such rhetoric eventually brought others. We can discuss and even disagree on policies and procedures, but first we have to get beyond that my-way-or-the-highway mode of thinking. We have to stop thinking that the word compromise means you will come to agree with my ever-so-correct view on any issue.

• For 25 years, Wilma Counts taught English and International Relations in Germany for the U.S. Department of Defense. She lives in Dayton and is an adjunct instructor at Western Nevada College.


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