OPED: U.S. comparison with Germany falls short

Mark Skehan
York, PA

Jeremy Barnes offered an opinion of "Parallels to Hitler's Germany undeniable" on Feb. 16. I find the title unfortunate; perhaps the title was not of the author's choosing. Regardless, "undeniability" is a high bar and in this case his opinion misses the mark.

Mark Skehan

The author's attempt to draw parallels between the rise of the Third Reich and the nascent Trump presidency falls short in glaring fashion. He decries a perceived stifling of the judiciary but fails to recognize judicial overreach. Mr. Barnes seems to assume judges as unbiased while facts and history prove otherwise. In our system of governance the judiciary has no legitimate role in legislation. In the most recent case involving a judge's ruling to stay Trump's targeted immigration hiatus the judge was clearly acting beyond his authority. The Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that on issues of immigration and border security the power to legislate lies with the executive branch. Whether one agrees or not is irrelevant; that's the law, and that is "undeniable". In this particular case, which branch of government is guilty of overreach and fomenting social duress?

Does this new administration bear the guilt for creating the "climate of fear" that the author suggests exists in our nation today? About half of Americans think not. They might point the finger at previous administrations for said climate. That can be debated ad nauseum without consensus; the point is that it is far from "undeniable".

Perhaps the most misguided point of all the author's attempts is that he points to the "erudition" of German philosophers, including Nietzsche, as being ignored as the Nazi's implemented their plans. Seriously? Someone doesn't know their facts. Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the guiding lights of Nazism, the progenitor of the "Ubermensch", or "Master Race" theory. Nietzsche was an original white supremacist! That is "undeniable", and the Nazis paid attention. In no way do I suggest that the author subscribes to these aberrant theories; simply that prior to taking pen to paper one ought to have a better grasp of history and philosophy.

In the failed attempt to further his point Mr. Barnes also neglects to mention several salient realities that differentiate the American and German experience. While America has a tradition of defined law (albeit often ignored) and freedom, Germany during the time he referenced had no such cultural touchstones.

By the 1930s Germany had, in the relatively recent past, united as a defined nation, existed under a monarchy (the Kaiser), undergone a devastating war, attempted to transition to a democratic form of governance and suffered under the burden of oppressive reparations and depression. Hardly analogous to the recent experience of America. In the case of Germany, one can see a society ripe for the rise of evil. While America certainly has its share of disagreement and imperfection, we are far from the type of societal chaos that might lead us to follow a similar path. Not to say it "could never happen here", but "undeniable"? Certainly not to the extent the author implies.

Comparing current events to historical precedent is often an invitation to hyperbole. Yes, history repeats, but not too often in linear fashion. It may be tempting to analogize the past with the present in the attempt to make a particular point but to do so is risky and ought to be based on fact rather than emotion and flawed logic.

— Mark Skehan is a York resident.

Editor's Note: The title of the essay was written by a York Dispatch editor to accompany Jeremy Barnes' essay submission.