Friday, February 8, 2019

Words Matter

"You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."
Indigo Montoya

I've written before on the political phenomenon of controlling the meaning of words.  Of claiming specific words and phrases regarding how to describe ones positions.  How opposition to abortion can be both "pro-life" and "anti-women" depending on your political affiliation.

Right-wing political commentator Candace Owens has found herself in trouble from trying to reclaim "nationalism" as a positive attribute at a Turning Point UK meeting December 11, 2018.

"I actually don't have any problems with the word 'nationalism.'  I think that the definition gets poisoned by elitists that actually want globalism.  Globalism is what I don't want... Whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler.

He was a nationalist socialist, but if Hitler wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine.

The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany.  He wanted to globalise.  He wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German.  Everybody to look a different way.  To me, that's not nationalism.  In thinking about how we could go bad down the line, I don't really have an issue with nationalism.  I really don't."

There are so many things wrong with this statement that it is hard to keep track.  First, the definition doesn't get poisoned by elites.  It actually has a dictionary definition that defines nationalism as "loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing the primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups."  "Identification with one's own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.Nationalism is inherently defined as more extreme that patriotismA stronger interest and ideology.

Second, it's possible to be patriotic, to be anti-globalism, and to not be nationalistic.

Third, Hitler is used as an example of a nationalist because he is the text-book definition.  German nationalism was the tool that Hitler used to rise in power.  The concept of Aryanism is rooted in Nationalism.

Finally, the problem with Hitler's rise and the reach of his power was that it explicitly came at the exclusion and extermination of between 10 and 17 million undesirables.  Of those who did not fit the definition of what made German great.

Owens did take to Periscope to state that Hitler was a "homicidal, psychotic, maniac who was bent on world domination outside the confines of Germany" and she did not think he was a true nationalist, but that she stood by her statements.

We're in the last generations that may have a personal connection to the Holocaust.  Who may have had a grandparent or great-grandparent that they have interaction with that was personally affected.  And sadly, in the overview of history that most students get, the Holocaust is a blip.  A brief component of the other decades worth of events that must be covered.

Two-thirds of millennials cannot identify Auschwitz.  Twenty-two percent have not heard of the Holocaust or are not sure if they've heard of it. There is a desire for Holocaust education, with 93% responding that they believe all students should learn about it.

Perhaps because 58% believe something like it could happen again.  Especially if we have people like Owens who are determined to misrepresent it for their own personal political benefit.

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