Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Having criticized Sharron Angle’s dangerously wacky remarks on Friday, I have been informed in no uncertain terms that I am a leftist and liberal. That, of course, is the only conceivable reason anybody would question a Tea Party darling. Having been thus exposed, I figure I might as well throw caution to the winds and criticize yet another Tea Party darling, Rich Iott, currently running for Congress in Ohio. Here’s a warm endorsement of him as a “new voice for our values”.
Now, here’s the funny thing. Last week, when I criticized Angle’s dark suggestion that, should the vote not take care of our “Harry Reid problems”, then “second amendment remedies” might be on the table, lots of readers flipped out. The tenor of the flip out was more or less this: “She’s not saying that and besides when the government becomes tyrannical, the citizens may have to resort to ‘second amendment remedies’ and plus it’s because you don’t have the same level of mistrust of our government that her statement seems so strange and extreme to you. I suspect the Germans and Russians never thought it would get to the point it did either.” Pressing this point a bit further, I inquired, with trembling, whether people really serious believed that the US was on the verge of a) outlawing of all political parties but the Democrats, b) Obama (or, even more incredibly, Harry Reid) seizing absolute control of the whole government and economy and jailing or executing any one who criticizes him, c) mass rallies and pogroms and book burning, d) the erection of a death camp systems or a gulag, e) engineered famines deliberately ordered toward the murder of milions of American citizens, f) mass experimentation on helpless undesirables, g) the establishment of a Gestapo and an SS tasked with the job of crushing opposition to the regime and ruthlessly torturing and murdering any citizens who offer resistance?
Some samples of replies:
I hope you are all ready. And you think Auschwitz was Hell….
Yeah violence is so bad. What a modern notion. Do you call the popes of the Crusades lunatics? Americans during WWII? Hey buddy let me give you a hint, what you modern day milquetoasts call violence is what gave this country freedom in the first place, ended the holocaust, drove the Moors out of Spain. I can see this type of thought in Spain, “don’t talk about violence, turn the other cheek” (coming from one-verse Charlie’s)speaking to the Moors, “they’ll leave.” Lol. With this kind of thought Spain would be a Muslim country and it is this kind of thought that could lead modern nations down the same road. The examples of righteous anger and just wars are plentiful. As Dr. Warren Carroll correctly states when referring to Christ’s righteous anger driving the money changers out of the temple “it serves as an example that physical force is not intrinsically evil.
Did anybody in 1930-33 Germany seriously believe that Germany would experience Hitler’s abuse of powers and horrors? Yeah I guess a few did, the “lunatics.” Most were praising the regime, nominating him for a Noble Peace Prize, making him Time Man of the Year,if I’m not mistanken and holding the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
So there does seem to be a fair amount of incipient hysteria out there. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Lefties who spent eight years screaming “Bushitler”! What nobody seems to notice is that by the time Hitler had been in office as long as Obama, he was not worried about losing lots of seats in the Reichstag midterm elections because he had outlawed all other political parties and thrown his critics and opponents into Dachau. To paraphrase blogger Kathy Shaidle, “If Obama is Hitler, why aren’t you a lampshade?”
One person, however, did say something prescient amid all the panic:
I didn’t say it would start tomorrow. It may not even be Obama who would be the one to try to do it. It could come from the right as a a backlash from the horrible misgovernment of the left.
Which was, you know, kind of my point. And Mr. Iott seems to have been appointed by Heaven to illustrate what I’m talking about concerning the dangers of reflexively closing ranks to make excuses for somebody merely because he is a member of one’s own political tribe.
Here is our Tea Party darling (second from the right), dressed (I am not making this up) in his very bestest Waffen SS uniform and quaffing drinks as he and his fellow faux Waffen SS members fondly remember the good old days of WWII and the jolly murders of Hungarian Jews:
At this point, one grasps at straws of charity. The Atlantic photoshopped this. Nope. It’s genuine. Iott was part of an SS re-enactment club for several years. Well then, re-enactments are just weekend fun, aren’t they? Somebody has to play a confederate soldier in a Civil War re-enactment. So it’s all just “purely historical re-enactment” as Iott says, etc.
Mhm. Duly noted. Only, here’s the thing. The purpose of historical re-enactment is to re-enact history. As in, “what actually happened”. When you go to the website in which these guys describe the historical Waffen SS unit they are re-creating, you get
a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the “twisted” nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a “New and Free Europe”, free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
These are, recall, the creatures who did most of the heavy lifting in the extermination of millions and millions of untermenschen. But this description makes them sound like well-meaning Tea Partiers and Minutemen who just happened to get some bad advice from their “unsavory” leaders. Undiscussed in this portrayal of this particular unit of courageous idealists working for a better tomorrow is their labor in slaughtering Hungarian Jews during a forced march in the spring of 1945. So dedicated were these brave men to personal freedom and their very way of life that they remained fanatically devoted to killing Jews right up until the bitter end of the war. So how could any sane person swallow this pollyanna description, much less call “purely historical”? How could any sane person swallow this description, don an SS uniform, and then imagine that he could run for Congress without somebody, you know, asking a question or two about his sanity?
The breathtaking thing is how Iott asks us to “contextualize” all this. His decision to join this group of SS romanticists was, we have to understand, that he did it as a father-son bonding thing. Cuz nothing says “Sound judgment and leadership potential” like a father who chooses to teach his son to celebrate the brave and idealistic Waffen SS freedom fighter who fought for personal freedom and his very way of life in the name of a better tomorrow.
Now if this were somebody on the Left doing this, let’s be honest: We conservatives (and I am one, mind-reading charges to the contrary notwithtanding) would have a field day with this lunacy. The guy wouldn’t even have to be famous, just some crazy in a crowd with a swastika sign and we’d run the photos on the blogs and talk about what moonbats there are on the Left. Lefties do the same trick, of course. They love to go to some prolife rally, photograph a few kooks with some nutty signs, and declare them representative of the whole group. None of this is particularly meaningful since, in any large gathering of human beings, you are bound to find a few nuts. So it’s not that Tea Partiers have these people in their ranks.
It’s that they elevate them to positions of leadership and really do want them to be, in the most literal sense of the word, Representative.
That somebody this stone blind to moral idiocy could be a Tea Party *favorite* tells me all is not well in Right Wing Populist Land. That the circle of people Iott chose to hang out with express their admiration for the “idealists” of the SS in terms that sound weirdly like the Right Wing culture war rhetoric of today suggests that not all the menaces to our “personal freedom and our very way of life” come exclusively from the Left.
My point is not “Vote for Iott’s Democrat opponent Marcy Kaptur” (a somewhat tepid abortion supporter whom Democrat abortion zealots denounce as “anti-abortion” but whose record basically comes down to “70% less evil than other Democrat candidates!”). I will not support *any* candidate, Right or Left, who supports grave intrinsic evil. Kaptur does (as do virtually every candidate from both parties, which is why I look for third party candidates and am frustrated at the Tea Party’s rapid slide into becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP.)
No, my point is if Tea Partiers are going to be a force for change then for Pete’s sake, nominate competent and viable conservatives who aren’t moral idiots begging for a completely justifiable defeat. Now it’s possible (indeed, likely) that the Tea Partiers simply backed this guy without having bothered to check what a morally dubious fool they hitched their wagon to. He made the right noises about taxes, war, abortion and so forth. People got excited. Nobody stopped to Google and find out if he was celebrating those romantic heroes who helped to carry out the Holocaust. If so, then the lesson to draw from this is that people who wish to succeed in changing our politicial landscape seriously need to learn how to vet their favorite candidates so they don’t wind up backing turkeys. If the GOP and the Tea Partiers did know about this rather spectacular skeleton in the closet and supported him anyway, then that means they backed him knowing that he had no problem palling around with people who regard the Waffen SS as brave freedom fighters and valiant heroes working for a better tomorrow.
Much will be clarifed once we see the reaction from his supporters. If they express some serious dismay and revulsion about this, then I’m willing to buy that they screwed up, didn’t do the background check, and got snookered. If they make excuses for this stuff, or worse, try to defend it by the tired expedient of denouncing critics of Iott’s spectacular moral stupidity (and, pf course, political stupidity as well) as Leftists or un-American or secret Kaptur supporters or whatever, then the *charitable* take on this is that the GOP and Tea partiers—frightened of some shadowy Leftist totalitarian nightmare that might, in the not-too-distant future, require “second amendment remedies”—are themselves choosing as their representative people who weirdly mirror the totalitarian bogeymen upon whom they focus their frightened gaze. “Opposite evils, so far from balancing, aggravate one another.” - C.S. Lewis
Update: Eric Cantor and the GOP leadership move away from this doofus faster than you can say, “Sieg Heil!” That’s a very hopeful sign. The next hopeful sign will be when Tea Partiers figure out that just because some candidate makes pleasing noises about abortion, taxes, and war that tell them what their itching ears want to hear, it does not follow that anybody who questions or criticizes that candidate is a heretic, traitor, secret Leftist, un-American or un-Christian. It means they are doing due diligence so that your party doesn’t wind up embracing a dangerous fool as your chosen representative. Indeed, it can even mean that the critic i>wants conservatives to succeed. Next time, instead of closing ranks, embracing and defending fools merely because they belong to one’s own political tribe, my suggestion would be to recall Proverbs 27:6.