Mark Steyn was getting ready to appear on the Bill Bennett show to discuss the recent Supreme Court decision mandating Same-Sex Marriage across the country when someone named Claudine exposed the conservative side of the argument to ridicule by violating Godwin’s Law, i.e. by making a slippery slope comparison to Nazi Germany.
You need to understand that “violating” Godwin’s Law, in sophisticated circles, is customarily taken to amount to losing the debate by forfeit. Any kind of objectionable sort of statism compared to Nazi Germany’s, or identified as representing a landmark on a similar kind of slippery slope, is automatically dismissed as a species of absurd exaggeration.
But Mark Steyn, for one, does not agree.
Claudine came on and said that’s what Germans reckoned in the 1930s: just keep your head down and the storm will pass. How’d that work out?
David Kelsey writes from the University of South Carolina to scoff at that:
In one corner, we have government recognition of marriage contracts between gays. In the other corner, we have Jews, Catholics, gays, their sympathizes [sic] and other undesirables being put in Nazi concentration camps.
One of these things is nothing like the other, unless you’re a lunatic. Maybe the reason conservatives keep “losing everything that matters” is because they really can’t tell the difference. Which causes increasing numbers of people to recognize them as lunatics.
Since you call me and Claudine “lunatics”, allow me to return the compliment and call you an historical illiterate. If “one of these things is nothing like the other”, it’s because that’s never the choice: It’s never a question of being Sweden, say, vs being the Islamic State (although, if you’re a Jew in MalmÃ¶, they’re looking a lot less obviously dissimilar than you might think).
All societies exist on a continuum. Neither Claudine nor I said a word about “concentration camps”. But you give the strong impression that that’s the only fact you know about Nazi Germany: Nazis = concentration camps, right? No wonder you think everything divides neatly into opposing “corners”. In the world as lived, there are no neatly defined corners. Things start off in the corners and work their way toward the center of the room.
Claudine and I were talking about Germany in the Thirties – before the concentration camps and the Final Solution, before millions of dead bodies piled up in the gas chambers. So you need to have an imaginative capacity. It’s not clear from your email that you do, but give it a go: Imagine being a middle-class German in 1933. No one’s talking about exterminating millions of people – I mean, that would be just “lunatic” stuff, wouldn’t it? And you belong to a people that regards itself as the most civilized on the planet – with unsurpassed achievements in literature and music and science. You might, if you were so minded, call it Teutonic Exceptionalism. And you’re “progressive”, too: you pioneered the welfare state under Bismarck, and prototype hate-speech laws under the Weimar republic. And yes, some of the beer-hall crowd are a bit rough, but German Jews are the most assimilated on the planet. The idea that such a society would commit genocide is not just “lunatic”, it’s literally unimaginable.
So don’t even bother trying to imagine that. Instead try to imagine it’s early 1933. The National Socialist German Workers Party is the largest party in parliament and thus President von Hindenburg has appointed its leader, Herr Hitler, as Chancellor – not der FÃ¼hrer, just Chancellor, the same position Frau Merkel holds today. And the National Socialist German Workers Party starts enacting its legislative programme, and so a few weeks later the Civil Service Restoration Law is introduced. Under this law, Jews would no longer be allowed to serve as civil servants, teachers or lawyers, the last two being professions in which Jews are very well represented.
But that wily old fox Hindenburg knows a thing or two. So as president he refuses to sign the bill into law unless certain exemptions are made – for those who’ve been in the civil service since August 1st 1914 (ie, the start of the Great War), and for those who served during the Great War, or had a father or son who died in action. And the practical effect of these amendments is that hardly any Jew in the public service has to lose his job.
And so in April 1933 it would be easy to say, if you were a middle-class German seeking nothing other than a quiet life, that, yes, these National Socialist chappies are a bit uncouth, but the checks and balances are still just about working. What’s the worst they can do?
Paul von Hindenburg died the following year, and his amendments were scrapped.
That’s Germany’s civil service in 1933. What of America’s civil service in 2015?
Right now across the land town and county clerks are resigning because they cannot in conscience issue same-sex marriage licenses. In one Tennessee county, the entire clerk’s office has resigned. They are observant Christians – which is to say they hold the same view of marriage that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton claimed to until the day before yesterday. But an observant Christian can no longer work in the American civil service, or at least in those branches of it responsible for issuing marriage licenses:
County Clerk Katie Lang cited religious beliefs as her reason for refusing to file the marriage application for Dr. Jim Cato and his partner Joe Stapleton. She did, however, promise that someone in her office would accommodate the couple.
Not good enough. Dr Cato and Mr Stapleton are suing Ms Lang. What else you got?
A Kentucky clerk of court wants the state to issue marriage licenses online so he doesn’t have to…
Monday, Davis tried to meet with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to ask him to call for a special session of the state legislature so it can pass a law allowing people to purchase marriage licenses online, similar to the process of purchasing a hunting or fishing license.
That’s not good enough, either. Who the hell are you to compare a lesbian wedding to a fishing license?
So observant Christians will no longer be able to serve as town or county clerk. Are comparisons really so “lunatic”? . Are comparisons really so “lunatic”? The logic of the 1933 Civil Service Restoration Act is that the German public service will be judenrein. The logic of the 2015 Supreme Court decision is that much of the American public service will be christenrein – at least for those who take their Scripture seriously. That doesn’t strike me as a small thing – even if one thought it were likely to stop there.
Read the whole thing.