Thursday, September 2, 2010

"History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot." -- Mark Twain

Ben Kiernan on some parallels in the Nazi, Khmer Rouge, and Hutu led genocides:
Common features of genocidal thinking can be identified even in cases that lacked the destructive power of the Holocaust. Indeed their perpetrators’ ideological preoccupations can often be discerned from early stages of their careers, before they come to power or amass the military or organizational apparatus required to carry out genocide. Description of these features common to many cases may help in the prediction and prevention of future genocides.

I will juxtapose Nazi ideology with that of two other genocide perpetrators: the Khmer Rouge rulers of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and Rwanda’s Hutu Power regime of 1994. Leaders of all three regimes held visions of the future partly inspired by ancient pasts – mythical and pristine – in which they imagined members of their original, pure, agrarian race, farming once larger territories that contained no Jews, no Vietnamese, and no Tutsis. The perpetrators of genocide against those victim groups shared preoccupations not only with ethnic purity but also with antiquity, agriculture, and expansionism. Genocidal thinking is usually racialist, reactionary, rural, and irredentist.
By all means please read the rest of the paper. It's a nice capsule summary of a topic which could occupy a lifetime's research. One reason for sharing this paper with you is that I would offer that we see some similar red flags as we watch the evolution of our own right-wing political/religious faction in the US. And before someone gets their draws in a bunch: no, I am not saying that the Tea Party is the next Nazi Party or that Glenn Beck is Pol Pot. But what I am saying is that if you look at the rhetoric of our current right-wing organizations and figureheads, you can see some parallels between their eliminationist rhetoric and that of previous political organizations that did indeed become genocidal. At bare minimum, we are at a point in our own history where it is hardly a leap to imagine pogroms against the scapegoated ethnic minorities of the day (e.g., those of African or South/Central Asian descent who practice Islam, and those who are Hispanic). As I'm fond of saying, our words have consequences.


As an aside, I've noticed in some commentary I've run into on Facebook that a some of the most virulent anti-Muslim individuals are also Holocaust deniers (i.e., consider the mass slaughter of Jews, Slavs, Roma, GLB, and disabled during the Nazi regime to be a hoax). I don't know if this is a common pattern. Still, the extent that I am even seeing it surface is a bit startling.

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