Now here’s something you don’t see any day: A leftist admitting that Hitler as a phenomenon did a lot of good for the world. First of, you want to laugh (I know you do). Or just get mad and foam at the mouth. But it needs to be nuanced. Hitler as an individual was at best a man with an incredibly narrow view of society, and at his worst a foaming madman wishing annihilation upon his own people when he could not have it his way. And for him to do good in a modern view in simply considered impossible. But this world needed Hitler.
The crimes of the Nazi regime which Hitler build up through his forceful personality are so numerous, so repulsive and so divorced from both religious conservative tenets and liberal humanism there a people who will deny they were perpetrated because the thought of humans being so evil is downright scary. But that is the exact point: we need to see how humanity’s evil can be so destructive if left unchecked. And while we could do a lot worse than the holocaust and World War 2, because we saw what that got us we are reluctant to repeat it. Certain points of view held by the Nazis are considered evil today because they championed them. The very idea that some humans are more worthy of power based on their lineage has been rebuked a thousand times just by seeing the Nazis put that into practice and witnessing what became of that. Largely thanks to this the world overcame their prejudices against not just Jews, but black people to. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela would have been dismissed as trouble makers and revolutionaries or commie spies if their message didn’t contrast so well against racist ideals held by the Nazis and the bigots of their times and places. Same for war and its glorification. The pacifist ideal of non-violence would not have been venerated had Hitler not unleashed a deliberate war of vengeance and conquest. While the idea that violence solves problems hasn’t died and is especially strong today, those who favor aggression must thread more carefully or be called ideological extremists and nationalistic nut jobs like those that existed before WW1 and in Nazi Germany.
Just as how St. George needed a dragon to slay, or Batman needs the Joker to track down, this world needs the occasional villain to show us how awful true evil is so we can recognize it. Without it, we lose sight of what is evil. Advocating a healthcare bill or campaigning against gun control isn’t evil. Being forced off your land because of your skin color and beaten by self appointed nationalists and war veterans is evil. Splashing acid in a woman’s face as punishment for not wearing a veil is evil. Dining in a grandiose restaurants eating salmon, roast hare and Dame Blanche while the whole population toils, sweats, starves, bleeds and dies while they are brainwashed to believe the outside world is clamoring for war and the destruction of their way of life to excuse the instigation of a major arms race is evil. Hitler puts things in perspective.
Even so it seems insufficient at times. Said evil still occur with or without history to show its folly. But at least we can see beyond a doubt those who cause it are wrong. Sometimes people decide to look at the literal comparison instead of the spirit of it. Racism against white or Asian people is as wrong as it is against blacks. Murdering a Muslim through a complete disregard for their life and rights is no less indefensible as it was against Gypsies and Jews. Compelling other people to be patriotic of America or Britain is just as scary and wrong as it was in Germany. Some people willingly choose to ignore that, sometimes even fabricating excuses why “It’s not fascism when we do it!”.
Another bad thing that blurs the line is how easily some people resort to Hitler comparisons. Whether it’s Nauseum ad Hitlerum or Godwin’s Law. As soon as the word Hitler of Nazi is used in a discussion, it devolves into chaos. Whether or not the comparison was true or not. Fascism has some very simple definitions by which it can be recognized. According to Mussolini it is a union between state and corporation. But it also demands nationalism and loyalty. And claims to protect people from the evils of world Jewry, Communism, terrorists, religious unorthodoxy or The Terrible Secret of Space. Bad enough as that is, most people seem to have forgotten that Nazism is much worse and is exclusive to other cultures and races. Yet some throw the word around as if it can physically harm anyone with an opposing view. Hitler himself has become the weapon of the demagogue.
Now I might be the last person people listen to, but if you have a chance to see a documentary or museum about National Socialism, hatemongering, Hitler, the holocaust and World War 2, learn from it. If you have time available, read up on the subject on the internet or at a library. But also study the underlying causes of these evils and see if you can identify them today, even in the strangest of places. There may no longer be Nazis in this world aside from rejects and restless idiots, but evil is not confined to the word National Socialism. It’s the methods, not the ideology, that is the threat to peace. Some are ignorant of it while they do wrong, others do not care as long as they can have a convenient defense for their actions. But think twice before you use the term Nazi or fascist. Even these groups deserve a grain of respect for teaching the world a moral lesson that has dissuaded many from following in their footsteps.