Inappropriate use: part II
Last week, we said here that it was too bad we needed to write an editorial about Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to describe attacks on her following the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others.
Well, multiply that reserved statement by 100 and you get how we feel this week for having to take U.S. Rep. Steven Cohen to task for using the exact same term, plus an absolutely uncalled-for reference to Nazi era propagandist Josef Goebbels.
Plus, he made these remarks immediately after the brouhahah over the Palin statement. And he’s Jewish. So if Palin should have known better, Cohen has absolutely no excuse.
Here’s a little background.
During a floor speech last week in the House of Representatives, before the body voted to repeal the new federal health care act, Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, had these words for his Republican colleagues who pushed for the bill:
“They (Republicans) say it’s a government takeover of health care — a big lie just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing.”
By that time, Cohen was already in too deep, but he had to add this:
“Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it — believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor — government takeover of health care.”
What was he thinking? And right on the heels of the Palin mess, too.
Cohen later offered up a weak apology, saying he would never do any thing to “diminish the horror of the Nazi Holocaust,” (which he did do), and that he never called Republicans Nazis (which he didn’t do).
But he drew comparisons between Nazi actions and Republican actions, which is bad enough. And in today’s hostile political climate, it’s downright stupid.
The Holocaust was a unique and tragic chapter in human history. It’s a subject that should be treated reverently, a lesson to mankind that such unspeakable acts should never happen again to anyone.
It should never be used to score political debating points.
The same is true for loaded references such as blood libel — a term that led to the deaths of thousands of Jews long before the dawn of the 20th century.
True, this is America, and free speech is protected. Palin and Cohen may say whatever they wish. They may also be held accountable for whatever they say, and they have been — rightly so.
But our purpose with these editorials is not to trash a couple of politicians (that’s too easy), it is to sound the alarm that civility in our national dialogue is vanishing. Hate speech, from both sides, is widening the gap between us. If we can’t talk to each other without attacking each other — viciously — what chance have we to move this country forward?