What does “Don’t be Nazis” really mean?

Surely if we are to learn anything from the 20th century, it is to not repeat its biggest atrocities, chief among those the rise of Nazi Germany and the unspeakable deeds committed therein. This is such a commonly held view — one so unlikely to have serious dissenters of any significant number outside the internet — it’s banal and I’m a bit surprised otherwise intelligent people keep saying it, though maybe it’s not a bad thing to repeat it every so often anyway.

Still, I have to wonder what it actually means. Are we being Nazis if we…

  • Erect physical barriers along our borders to keep out illegal immigrants?
  • Erect programmatic barriers within our immigration system to keep out criminals, people without a legitimate claim of asylum, etc.?
  • Identify and attack those who attempt to harm us?
  • Detain and interrogate prisoners of war?
  • Teach our kids to celebrate and uphold our country?

To my eye, none of these things put us remotely close to Nazi territory, and all are actually reasonable things for any country to do. Yet the sight of border fences, military action, and even slightly nationalistic communication drives some people into fits of “Nazis! Nazis! Nazis!” If pressed for specifics, I wonder what exactly they would say is necessary/sufficient for a Nazi comparison.

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One thought on “What does “Don’t be Nazis” really mean?

  1. Should I even comment if I agree with you point for point?
    Well, yes. What especially worries me about this country is the apparent loss of any critical thinking, and the rise of hysterical, ill-informed, reactionary shouting of single word memes. They’re extremely useful for non-thinkers who feign to be activists. And unfortunately highly effective in the age of easily manipulable pea brains in this era of viral social networks. It’s all a lethal combination of, I’m afraid, more dire things to come.

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