Politicians are notoriously prone to expressing hyperbole in their defense or attack on policies, especially when the policy comes from the opposite side of the political aisle.
But there are times when the hyperbole goes too far, and in our political discourse, it seems that some politicians can launch a broadside attack purely out of context and not deal with the resulting damage.
Recently, NC state senator Bob Rucho, Republican from Matthews, sent out the following Tweet:
Grammar and spelling aside, Senator Rucho’s Tweet sent the social media venue into a firestorm, and rightly so.
To claim the passage of a policy through the democratic process of our nation’s government as more disastrous than the combined deaths and destruction of two horrific events in our modern history, let alone the havoc that modern terrorist acts have caused, is simply ignorant and shameful of the facts and lives that were impacted.
Having studied and taught a course on Nazi Germany and on 20th Century world history, let me offer some perspectives on the Nazi regime and the Soviet prison system for context to Senator Rucho’s statement.
World War II, started by the Nazi regime, the fascist Mussolini government of Italy, and the Japanese military government, ultimately claimed the lives of 17 million combatants and almost 20 million civilians in the global conflict.
Of particular relevance when using the term ‘Nazi’ is the Holocaust, perpetrated by the Nazi regime, that took the lives of 7 million Jews, along with another 9-10 million individuals, including Gypsies, Slavs, Soviet prisoners of war, and homosexuals throughout Europe.
In what way does the attempted extermination of an entire religious faith, along with millions of others for no other reason than they failed to meet the Nazi standards of humanity, serve as something less than any impact of the Affordable Care Act?
Having taught a course that focused on the Cold War era, let me offer some perspectives on the Soviet system of political jails and concentration camps, known as the gulags.
Anne Applebaum’s history of the Gulag received both the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, as well as the British Duff-Cooper Prize for best non-fiction. In her work, she notes that while historians differ on the number of forced laborers in the Soviet camps at 28.7 million, with the victims totaling more than 2.7 million.
Again, in what way are the deaths of 2.7 million and imprisonments of nearly 29 million others seem comparable to the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion upholding Obamacare?
For those of us alive and cognizant on September 11, 2001, the memories are still fresh of the victims who perished at the hands of terrorists and the shock it gave to the entire country. But the more recent examples, of both domestic and foreign terrorist attacks, give us continuing pause to realize the impact that these events cause on us as a society.
How does the attack of 9-11 and other terrorists acts seem minor to a policy that was legally and democratically enacted by a republican form of government?
While some on the fringe of the political right would equate the current president to following the road of socialism, it is incomprehensible that the magnitude of national socialism, Soviet-style totalitarianism, and fundamentalist terrorism would be, in any way, comparable to the impact of Obamacare.
A little over 24 hours after Senator Rucho sent out the Tweet, he began to address the growing backlash with a justification that the comparison was made on “economic grounds” in comparison to the economic impacts of Nazism, Soviet gulags, and terrorism acts.
While the economic impacts of the two largest 20th Century events in world history are difficult to calculate fully, the rationalization that the economic impact of Obamacare will outweigh the consequences of World War II, the Cold War and the war on terrorism is laughable in the least, and ignorant at the most.
This isn’t anything new with Senator Rucho, who chose to equate President John F. Kennedy to the Tea Party movement recently.
In the paraphrased words of former U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen who corrected another U.S. senator who attempted to equate himself to the former president, I would simply state the obvious:
Senator, I teach history. I have studied history. Senator Rucho, you are no historian.