EDITORIAL: Throwing around WWII references cheapens sacrifice

Jul. 6—If there is a lesson to be learned from Gecko's restaurateur Wally Minoli's venting his pandemic fallout frustration against the governor and president in a sign on his Nob Hill eatery's front door — and from his subsequent apology tour — it's that words matter.

More than a week ago Minoli posted this: "Geckos is closing our kitchen tonight due to lack of staff. Special thank you to our Nazi in Santa Fe and our socialist in D.C. for trying to buy votes with extended benefits."

Oh, it's been a long and hard pandemic shutdown, with individuals, families and businesses suffering health and economic hardships. Little wonder we sometimes lash out.

But to denigrate anyone with the term "Nazi" (or "socialist" in the same context) is beyond a "mistake," as Minoli later said. It does more than leave the user "embarrassed." Bandying such words about so casually makes you worse than "an idiot."

Because calling anyone a Nazi — or for that matter Hitler, or a Brownshirt or a Storm Trooper — shows you know just enough about history to know those are bad things, but not enough to understand the German Nazi Party's Sturmabteilung (Storm Troopers or Brownshirts because of their uniforms) are infamous for their vicious siege of violence that put the National Socialists — headed by Adolf Hitler — in power in the 1930s. That they are known for their violent intimidation of Germany's leftists and Jewish population. And that under this evil regime nearly 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Which is another word that falls off people's lips far too easily.

Likening the hardships of the pandemic to genocide is a pathetic false equivalency that inflates the speaker's suffering while cheapening the memory of those lost to true evil.

Unfortunately, Minoli — who has apologized on Facebook, in a text to the governor, a letter to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque and in individual meetings with staff members — is only the latest person to belittle the mass murder of WWII and discount the suffering of those we reverently term "survivors." It's all the more shocking because many who use these words so casually are well-educated people who were not in desperate straights when they shot off their mouths. Each should have known better.

Billionaire Democratic contributor George Soros, former Vice President Al Gore, even actor/singer/activist Harry Belafonte likened the George W. Bush administration to Nazis, Brownshirts and Hitler. Numerous congressmen likened then-President Barack Obama to Hitler. TV celebrities from Bill Maher to Glenn Beck to the hosts of "The View" — as well as Mexico's former President Vicente Fox — likened former President Donald Trump to Hitler. Right now online you can buy a T-shirt with a photo of President Joe Biden sporting a Hitler mustache and the words "Not my dictator."

Yes, like Minoli these folks were likely frustrated with those in power and sought to vent and elicit a knee-jerk reaction with their shorthand reference to bad people. Minoli is one up on all of them because at least he had the decency to not just apologize but to engage in conversations that inform how words matter.

At least they should matter to intelligent people who understand history is more than a sound bite.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.