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Debe Terhar, the President of the Ohio Board of Education, has sparked controversy by posting a picture of Adolph Hitler on her Facebook page alongside a text expressing opposition to President Obama’s gun-control proposals.
Worse, when asked to explain the juxtaposition of the two items, Terhar offered the following disclaimer: “I did not compare our President to Adolph Hitler. Like millions of Facebook users, I simply shared a photograph on Facebook posted by another person. I regret the consequences of carelessly sharing that picture, and I will be more selective in my use of social media in the future.”
Governor John Kasich has accepted this explanation and has rejected suggestions that this gaffe provides ample justification to remove Terhar from her position.
My first impulse was simply to include in this post side-by-side photos of Terhar, Hitler, and Kasich and to dare Terhar or Kasich to object to the posting.
But, since I am determined to be constructive rather than confrontational, I will, instead, ask the follow-up questions that Terhar—and, by extension, Governor Kasich–apparently believes that no one will think to ask.
Who, exactly, is sending you photos of Hitler? And why?
Furthermore, assuming that you are not a closet Nazi, why would a photo of Hitler be worth sharing on your Facebook page or in any other way? Is it a photo of Hitler lounging poolside in a bathing suit that makes him look silly, or one of him curled up on his bed in footy pajamas while Eva Braun reads him a bedtime passage from Mein Kampf, or one of him dressed very flamboyantly in drag at some SS-sponsored Halloween Ball?
Because if it’s just a stock photo of Hitler with his arm outstretched in the Nazi salute, well, who hasn’t seen that? And you can’t even say that you meant it as a joke—that you penciled in a ridiculous mustache—because, of course, he already had a ridiculous mustache.
I am willing to guess that if I were able to search every Facebook page, the number of photos of Hitler on pages not belonging to Neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Aryan Brotherhood, or perhaps extremely decrepit actual Nazis would be infinitesimally small.
Unless, of course, the photo was being posted purely for educational purposes.
But, even if one concedes that might have been your motive, how unlucky you are that you didn’t notice at once that the photo of Hitler that you couldn’t resist sharing should, by complete happenstance, end up next to a passage critical of a president who is so beloved by Neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Aryan Brotherhood, and even extremely decrepit actual Nazis.
All of these considerations have almost compelled me to reflect on why the opponents of President Obama have insisted on comparing him to Hitler. Recently I was watching a documentary on the Klan and the American Nazi Party broadcast on the History Channel (which my wife, incidentally, refers to as the “Nazi Channel”). The Klansmen and Neo-Nazis who appeared in the documentary equated being American with being White and being White with being Nazis. Not surprisingly, they were very willing to state very plainly their hatred of Black people (as well as a whole host of other groups, but especially Black people). So why would people who hate the president compare him to Hitler, a figure whom they hold in such high esteem—or, if you will, a figure so beloved by them?
It is all so very paradoxical.
I have almost given myself a brain hemorrhage trying to conceive of some progressive equivalent to this paradox. To whom should progressives compare Mitch McConnell and John Boehner if we want to get a rise out of conservatives? Suggesting some association between them and, say, Leon Trotsky and Che Guevara, just seems ridiculous.
But perhaps if I were to place their photos side by side, I might start to see some resemblance—some sinister resemblance.
And perhaps if I did it often enough, I would start to think it was funny in proportion to the outrage expressed by conservatives.
But, of course, none of this would apply to Debe Terhar because I am quite certain that a Nazi sympathizer would never be appointed to head Ohio’s public schools.
So I guess that we will all just have to chalk it up as one of those things that happens when we are not sufficiently cognizant of the implications of the things that we are doing.
If I were Governor Kasich, I would ask Debe Terhar to apologize to President Obama, and even if she wants to leave the text criticizing his positions on gun control on her Facebook page, she should replace the photo of Hitler with one of a duckling being mothered by a dog too dumb to know that it is not a puppy.