Why Is This GOP Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?

11 10 2010

“This is art designed to improve humanity,
but it has the opposite effect because — it’s a lie.”
— The Furious Energy of Liberty

Is this the story of parental involvement, a good-sport dad just connecting with his son through wholesome historical theatre?

An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.

What about said exculpatory son btw, and whatever he learned from his dad as Nazi in their family time together? (I’ve wondered the same about father-son bonding over guns meant for killing life, especially in the name of pro-life politics.) Is it fair game for citizens and voters to ask ourselves such questions as we get to know more about a person in private family life?

Or maybe nothing personal should be the pivotal point when we’re evaluating the candidacy of someone to represent our American values in Congress. So publicly then — is this story more about being innocently tone-deaf to American culture, or being perfectly attuned to unAmerrican culture?
See the Atlantic for the whole power of story.

Eleonore Lappin, the noted Austrian historian, writes that soldiers from the Wiking division were involved in the killing of Hungarian Jews in March and April 1945, before surrendering to American forces in Austria.

“What you often hear is that the [Wiking] division was never formally accused of anything, but that’s kind of a dodge,” says Prof. Rob Citino, of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, who examined the Wiking website.

“The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of ‘subhumans,’ . . . It sends a shiver up my spine to think that people want to dress up and play SS on the weekend.”

How many parts self-expression and freedom of association? What’s the proportion of history being studied and professed?

Is it most like real community theatre, in which case it would be unfair to hold the role against the actor? Maybe. I could buy that as the parent of kids who love history and theatre and specifically historical theatre.

When my little boy builds a Lego guillotine and relishes chopping off Lego heads after playing a theatre part, does that make him a monster and me as his mother responsible?

What do you think?

See also School theatre and citizen censorship — where does the audience role come in when what’s playing out is the art of democracy itself?



17 responses

12 10 2010

Somebody has to play the bad guys when you re-enact a war.

12 10 2010
Nance Confer

Are there WWII re-enactments? Like the Civil War ones? And who wants to be on the southern side of that war when it is re-enacted? The same sort who wants to be a make-believe Nazi? Or a different sort of dolt? Or is that war comfortably removed in history enough that we can all be OK with it?

And if my child is playing a violent video game or using Legos to destroy the villagers, is that completely without some sort of context? Not, rah-rah, kill more villagers! But a lifetime of pointing out how that would be a bad thing in real life and the difference between fantasy and real life.

Or are we supposed to think that these crazy Republicans are doing seminars on the evils of WWII? That that is the family lesson being tenderly imparted — don’t harm those who are different from you just because you can. Does it show a bad side of me that I don’t believe that for one minute and lump these crazies in with the white supremacist crazies and all of their ignorance and hatefulness?

12 10 2010

I’m thinking you’re both right, with your answers and more questions, and that where America’s civic thinking has gone wrong is in not realizing it. You have to ask a lot of questions, not gotcha questions but real ones that you don’t know the answer to and do care to find out, so you can see the context and motivations, the reliability and boundaries and standing of the different characters, before you can understand and evaluate the meaning of any story.

For me, I came home to see this story right after listening to a car radio interview with the historian author of a new “reenactment” in book form, of Lincoln’s Civil War (mere coincidence or opportunistic political calculus? I actually wondered for a moment, considering how thoroughly even the most trustworthy public communication has been sabotaged of late.)

Anyway, this scholarly author had me in fully fleshed out hi-story mode, my questions bubbling up and my mind on systems theory where everything is connected and the smallest choice or influence affects every other.

It was really the story of Lincoln’s evolution of personal beliefs and how that fed into political and military decisions that changed everything for everybody. His thoughts and feelings made sense in the context of who he was and how he got to the presidency AND yet weren’t elemental and immutable. It all connected in his life’s unique human narrative — you can truthfully look at and discuss discrete parts of it one at a time BUT in reality it was complex and compound, not an elemental 100% pure essence. Lincoln was a compound that can’t be separated back out into its exact proportions and parts even by history, much less by contemporaries friend or foe, not even by the studious and self-aware man himself.

The not very happy ending of this story was Andrew Johnson becoming the next American president, his personal racist sympathies affecting post-war policy differently than Lincoln’s would have done.

It may sound like I’m rambling or dissembling. Here’s my thought — if most ordinary Americans aren’t understanding what I just said about Lincoln, then we aren’t going to understand what COD and Nance said about Nazi-for-fun-and-family candidate.

12 10 2010

Anybody remember that shocking tabloid front page of Prince Harry in a Nazi uniform at a costume party? We could play moral musical chairs between that and this . . . the first thing I connect is that his own family was furious with him and made him apologize, even “re-educated” his history and sensibilities. The GOP candidate otoh was the dad in the story, not the son. And he’s defending and dismissing it, not apologizing and atoning.

12 10 2010
Nance Confer

And Harry is not, after all, an Amurcan. Which excuses all kinds of ignorance. Apparently.

Driving home just now I flashed on what a WWII re-enactment would look like. Complete with SS officers. Don’t these people know what SS officers and other Nazis did? Do they literally not know? If they do know, how is this fun?

12 10 2010

A very good question and to the point. (Who do they get to “play” innocent Nazi victims, or do they just pretend it was all between soldiers, and leave that part out? Do civil war stagers get many African-Americans volunteering not as soldiers but to be whipped as victims of slavery, say for trying to escape from behind southern lines? Will we see 9-11 reenactments someday soon, with victims throwing themselves out of windows to escape the fires of terrorist hell?)

Coincidentally the other thing I’m pondering today is Jewish identity. No doubt defined in part by infamous attempts at extermination of same.

12 10 2010

Young Son is working with a private acting coach for the stage now. I sometimes get to sit in and I love the main message of everything they work on: that in characterization and developing a unique performance back-story “true” to the character’s role as written, every choice takes you in a direction presenting more choices, like a maze, and some lead to dead-ends. You couldn’t see that on the front end when you make the first choice that moves you a little bit toward the dead-end but looking back, you can see it more clearly and choose differently and craft a better character (not necessarily “good” in the hero-villain sense but good in the rich, well-integrated, compelling human story sense.)

I think dressing up as a Nazi is one of those choices to be very careful with. The directions it branches off into are treacherous turf and the choices get worse and worse from there.

When we did Ragtime here, there was a bigoted white male character who commits a racist act of hate while using the N-word as a weapon. The show is set 100 years ago but of course is played to a contemporary audience likely to dislike if not hate the hater. It was a mini-cultural study to see how the man cast in that role handled it, why he did it (in service of the larger messages with himself playing evil, not to glorify or even justify it) and how he had to set himself apart literally from the rest of the cast and crew even to be able to do it night after night. It was a sacrifice on the part of a fine actor, and I understood and appreciated it — still didn’t want to talk to him or stand close to him though, and haven’t seen him around since . . . maybe that reaction is just human nature, part of how we enforce our cultural norms?

12 10 2010

Did we get upset last year when Tom Cruise played a Nazi?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0985699/ Does the fact that he got paid millions excuse Cruise?

Maybe the guy really is a raving mad closet Nazi sympathizer. I don’t know. But the fact that he re-enacts on the bad guy side by itself isn’t really evidence of anything. Given all the truly horrible stuff politicians are doing to us, letting the media distract us with this stuff just plays into their hands, IMHO.

If you want to really get into the heads of Civil War re-enactors obtain “Confederates in the Attic” from your local center of socialist literature redistribution. i should be finishing the book tonight. It’s funny, occasionally scary, but overall a very interesting insight into the minds of Southerners that are still obsessed with the Civil War. And yes, some of them are racist assholes.

12 10 2010

I get the point and don’t disagree (much) but I’m laughing at the possible implication that somehow this might make Tom Cruise worthy of my vote for Congress. 😉

13 10 2010
Nance Confer

Tom Cruise — an asshole in his own right — looking cute in any sort of uniform and getting paid to do it versus racist assholes playing roles from their imaginary “good ol’ days” versus a politician — never accused of looking cute, I’m sure — a man running for office, asking us (well, not us, but other voters) to trust him and his judgment to run our country. . . hmmm . . .

I’m not seeing the connection.

And, yes, it is a stupid distraction. But, in our defense, what else is there to look at on the right side of the road? They’ve got nothing but wall-to-wall stupid. We only having boring incompetent, slowly bargaining away any advantage we might have to push through some meager gains. That is not interesting. It probably isn’t even interesting enough to get out the voters who vote D. Which leaves us with the crazy parade.

You know who I feel ever-so-mildly sorry for? Sane Republicans. They must be mortified and disgusted by this point.


13 10 2010

You know who I feel ever-so-mildly sorry for? Sane Republicans.

No kidding. There’s a GOP strategist, forget his name, who gets interviewed on MSNBC now and then and he’s sane, also smart. Mark McKinnon, that’s it I think. I heard him the other day taking a pretty strong stand against the wackos.

21 10 2010

The plot thickens. Maybe he’s not a fascist but just some kind of military uniform fetishist?

His opponent in the fall election, incumbent Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, has said Iott is trying to mislead voters into believing that he is in the armed forces.

. . . The Ohio Military Reserve . . .can’t be called up for national defense duty like the national guard or Marine and Army Reserves. Units are trained in medical support, shelter management and logistical support. Members no longer take part in weapons training, which was phased out about 10 years ago, said Charles Brown, an assistant chief of staff with the reserve.

21 10 2010

GOP = Authoritarian

Specifically, authoritarian parent!
That’s the finding of a researcher-author I heard interviewed driving kids around last night. The new car came with a free satellite radio trial and I was trying out some new channels.

“Authoritarian” equals order and control, tradition and therefore fear of and resistance to change such as women and minorities getting the vote, immigrants streaming across a border changing the economy and voting patterns, the competitive rise of other nations in world affairs, same-sex marriage rights, etc.

Hence any challenge to authorities that keep order and control is the ultimate offense.

GOP is increasingly authoritarian because it feels increasingly under threat, which causes emotion to take over cognition in the attempt to resolve those threats and restore “order.”

And apparently an increasingly accurate way to predict American political party by degree of authoritarianism, is to ask about not about policy issues directly but parenting priorities and attitudes. Right up Snook’s alley!

It makes sense then, that loving uniforms and clear hierarchy and rules and order whether military, police, gun-bearing militia (even zero tolerance in school discipline and dress codes) are predictably not Democratic.

And it makes sense that like parenting, politics too can turn coercive and even criminally abusive. When traditional Authority fears losing control, it does in fact lose control!

For parents who are desperate for control over their children, when spanking doesn’t work (and often, it will not), the relationship turns abusive, either physically or emotionally or both.

Their survey instrument was described as a series of forced choices between pairs of words such as curiosity or manners, kindness or obedience. The interviewees choose which they believe is more important of the two qualities or attributes or behaviors, to develop in children. Authoritarian responses were found increasingly to correlate with Republican politics, non-authoritarian responses with Democratic politics. (They demonstrate that our growing polarization is recent since 2000 — maybe the 9-11 terrorist masterminds knew exactly how to destroy us from within, by hyperactivating authoritarian Americans for life-or-death black-or-white civil war for control?)

And it makes sense then, that the political “parent rights” movement is FROM the Right.

“Where political science has a long tradition of seeing political conflict through the lens of ‘issues’ debates about public policy, Hetherington and Weiler see the fundamental sorting process as instead a matter of personality.

For them the new defining reality of American politics is a choice between authoritarian and non-authoritarian styles of reacting. The widely noted polarization of American politics is from their viewpoint a polarization between people, some of whom hold a worldview where issues are simple, choices black and white, and tradition a reliable guide to action, and others who prefer complexity, nuance, and change.

Because these differences of worldview involve cherished symbols, they produce a party politics of deadlock.”

-James A. Stimson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

8 04 2011
Desperate for Control? Abusive Parenting, Abusive Politics « Cocking A Snook!

[…] 8 04 2011 As we talk more about morals and monsters in politics and schooling, check out comment from last year in a discussion that might speak to Ben and others of how this all […]

3 05 2011
Sue Patterson

Interesting conversations over here…as usual. 🙂

I would just like to interject a couple of things:
My Texas-born children always chose to play the Southerners when re-enacting Civil War antics. It’s so much more fun to yell, “The South will Rise Again!!!” They’ve got the accents down pat. Wonder where that came from?

And, sometimes, it IS much more fun to play The Bad Guy…I know from a stage standpoint, those parts are very much in demand.

I really could relate to Nance’s comment:
“wall-to-wall stupid” vs. ” boring incompetent”
This made me laugh and really made me miss the way you could put things…as long as I was in agreement with you! LOL!

But back to the point. There are several taboos in this country that we would want a potential political leader to be sensitive to…naziism, the “N” word, barefoot & pregnant women, just off the top of my head. And in this age of sound-bytes and misrepresentation, why would someone not think it through?
Oh yeah….wall to wall stupidity.
Gosh, I’m just all about talking in circles tonight!

4 05 2011
Nance Confer

I was just telling someone today — a new hser wondering why I help new hsers — about how we started and NHEN and the wonderful years when hsers were so helpful to one another. As you and others were to me, Sue.

It seems like a long time ago but it’s lovely to hear your voice. 🙂


4 05 2011

Hey Sue!
Those of us living in the South don’t get enough credit as thinking parents imo.

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