As I write this commentary on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am almost speechless, which, as anyone who knows me could tell you, is rare. I am upset and, quite frankly, outraged, not because the day brings up reflections of family members tortured and murdered by the Nazi oppressors, as well as echoes of conversations with family who survived those terrifying years, but because of what I perceive as the use and misuse of the Holocaust by some to justify and maintain the enormous economic disparity in the U.S. and across the globe.
In 2005 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution designating Jan. 27 of each year (on the Gregorian calendar) as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to memorialize all the millions who suffered Nazi atrocities. The day was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the liberation of the largest of the Nazi death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, on Jan. 27, 1945.
In a published letter appearing in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 24, 2014, Tom Perkins, one of the world's wealthiest men, who made his billions as a venture capitalist in California's "Silicon Valley," claims there are "parallels of Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'" Perkins continues, "From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent."
If his allegation of a supposed war on the rich were not enough, he goes on to compare this "very dangerous drift in our American thinking" to a "Kristallnacht" against the wealthy.
Let us be clear: Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") refers to a series of vicious and homicidal raids on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. This was essentially a government-sponsored pogrom directed against Jewish businesses and the Jewish people.
To compare the growing awareness of and call to address the growing and seemingly unfathomable income/wealth disparity in the United States and globally to the Nazis' "final solution" not only amounts to historical revisionism to the maximum but, more importantly, trivializes the extreme conditions under which so many people, Jews and others, suffered dehumanization, marginalization, surveillance, arrest, incarceration, torture, "medical" experimentation, rape, murder, and incineration.
Perkins sounds to me like one of the allegedly "heroic" characters of Ayn Rand's polemic novel Atlas Shrugged, Francisco d'Anconia, who states, "Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it."
Ayn Rand, the intellectual foundation for the economic/political/social philosophy of libertarianism, constructs a bifurcated world of one-dimensional characters in her novels. On one side she presents the noble, rational, intelligent, creative, inventive, and self-reliant: the heroes of industry, of music and the arts, of science, of commerce and banking, who wage a noble battle for dignity, integrity, and personal and economic freedom, for the profits of their labors within an unregulated, "free-market" capitalist system, against the "looters," represented by the followers, the led, the irrational, the unintelligent, the misguided, the misinformed, the government bureaucrats who regulate, who manipulate the economy to justify nationalizing the means of economic production, who confiscate personal property, who provide welfare to the unentitled and the lazy, thus destroying personal incentive and motivation and resulting in dependency. Ayn Rand calls welfare "unearned rewards" (echoes of a contemporary Rand?). She asserts that capitalism must be an unregulated system; she espouses a separation of economics and state.
In Rand's, and seemingly Perkins', historical/economic world view, to enact any sort of regulation, to call for proposals and enactment of policies to ensure greater access to economic resources by the greatest possible number of the world's population, is tantamount to a Nazi invasion and slaughter of innocent people.
How many more politicians and pundits are going to liken President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin (who had opposing political philosophies, by the way) and compare members of the Occupy movement and others of us who advocate for economic equity to the Nazi SA and SS, the vanguards of the German murder machine? (See Arizona State Rep. Brenda Barton on Oct. 7, 2013; Fox News Radio's Tom Sullivan on Feb. 11, 2008; Ann Coulter on April 3, 2008; Clear Channel's Bill Cunningham on Oct. 28, 2008; etc.)
I consider both extremes -- the Holocaust deniers and the Holocaust revisionists -- offensive to the good people who were all taken from us far too soon. Let them rest in peace. Let the truth prevail.