Only the Strong Will Survive? American Echoes of a Dark Past

In mid-February, Texas was crushed by an unprecedented cold snap and a collapsing energy grid.

As Americans proceed to take stock of the local weather tragedy and its brutal aftermath, it is essential to shine a highlight on the alarming ideologies that fueled this twin disaster in Texas and the way it can occur once more.

On February 16, as thousands and thousands of Texans entered into a second day of freezing temperatures, energy outages and water restrictions, Colorado City’s former mayor Tim Boyd chastised his fellow Texans on Facebook for being “lazy” and “looking for a damn handout!”

Setting apart the query of whether or not demanding providers one pays for is a “handout,” Boyd’s feedback had been merciless and insensitive. Fortunately, they acquired the hostile reception they well-deserved.

Boyd’s cold-hearted feedback weren’t simply callous. Recent Facebook posts by Boyd echo and amplify a harmful model of Republican orthodoxy, conjuring a darkish and harmful previous.

I examine and train political rhetoric at San José State University in Silicon Valley. Since 2015, my analysis has particularly centered on demagoguery, fascism and most just lately, Adolf Hitler’s re-emerging rhetoric.

Given my space of experience, analysis and what I’m witnessing unfold earlier than me, it’s unimaginable to not warn others about the blatant echoes of Nazi rhetoric in Boyd’s put up–and the menace posed to Americans, and by extension, the free world.

Boyd’s remark, specifically that, “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish [sic],” is a near-perfect distillation of Social Darwinism, the ideology that powered Nazi dogma. It ought to alarm each American.

Hitler’s perception in Social Darwinism is well-documented, and he additionally made pithy declarations about it. In a 1923 speech, delivered to the League of Nations, Hitler stated, “The whole of Nature is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak.”

Note how Hitler is subtly describing his beliefs about what occurs when nature is left to its personal gadgets. When he repeated the point 4 years later to the Nazi Student League, he was extra direct: “It is an iron principle: the weak must fall so the strong can live.”

In the context of the bigger speech, “the weak must fall” can simply translate into “the strong must make the weak fall” and “one proves one is strong by destroying the weak.”

The latter can be a nearer approximation of the theories Hitler expounded in his fanatical autobiography Mein Kampf. He instantly advocated segregating or eliminating “contaminants” and declared, “Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”

It’s not laborious to listen to Social Darwinist resonances in Boyd’s authentic remark and subsequent clarification as soon as you start to concentrate. After Boyd was struck by the public backlash to his preliminary put up, he clarified in a post that was later deleted that he “was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout.”

U.S. National Guard troopers patrol the Capitol grounds on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., March 6, 2021.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP by way of Getty Images

Boyd’s statements should not equal to Hitler’s political speeches, however they’re steeped in a comparable rhetoric of the survival of the fittest. The shared inference that “the strong” are extra worthwhile than “the weak” is simple, and each at the very least suggest that nothing must be executed to guard the latter.

We should resist the temptation to dismiss Boyd’s put up as inconsequential. Even after resigning as Colorado City’s mayor, he is nonetheless a becoming consultant of his social gathering, given how the “survival of the fittest” mantra has change into an organizing principle of the Republican Party.

Take for example Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick‘s comment about COVID restrictions in March 2020: “Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country, don’t do that, don’t ruin this great America.” In quick, the robust will survive and the weak apparently aren’t as necessary as the economic system.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott‘s current lifting of COVID restrictions, likewise, rolls the cube with individuals’s lives, as do similar measures in Mississippi, West Virginia and different states led by Republican governors. And the similar themes had been on full show in the Republican efforts to sabotage–or at the very least critically delay–passage of the American Rescue Plan Act.

To make certain, neither Tim Boyd, Dan Patrick, nor Greg Abbott are Adolf Hitler. But it isn’t essential to predict one other Holocaust to be horrified by ominous rhetorical resonances.

The lesson isn’t that up to date politicians are modern-day Hitlers, however fairly that Hitler’s instance reveals how simply “the strong will overcome the weak” can metamorphose into “the strong must allow the weak to perish” and even “the strong must eradicate the weak.”

In circumstances the place people have already died in significant numbers, the metamorphosis is much less a chance than an existential menace.

Contemporary American Social Darwinism isn’t as overtly brutal as Hitler’s, but it surely nonetheless reinforces the precept that some lives are more valuable than others–and that the weak should fall so the robust can dwell.

As Texans get well from the present disaster, and as different crises come up round the nation, all Americans would do effectively to reject leaders who deal with some of their constituents’ lives as worthwhile and others as expendable.

When Americans vote–wherever we dwell–we might do effectively to root out leaders who attempt to persuade us that some lives are price sacrificing on the altar of “the strong.”

Ryan Skinnell is an affiliate professor of rhetoric at San José State University, the creator of Faking the News: What Can Rhetoric Teach Us about Donald J. Trump and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.

The views expressed on this article are the author’s personal.

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