It finally happened. A German used the H word in my presence.
I haven’t been all that surprised that Adolf Hitler doesn’t come up in conversation here. You could say it is because Germany and Germans prefer not to remember the Nazi era. It has been almost 75 years, that generation is dead, most of them – and all of their leaders. Why dwell on the past? There comes a time to end self-flagellation.
The name was used in a mixed-language discussion on the Middle East. It was a social gathering, and the man opposite had asked what work I do here.
That is always difficult to explain – I don’t have enough German vocabulary, and I seem to always mispronounce the words I do know, which means I don’t make myself clear. In this case though it started a discussion on the Middle East and the state of affairs there. Which is where the H word came in.
My new acquaintance gave me a rundown of the political situation and its causes. Many of the contemporary problems he attributed to the actions of “Mr. Hitler Bush,” the former US president. He made it clear he was referring to George W – he expressed admiration for President George H.W. Bush.
His analysis of the problems created by American policy in the Middle East was accurate (though there are differing views). What surprised me was his dislike of Mr. Bush. He used the “Hitler” tag several times throughout the conversation.
I would think in German society “Hitler” is about the worst thing you can call someone. While George W. Bush was a weak president in many ways (as most US presidents are when it comes to international relations), I don’t see him as deserving of that level of scorn.
Maybe it comes down to intent. Adolph Hitler could be described as evil incarnate. I don’t see Mr. Bush as being deliberately evil, though you could say he was naive. Certainly his policies were responsible for bad things happening, things his administration should have foreseen – but those weren’t intended consequences.
I wasn’t offended by the conversation, though I might have been if I was an American. It did have me thinking though about how we use words in making our points. And how important it is that we choose the right words.
Canada has a federal election this fall, and the political rhetoric is warming up. The 2020 American presidential election is already in high gear it seems, and the debate (at least as it looks from here) seems to have degenerated into hysteria. A lot of personalities; not much policy.
Maybe it is time for the public, that is you and me, to hold politicians to account for their words. Perhaps we should be encouraging a vigorous exchange of ideas and look at what we feel would be best for the country, rather than attacking the integrity or heritage of those we choose to lead us.
Or is that too radical a concept?