• Caleb Kaltenbach

Spaceballs & How HITLER Haunts American Politics

Updated: Oct 5

There’s a scene in Spaceballs where Dark Helmet commands his right-hand guy, Colonel Sanders to take their spaceship to ludicrous speed. Colonel Sanders argues until Dark Helmet taunts him: “What’s the matter, Colonel Sanders? Chicken?” (Get it? LOL!) The ship moves from light speed to ridiculous speed and finally to ludicrous speed. Hanging on for dear life, Dark Helmet screams, “What have I done?! My brains are going into my feet!”[1]

Colonel Sanders & Dark Helmet during ludicrous speed

American politics has achieved ludicrous speed. Our brains are going into our feet.

Multiple constructed narratives are battling to be society’s meta-narrative. Tribalism, turf wars, and silos have been normalized. Dialogue and embraced differences are being replaced by false dichotomies. Because “agreement and loyalty” outweigh “acceptance and dignity” more people are testing each other with litmus test questions.

Equality has less to do with freedom and more to do with loyalty to platforms.

Yup, we’ve definitely shifted from reason to ludicrous speed. I mean, our two presidential candidates have been strongly encouraged to take cognitive tests. Isn’t that what we’ve all been hoping for in candidates? And if the Republican National Convention (RNC) is anything like the Democratic National Convention (DNC), we’ll have plenty of “Huh???” moments.

Among the speakers and panelists in last week’s DNC, a Wake Forest University seminary student’s bio read: “transgender non-binary/gender transcendent mermaid Queen-King.”[2] I’m unsure if the DNC has hosted a “mermaid Queen-King” before, but I hope the RNC has one too! Billie Eilish composed a great song for the DNC, but endorsed Vice-President Biden from what looked like a… graveyard (insert creepy wolf howl). Another big “Huh???” moment was Billy Porter’s music video on the first night… wow.

Lest you assume I’m only picking on the DNC, fear not! For this week’s RNC promises many juicy “Huh???” moments. The St. Louis couple that waved guns at protestors is speaking. Why? Because… I don’t know… because Joe Exotic was unavailable? However, Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was available and joined the RNC lineup because… well… #because2020.

Donald Trump Jr. & Kimberly Guilfoyle

Ironically, California Governor Gavin Newsom shared at the DNC last week and his former wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle is on the RNC’s docket this week. She’s super sharp (UC Davis magna cum laude grad), served San Francisco as both a prosecutor and Assistant DA, was a Los Angeles Deputy DA, co-hosted The Five on Fox News, hired as a legal analyst for CNN, and… wait for it… is dating Donald Trump, Jr.! Given Guilfoyle’s resume, she’s more qualified to address a political convention than numerous other individuals. Unfortunately, regardless of how astute her words might be, many will refuse to listen because of their hatred for the Trump family. I know individuals who won’t acknowledge even one positive aspect of speeches made by Michelle Obama, Vice-President Biden, or Senator Harris. Why?

Hatred blinds you to God's image in others.

Hating and despising people keeps you from seeing any good in them. And therein lies our nation’s dramatic shift to ludicrous speed.


Fear & Discord to the Rescue

Whereas some previous presidential candidates tried to outline what they were for, society’s division has caused some to base their vote on whom they’re against. In her recent article in The New Yorker, Susan Glasser brilliantly illustrates this point: “Biden is not running for President to reform American health care, or to rebuild our infrastructure, or to restore our overseas alliances, although he hopes to do all those things. He is running to be the un-Trump.”[3]

In order to be the un-Trump or the un-Biden/Harris, voters must be afraid and made to feel angry. As individuals grow more fearful, they become easier to control. The more people are afraid, the more prone they are to hate. Thus, extremists on both the left and the right take any opportunity to incite fear and ignite discord. For instance, yesterday a CBS poll claimed 57% of Republicans found the 170,000+ coronavirus deaths to be acceptable.

Another questionable poll dividing our society

Quick on the draw, some news agencies rushed to slam Republicans. Seriously? Here's what I want to know: who was polled, what ages, where were the locations, how were questions worded on the survey, etc.? I like this poll as much as I liked The Last Jedi (spoiler alert: I don’t like either).

Though I’m more of an independent, I have yet to meet a Republican or Democrat that would deem coronavirus deaths as acceptable. On the other hand, some conservative news organizations have exaggerated presidential approval ratings and 2020 election polls. In an effort to raise dwindling ratings, some extremist conservative news agencies have even refused to acknowledge obvious racism.

Sharing polls and articles designed to trash anyone you’re against makes YOU part of society’s problem.

If the CBS poll wasn’t ludicrous enough, yesterday there was another example of hate and discord involving a couple of Jemele Hill’s tweets. Hill is a senior correspondent & columnist for ESPN and The Undefeated, writes for The Atlantic, hosts the Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast and cohosts Way Down in the Hole podcast with Van Lathan. Yesterday, she tweeted:

Without much prompting, extremists from both sides flew into action and jumped into assumptions. Progressives were eager to agree to what they believed she was saying. They compared modern-day America to Nazi Germany and several leaders to Hitler . Conservative Cultural Fundamentalists hurled insult after insult at Hill, hoping they would help her realize the error of her ways (cause we all know that beating people into submission shows that you care). Both camps were TOTALLY in the wrong. She responded with another tweet:

So, according to her tweet, she was referring to America in the days of slavery. It made no matter. Did anyone apologize to her? No. Did anyone apologize for the insults they hurled at politicians? No. Here's what did happen: people on both sides compared President Trump and others to Adolf Hitler. Yup... they were compared to an evil dictator who was responsible for millions of deaths in the Holocaust, deaths in World War II, wanted to commit genocide against the Jewish people, and who also wasn’t fond of LGBTQ people or Christians. Personally, I believe Hitler comparisons are "gotcha" type attacks. It requires little or no critical thinking to call someone Hitler. Besides disrespecting those Hitler is responsible for murdering, using Hitler's name as an insult demonstrates a lack of empathy. Think about it... do we really want to live in a society where the idea of Hitler is normalized? Bottom line: the Hitler card is played too often in our society... and we need to rip up that card.


The Hitler Card

Hitler comparisons have ramped up in recent years. Back in 2018, journalist Waltman Wade Beorn suggested that it’s accurate to compare Trump’s America to the Holocaust.[4] Beorn wasn’t the first or last to make such a ridiculous analogy. One journalist even clarified which version of Hitler the President is: “Trump is no Hitler of 1944, but he does bear some unnerving similarities to the Hitler and the Mussolini of 1934.”[5] Perhaps that journalist has some unnerving similarities to the proponents of the McCarthy Hearings?

Evil jerk

Beorn and other journalists don’t have to be lonely, because some politicians have been leveraging the Third Reich rhetoric for years. Former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman tweeted that Hitler “’has nothing on’ President Donald Trump.”[6] Seriously, Governor Whitman? Do you recall the atrocities that Hitler was responsible for? Then just this month, Representative Jim Clyburn not only connected President Trump to both Hitler and Mussolini, but also hypothesized that the President will try to hold onto his power no matter what.[7]

The dishonor of being juxtaposed to one of the evilest people in history isn’t reserved for President Trump alone. In one high school, an entire government class curriculum linked President Obama and Hitler.[8] Representative Randy Weber and several others have likened our 44th President to Hitler.[9] Even former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was accused of comparing President Obama to Hitler—a comparison Governor Huckabee completely denies insinuating.[10]

In 2004, the Minneapolis DNC headquarters briefly produced bumper stickers that read: “Bush/Cheney- Most Hated World Leaders Since Hitler.”[11] Representative Keith Ellison equated President George W. Bush to Hitler.[12] Woody Allen and activist/actor Harry Belafonte also correlated George W. to Hitler (Belafonte accused him of racism).

President Trump

Among many others, Bill Clinton, Candace Owens, Hillary Clinton George H.W. Bush, Barry Goldwater, Michelle Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bay, Walt Disney, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and even Mother Theresa have all been likened to the Führer.[13] Just choose your politician and there’s a good chance that you’ll discover a Hitler comparison. Such comparisons are ludicrous, but they reveal the undertow of competing narratives in our society.

How does "the narrative" work? You already know… After repeatedly being exposed to some news organizations’ narrative about a wrathful and evil Commander in Chief, some begin to view him as inhuman.

The less human people appear to be, the less effort it takes to hate them.

Deep down inside, you start to believe that comparing him to one of the worst 20th century villains is reasonable. When people disagree with you, it’s easy to “write them off” as uninformed, unintelligent, and uncaring. Eventually, comparing anyone who votes for President Trump as a Nazi seems logical to you. If you buy into a narrative that presents President Trump as Hitler, how can you not be lured to hate the President? Who wants to say that they admire Hitler?

Vice-President Biden & Senator Harris

Each day and every hour, spin a narrative showing Vice-President Biden to be 3 months away from living in a nursing home. Day after day, they hammer home a narrative that says President doesn’t care, while others claim that Senator Harris is tucked away in a hideout so she can scheme and take away every liberty imaginable. Soon, it takes little effort to equate Democrats to Stalin or Castro. If you believe a narrative that shows Vice-President Biden and Senator Harris to be the equivalents of Stalin, how could you not hate them? How could you not do everything in your power (within reason) to prevent them from gaining or keeping authority and power?

This, my friends, is the danger of the false dichotomy narratives that our news agencies, pundits, social justice warriors, conservative culture warriors, and more are crafting. The more we pay attention to the “narrative peddlers” the more the narrative feeds your insecurities and increases ludicrous speed.


Stopping Ludicrous Speed

So, it feels like our country is charging ahead with full impulse ludicrous speed power. What can we do to stop this? How can we begin to scale back? What does it look like to reprioritize people over politics? Here are some suggestions:

  • Acknowledge the good, bad, and ugly—it’s not wrong to expose bad leaders, those who lack integrity, and anyone who hurts another person. You and I need to fight injustice. But we also need to share the good stories. Our news cycles are negative, negative, negative… So, tell stories and share positive stories. Inspire others to share good deeds that they’ve witnessed.

  • Love, don’t hate—believers are instructed to never hate people. Period. Jesus never commands His followers to agree with just anyone, but He does command us to love everyone. All you have to do is read passages like Matthew 5:38-48; 6:14-15; 22:37-40; Luke 6:35-36; and Romans 2:4; 12:9-18 to see how much Jesus followers are to love others. We are to love those unlike us and even those who don’t like us. So, perhaps pray for those that vote differently or watch that certain news outlet. Here’s another novel idea—READ the Bible! Each time you think about politics, read the Bible. Refuse to make politics a metric for friendship. Don’t use political platforms to determine another person’s value.

  • Don’t commit news gluttony—if you only watch Fox News and get an aneurism every time you watch NBC News, you got issues… if you’re mainly tuned into CNN and can’t see any good in Fox News, that’s a problem. Only understanding one point of view turns you into an extremist. Refusing to study other viewpoints secretly transforms you into the people you can’t stand the most. What can you learn from those you disagree with? Does anyone say anything you agree Is with? Is there something they mentioned that you can research more?

  • Ask yourself & others questions—if someone you know or love has differing political values from you, ask yourself questions such as: What do they believe? How were their beliefs formed? When have they felt challenged in their beliefs? Have they ever changed their beliefs? If so, why? Are they open to discussion about their beliefs? If not or if so, why? Who has had the greatest influence on their political values? What or who do they value more than politics? What are they afraid of?

  • Turn off the news—yeah… this is gonna be a tough one for some of you. But it might save your relationships. Take politics off the throne of your life if it’s the center of your life. Switch off the TV or watch a comedy (like Spaceballs). Turn off your news notifications. Without being rude and with complete kindness, withdraw from conversations about politics. Limit your time reading social media posts and threads… and don’t engage in social media battles… no one wins.

It's time to back off from ludicrous speed because the crash isn't going to be fun. People are already getting hurt and more will. Worse of all, God is never glorified through hate... only through love (see Romans 13:8-10 for more details).


And stop comparing people to Hitler. It's dumb. You're better than that!


_____________________

[1] “Spaceballs (4/11) Movie CLIP - Ludicrous Speed (1987),” Movieclips, February 19, 2015, YouTube video, 3:27. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAWL8ejf2nM&t=98s. [2] https://catallaxyfiles.com/2020/08/20/dream-team-opportunity-lost/. [3] Susan B. Glasser, “Joe Biden, America’s Un-Trump,” The New Yorker (August 21, 2020). [4] Waltman Wade Beorn, “It’s Not Wrong to Compare Trump’s America to the Holocaust. Here’s Why,” The Washington Post (July 16, 2018). [5] Paul Thornton, “Opinion Newsletter: On Comparing Trump to Hitler and Mussolini,” The LA Times (July 25, 2020). [6] Brian Thompson, “Former Republican Governor of New Jersey Doubles Down on Tweet Comparing Trump to Hitler,” NBC New York (October 16, 2019). [7] Savannah Behrmann, “Rep. Clyburn Compares Trump to Mussolini, Says President Won't Leave White House If He Loses Election,” USA Today (August 2, 2020). [8] John Sharp, “Government Class Instruction Comparing Obama to Hitler Draws Public Ire in Baldwin County,” Mobile Real-Time News (January 26, 2018). [9] Jeremy Diamond & Eric Bradner, “Republican Pol Apologizes for Obama Hitler Tweet, CNN (January 13, 2015) and Luke Brinker, “7 Conservatives Who Have Compared Obama to Hitler,” Salon (January 13, 2015). [10] Mark Pothier, “Like Hitler, Really?” The Boston Globe (August 10, 2015). [11] News Staff, “Kerry, Bush Go On the Offensive As Partisan Rhetoric Intensifies,” The Pitt News (September 25, 2008). [12] John Gibson, “What I Think About Rep. Keith Ellison Comparing Bush to Hitler,” Fox News (July 13, 2015). [13] “Farrakhan Compares Hillary Clinton to Hitler in Sermon,” Fox News (November 2, 2016)… Dawn C. Chmielewski, “Fox News Offers On-Air Apology After Guest Compares Hillary Clinton To ‘Herpes,’” Deadline (November 22, 2018)… Emily Larsen, “Fireworks on the Hill: Rep. Lieu charges Candace Owens 'legitimizes' Hitler; she says he thinks blacks are 'stupid,’” Washington Examiner (April 9, 2019)… Michael Der Manouel Jr., “Many Politicians Compared to Hitler,” The Fresno Bee (August 22, 2020).

2 comments

© 2020 by Caleb Kaltenbach