The Nazis are coming.
That, to a distressing extent, is the crux of the argument being mounted by some of those who refuse to obey vaccine mandates. On Sunday, a group of them even showed up at the Bronx office of New York State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz with yellow Stars of David affixed to their clothes.
For those who don’t know: Beginning in 1939, the Nazis required Jews to wear such stars with the word “Jew” written inside on their clothing for easy identification. Any Jew who didn’t comply risked imprisonment or execution.
So it is jarring to see Stars of David sprouting up as a symbol of vaccine-mandate resistance. But it seems to be happening everywhere, from Dinowitz’s office to a hat shop in Nashville to Oklahoma Republican state headquarters in Tulsa to a hearing room in Topeka to a church gym near Tacoma, Washington. There, state lawmaker Jim Walsh explained his decision to wear the star thusly: “It’s an echo from history. In the current context, we’re all Jews.”
No, we most assuredly are not. What we are is a nation where some of us have lost their damn minds, to say nothing of their capacity to give reverence and respect. There are 6 million quite obvious reasons why this use of the Star of David is repugnant — indeed, an act of astonishing moral idiocy. It’s hard to even imagine the suffocating narcissism it takes to resist taking a shot by evoking an epoch that saw a population the size of greater Atlanta murdered.
And here’s the paradox. On the one hand, these people — most of whom, we may safely assume, would call themselves conservatives — go about likening themselves to victims of Nazi oppression. On the other hand, we are seeing more and more people — also calling themselves conservatives — embrace tactics reminiscent of ... wait for it ... Nazi oppression.
As in the two school board members in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, who came out in favor of burning — not banning, but burning — books. Just as the Nazis did when they consigned Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and other “un-German” thinkers to public bonfires.
Or consider former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s declaration that the United States must have only “one religion under God.” Which is consonant with the Nazis who sought, by law, by guns and by Zyklon B gas, to wipe a disfavored religion from the face of the Earth.
Then there’s 18-year-old Franklin Sechriest, a student at Texas State University, who was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a synagogue in Austin. He was nabbed 83 years, almost to the very day, after Nazis burned, ransacked and looted synagogues all over Germany in a bacchanal of cruelty called Kristallnacht.
And all of that was just over the last week or so. Last month, the American Jewish Committee released a sobering study. It found anti-Semitism on the rise, one in four American Jews reporting anti-Semitic incidents, four in 10 saying fear has caused them to change their behavior.
Now there are people parading about wearing yellow stars to show what victims they are? Actually, they are cosplaying at victimhood, using its iconography in hopes others will feel as sorry for them as they do for themselves. Imagine being a Holocaust survivor — or the child of one — and seeing that horror trivialized so. Contempt is the only proper response. These self-obsessed whiners are co-opting pain that doesn’t belong to them.
And leaving new pain in its wake.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. firstname.lastname@example.org