Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Leave Hitler out of it

    Caseworkers for child protective services agencies can and do come into people's homes and, acting entirely on their own authority, take away those people's children. In the process, they often do very severe, lasting damage to large numbers of children, even though most caseworkers mean well.

    But here are some things that CPS workers do NOT do:

    They do NOT herd those children into cattle cars.

    They do NOT tell the children they are going to take a shower, send them into gas chambers and turn on the Zyklon B.

    They do NOT engage in the systematic, mass extermination of a people.

    And until and unless they start doing these things, no one has any right to call CPS workers Nazis, Gestapo or throw around any of the other Third Reich rhetoric that pollutes the child welfare debate.

    Aside from the fact that such rhetoric is grossly unfair to people who, however wrong they often are, generally are not trying to harm anyone, aside from the fact that invoking Hitler is the surest way to lose all credibility with journalists – many of whom want any excuse to ignore families victimized by CPS -- throwing around the name of Hitler and terms like Gestapo demeans the millions who really were victims of Nazi atrocities; and is an affront to the survivors and their families.

    "But if it happened to you," some might say, "if they took your child, wouldn't you feel like the people who did it were Nazis?" Probably. But the fact that one feels something doesn't make it fact, and doesn't make those feelings any less offensive to those for whom Nazi atrocities were literal truths.

    But there's no need to take my word for it. It was the topic of this excellent video essay by America's foremost broadcast journalist, political commentator and media critic; by which I mean, of course, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.