The debate over whether to make it illegal for adults to smoke in their cars when young children are present got pretty heated on Utah’s Capitol Hill this week. Though the bill ultimately passed, a debate on the Senate floor was so contentious, it included one Senator referring to a Jewish Representative as an “Air Nazi.”
Republican Senator Margaret Dayton (Orem), was incensed about HB13, sponsored by Democratic Representative Patrice Arent (Millcreek), who is Jewish, which makes it a secondary offense for adults to smoke in a car if a child under the age of 15 is present. During her arguments against the bill on the Senate floor, Dayton compared advocates of the legislation to “Air Nazis.”
It’s extremely unlikely that Senator Dayton was actually trying to compare Representative Arent to Hitler’s Nazis, but was rather using it as a more pop culture-style phrase, like referring to an English Major as a “Grammar Nazi.” But the disturbing moment is indicative of a trend of over-hype in today’s political discourse.
More and more in today’s world, especially in the national media, we are hearing politicians, pundits, protesters, and spokespeople compare things or people they don’t like to Hitler, or the Nazis, or any number of serious tragedies or villains from history. The problem with this, of course, is that the person using the phrase is merely looking to score cheap political points, seeking to inflame the public by making a comparison to a true evil. The comparisons are rarely, if ever, valid, yet it’s all too commonplace for the tactic to succeed and fan the flames among the more whackadoodle elements of the public who don’t know better.
Millions upon millions of Jews, Allied Soldiers, and innocent people died under Hitler’s reign of terror. It’s a lesson for all of us to show some respect, and choose our words more carefully, rather than flinging about cheap rhetoric that dishonors the memory of so many slaughtered people.
It’s an insult to the intelligence of all listening Americans to do anything else.