Fascists, Nazis, racists: Accurate definitions matter

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There are three words being cast about by people who evidently have little understanding of the meanings of those words. The words have been evident in the politics of the left (there are other words misused by the right) for some time and, during President Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom, demonstrators fastened these same words on placards.

The first word is “fascist.” A fascist is a believer and supporter of a political ideology called “fascism.” The only official definition of fascism comes from Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism, in which he outlines three principles of a fascist philosophy:

1. ”Everything in the state.” The government is supreme and the country is all-encompassing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.

2. ”Nothing outside the state.” The country must grow and the implied goal of any fascist nation is to rule the world, and have every human submit to the government.

3. ”Nothing against the state.” Any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. If you do not agree with the government, you cannot be allowed to live and taint the minds of the rest of the good citizens.

Those who attempt to apply this definition to any current American politician simply is misguided or ignorant of fascism.

The second word is “Nazi.” This word is very familiar to my parents’ generation as a world war was fought to destroy this political movement. While Nazism has many of the same characteristics of fascism, it is far more extreme in its philosophy and goals. Nazism was totalitarian, anti-democratic, and brutally and violently suppressive toward all opposition.

Nazism, as represented in Adolph Hitler, had the goal of world domination and the enslavement of peoples that were considered “inferior.” Nazism was also radically anti-Semitic and had the stated goal of eliminating the Jewish people from the face of the earth.

Nazism resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews and the death of 50 million to 70 million people in World War II. The Soviet Union alone suffered the loss of 10 million of its people to the Nazi war machine.

These days it is fashionable to call someone with whom ones disagrees a “Nazi.” The Urban Dictionary gives the watered-down and highly inaccurate definition of a “Nazi” as, “Someone who has an opinion that is different than my own.” This, and not the actual definition, is what most radicals mean when they refer to someone of a different political opinion as a “Nazi.”

The third word is “racist.” According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of racism is, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

In other words, one who believes that one race is superior and another (or all others) is inferior, is a racist. Even the Urban Dictionary admits that the current use of “racist” and “racism” is deeply flawed: “… the true definition is believing that one race is superior to all other. Hatred without reason of another race. etc.

“Sadly, today that has changed.

“In today’s world this is what makes you racist:

“• Mentioning race in any way.

“• Not being totally politically correct.

“• Supporting your race.

“• Being white.

“• Telling a racist joke.

“• Judging by hair color.

“• Disliking something someone likes.

“As you can see, this word is grossly over-used and misused.” Thus saith the Urban Dictionary folk.

This word, too, has been applied willy-nilly to people who have no demonstrable record of racism. Does racism exist? Are there racists among us? “Yes” to both questions.

But racists and racism are not as rampant as some would have us believe. People who are bigots and people who are prejudiced are not necessarily “racists.” There are plenty of people of all skin colors who are bigoted and prejudiced.

Much of the current problem with the use of these three words to attack people who hold differing opinions is the problem of ignorance.

Referring again to the dictionary, a person who is “ignorant” is said to be: “lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.” Synonyms for “ignorant” are: “uneducated, unknowledgeable, untaught, unschooled, untutored, untrained, illiterate, unlettered, unlearned, unread, uninformed, unenlightened, benighted …”

Simply put, people who misuse “fascist,” “Nazi,” and “racist,” in an effort to slur someone with whom they disagree, are, sadly, demonstrating their lack of knowledge and understanding to those who are observing. And, as a result, their opinion ceases to matter to those whom they, presumably, are attempting to influence.

One of the greatest powers in the world is the power of persuasion. Name-calling is not persuasion. It’s just elementary school playground behavior. If one wishes to be taken seriously, one must engage the opposition with well-thought-out arguments, the willingness to listen to and hear the other person, and to abandon emotional outbursts and the senseless use of slurs.

Otherwise one just comes across as ignorant.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may be contacted at bishopdavidepps@gmail.com.]