Nazis? Been there, done that. Just ask the Greatest Generation.
The Nazi flags and salutes in Charlottesville over the weekend were a tough sight for anyone who had anything to do with the bloodiest war in human history.
“I signed up to fight Nazis 73 years ago and I’ll do it again if I have to,” tweeted World War II veteran and former Michigan congressman John Dingell.
“Hatred, bigotry, & fascism should have no place in this country,” he wrote.
And thousands of folks retweeted that, and military members liked it, some telling Dingell they’d be right behind him.
The folks behind the World War II Memorial also gave Dingell’s message a thumbs-up.
“Thanks #WWII vet Rep Dingell & #GreatestGeneration! Let’s work to encourage unity, civic engagement & personal responsibility in our nation!” the Friends of the National World War II Memorial tweeted.
At an assisted-living facility in Provo, Utah, the World War II veterans who always sit at a lunch table together couldn’t stop talking about the rally-turned-riot in Charlottesville.
“Today, all they could talk about was how they wished they could teach those ‘punk Nazis in Virginia’ a lesson,” Katie Wilson, who works at the retirement community, recounted on Twitter.
Even President Trump finally joined in denouncing the neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan by name on Monday.
The last time the red-black- and-white flag of a country was flown, more than 407,000 American lives were lost, nearly half of them in Europe.
So seeing the swastikas, the T-shirts with Hitler’s image, the torches in Charlottesville — that’s in a realm beyond civil political discourse and disagreement.
Have any of those men — mostly in their 20s and 30s — been to a World War II memorial? Have any of them visited one of the thousands of small graveyards in rural communities across America that memorialize an entire generation of young men lost to that war?
The casual, weekend fascism practiced by newbie Nazis carrying tiki torches and raising their arms in “Heil Trump” salutes is an egregious slap in the face to those American veterans, as well as about 60 million others who lost their lives in World War II.
And there was bipartisan agreement on that.
Besides the viral tweet that Democrat Dingell posted, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) remembered the toll that fighting Nazis took on his family.
“We should call evil by its name,” Hatch tweeted. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
Navy veteran Adam Weinstein posted a fantastic collection of American veterans and the Nazi flags they captured in war on his website, Task & Purpose. With photos of destruction and battle debris around them, these veterans showed the “proper way to display a Nazi flag.” One was on fire.
“Nazis in America are holding torch rallies, killing protesters, and hanging out with other losers of U.S. wars this week, begging the question: What is the appropriate way for a patriotic American to display the unmistakable, swastika-bearing flag of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich?” he asked.
Melvin Marks, who is 93 and won a Bronze Star fighting the Nazis in World War II, helped start a new Facebook page, World War II Vets Disgusted by Trump.
In a video clip, sitting on a sofa, and wearing his medals, Marks talks about his service during the war and his reaction to Trump’s words about Charlottesville in his stirring video.
“I have awakened, I must say, to an era that is very unpleasant for me. More unpleasant than I can begin to say,” he said. “It makes me feel delegitimized in what I did during the war . . . [Trump] has just trampled on the graves of the 400,000 soldiers who died during World War II. And this was manifest during his speech in Charlottesville.”
The neo-Nazis are treading on wounds that still run deep in our country.
Dingell is rare in his generation as a social media warrior. Though the Greatest Generation may not be voicing its disgust with the new Nazis online, their kids and grandkids sure are.
Dozens of memes bringing back old World War II propaganda posters had flooded social media by Monday.
A film clip created by the U.S. War Department in 1943 called “Don’t Be a Sucker” was shared thousands of times over the weekend.
It shows an angry man on a soapbox holding court to an audience of fedora-wearing chaps as a way of warning against hatred and xenophobia.
“I see Negroes holding jobs that belong to me and you. Now I ask you, if we allow this thing to go on, what’s going to happen to us real Americans?” In that 1940s, Jimmy Stewart cadence, he goes on to name immigrants, blacks, Catholics and even Freemasons for America’s woes.
But then it cuts to an older, wiser man with an accent. “I’ve heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America,” the immigrant says.
“I have seen what this kind of talk can do,” he says. “I saw it in Berlin.”
Here’s the scary part. Today, this video would quickly be slammed as liberal political propaganda.
The world has been here before, people. Ask the veterans who put their lives on the line defending us from this evil.
Read more Petula Dvorak: