I have long had a variety of feelings about Senator Ted Cruz, but I felt a new one recently: inspiration.
Senator Ted Cruz recently defended the use of what he referred to as “the Nazi salute” by US citizens. This was during questioning of US Attorney General Merrick Garland. Senator Cruz said specifically “A parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because they thought the policies were oppressive!” (Video of this exchange between Senator Cruz and Attorney General Garland is online at https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/10/28/ted-cruz-defends-nazi-salute-merrick-garland-memo-orig-jk.cnn.)
This salute is, as Attorney General Garland confirmed, protected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. That doesn’t mean using it is right. It’s not right. Period. This salute is also not properly and accurately referred to as “the Nazi Salute.”
So let’s set the context here. A parent seems to have given this salute in the direction of members of the School Board in Worthington, Ohio (https://www.cleveland.com/coronavirus/2021/09/nazi-salute-made-at-at-ohio-school-board-meeting-during-dispute-over-masks-reports-say.html) because people in attendance at the meeting were asked to wear masks. Something similar seems to have happened in Birmingham, Michigan (https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2021/08/19/birmingham-school-board-meeting-masks-nazi-salute/8195546002/).
I like a variety of salutes myself, including one that involves a single finger. But the use of this particular German salute and the defense thereof have seemingly taken place without the people involved having a clear appreciation of what is really being said and done.
Senator Cruz had it wrong when he called this salute a “Nazi salute.” The salute was typically given in concert with the phrase “Heil Hitler.” That is, in English, “Hail Hitler.” It was both enforced upon the German people to incorporate allegiance to Adolf Hilter as an everyday value within Germany and used by social climbers within the National Socialist party to demonstrate their allegiance to der Führer. This salute is properly referred to as the “Hilter Salute” or the “Heil Hitler Salute.”
To use the Heil Hitler salute in the context of political discussions within the US and among US citizens is demeaning. It demeans and lessens the seriousness with which we should maintain our memory of the Nationalist Socialist party of Germany and its leader Adolf Hitler. Millions of people were murdered by Hitler’s regime. Primarily Jewish people, but also the developmentally disabled, Roma and Senti peoples, and homosexuals. No American today lives up to the standards of evil embodied by the Nazi leadership. Even the so called American Neo-Nazis are third rate amateurs in comparison to the real thing.
And we need to all ask ourselves this: Is a statement of allegiance to a Nazi leader – even a dead one – something any reasonable US citizen should ever do? This isn’t sarcasm or irony. The Heil Hitler salute is a statement of allegiance, just like the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag. Would any American Christian bow down to a goat’s head? If not, why show allegiance to one of the Devil’s most effective followers?
Furthermore, it is simply unfair and uncivil to equate any American with Nazi leadership, which is what people who gave this salute at school board meetings thought they were doing. There is a quote that is almost certainly incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain that goes “First God created idiots. That was practice. Then God created School Board members.” It’s easy to ridicule school board members in part because it is such a hard job to do well. But at the end of the day the vast majority of the people who run for and serve on School Boards do so out of a desire to help our society and help our children. It’s fine to disagree with them. But to equate them to mass murderers is beyond the pale.
Giving the “Heil Hitler” salute is indeed protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. But sometime freedom needs to mean the freedom to do the right thing. Refraining from us of Nazi symbolism in discourse among US citizens is one of those times.
As I said, I was inspired by Senator Cruz’s comments. Inspired to write this comment to put this matter in its proper context and to give true evil the fear and respect it is due. Senator Cruz should have known better than to say what he said. Now perhaps this commentary has helped you know a bit more than you did before, and certainly more than Senator Cruz seems to know. If you would like to read further on this topic I recommend the book “The Hitler Salute – on the meaning of a gesture” by Tilman Allert.