Why American kids love Nazis
Apr 30, 2005
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line What's up with these trenchcoat-wearing, classroom-shootin' honkeys? Is there a reason for what they do?
I was asked to write this by a fellow teacher, after numerous discussions about why a certain sub-section of American teens are gravitating toward Nazism and Hitler-worship. For those of you who have little experience or contact with adolescents or the goings-on in America's schools, you'd probably be disturbed at how many kids are seeking out inspiration in the words and deeds of the twentieth-century's nightmare man.
I'll try to write this in the spirit of a correspondent, and not pass judgment on what I see. Of course, what I'm exposed to everyday might be unique to Texas, though I saw similar things going on when I lived and worked as a substitute in Orlando, Florida. The Columbine tragedy and the recent school slaughter in Minnesota suggests to me that something ominous is going on in the school system across the entire nation, and I'd like to share with you my theory. It's based on what I see everyday, with my very own peepers.
When I went to high school, back in the late 80's/early 90's, cultural wars were going on everyday, though they were far less heated than they are now. There were the long-haired metal guys (a relatively small group, to which I belonged), the even tinier group of punks, the country music redneck types, the black kids, the preps, the jocks, etc. You know about these sub-groups, since you probably either belonged to one or saw them sitting at lunch together.
What seems to have happened since I graduated in 1991 is that American adolescent culture has fused into something of a single entity, at least in terms of what is cool and what is not. The percentage of outsiders has grown, and in order to not be one of them, a person typically must tow the line that has been set by the media and either fed to or willingly adopted by the kids themselves. The three factors that really seem to determine whether or not one fits into the herd these days are 1) what type of music one listens to; 2) how one dresses; and, to a smaller degree than before, 3) whether or not one plays sports. The importance of those first two factors cannot and should not be downplayed- a large number of kids are far more preoccupied with music and style now than an adult might realize.
OK, you say, what's the big deal? Kids have always been more interested in looking cool and rocking (or rapping) out than in schoolwork, right? Well, that's true to an extent, but the social scene is changing. It's heavily tied in to the ugly child America keeps hidden in its closet, and it goes by the name of RACISM.
Again, I'm not passing judgment here, since I regard teens of every hue to be seriously misled and naive. My wife is Jewish and my grandfather is married to a woman who belonged to the Jugendfuhrer as a child in Germany (for those of you not in the know, the Jugendfuhrer was the Hitler's Youth organization that introduced German children to the fundamentals of Nazism), so I've heard it from all sides. I have Asian friends, as well as ones that are black, gay, female, Hispanic, elderly, Middle Eastern, and every shade of the political spectrum one can think of. I ally myself with nothing and no one, except perhaps with like-minded, intellectual people who can think rationally and adapt to new circumstances. I am the closest thing to a free agent you will probably ever find, and can understand or argue from nearly any perspective (barring that of a sex crimes offender or something- there are just certain people that one shouldn't try to relate to).
That being said, as a neutral observer, I have spotted a simple cause-and-effect in our educational system, the results of which are that a number of primarily white kids of average to above-average intelligence are donning black clothes, huddling together in a conspiratorial way, signing up for German class, and very rarely, blowing a gasket and shooting up their classmates on Der Fuhrer's birthday. My VERY OWN students have come in asking me all sorts of questions about Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust, not because they are curious about such things in the context of history, but because they are well on the way to admiring the things that Adolf and his buddies did.
Why in the hell is this going on? Well, let me say this- I've always regarded people (with the exception of the mentally ill) as being fairly logical in their motivations. I know, that's not a revolutionary idea, but I truly believe that people almost always have a reason to support their actions, although it may not make sense to anyone else. Psychologists make a killing on this premise, and I guess you could say that in addition to being a high school teacher, I'm an amateur sociologist/psychologist.
The rise of Nazism in America can be attributed to two factors: the media's persistent adoration of Hitler's regime and the contempt some (mostly white) kids feel towards a culture that has become increasingly dominated by African-Americans. Let us look at those two factors in greater detail.
Nobody will ever convince me that the American media/entertainment industry has handled the Nazis in a responsible manner. Most of the documentaries one sees on The History Channel or whatever are not designed to instill the viewer with disgust and anger toward the Nazis. If that were the goal, viewers would not be subjected to images of bad-azzes goose-stepping in their cool uniforms or lined up with that eye-grabbing Teutonic symmetry. Nazis were one of the most visually seductive monsters in the history of humankind, so spiffy and stern did they look. Especially to an American white boy who is starting to think of his own race as a weak, rhythmically-challenged, physically and sexually inferior bunch of morons who used whatever intellectual edge they had to exploit people of other races. The Nazis are an antidote to that line of thinking.
To the people of his own land and time, Hitler was a strong, honest, and ruthless man, an answer and solution to the shattered self-esteem and lingering decadence that had turned Germany into a hell following the nightmare of WWI. The German people were willing to submit their consciences to his violent agenda provided that it would successfully drag them out of the abyss. Americans might be quietly assenting to the same remedy as we speak, but this is not the forum for that discussion. Of course, all the average kid knows is that the man yelled loud, looked scary, and took a whole lot of people down with him.
Bombarding the public mind with images of Hitler in action is a stupid and reckless way to "teach people about history". He was successful because he was a master of public speaking who knew how to stab at the nerve of discontent, and that has not changed. He may be dead, he may have lost, but his dark magic is alive and has the ability to affect the minds of those who are unable to look at history in a dispassionate, detached manner. I would argue that many teens are less intelligent and therefore more susceptible to being sucked in by the trappings of Nazism than were the Germans who actually went that route. When people are down and looking for an inspiration, they will find one; the media has provided us with the worst of all role models. You can check out for yourself the very embodiment of white man's frothing hatred just about any night of the week, if you just flip the channels a little.
The audience being pandered to by the media is not made up solely of WWII enthusiasts and twentieth-century historians. There are many white adolescents out there that do not feel a part of the rap and hip-hop dominated culture that is prevalent in America. Those G's from the 'hood are not their heroes, and many of them are agitated by what they perceive to be an "Africanization" of American culture. They do not like the music, apparel, value system, lingo, or interests being championed by African-Americans, and are being forced to seek out inspiration from their own ethno-historical experience. And who represents the white man's ability to stand up and kick the sh*t out of people better than the Nazis? Not the French, that much I'll tell you.
One of the most interesting things I notice on a daily basis is the tendency of adolescents to segregate themselves from one another. Sure, lots of kids are fulfilling Martin Luther King's vision, but many others are tribalizing and setting themselves apart from those who are different. Many of the Hispanic kids are wearing "Scarface" shirts and huddling together, effectively distancing themselves from other races and forging an identity around a fictitious movie gangster. The "Goths" are signing up for German class, rediscovering heavy metal, and secretly harboring an admiration for the poster child of genocide. The black students are donning their bling-bling, getting hand-jobs in class, and blowing off their education for a forthcoming career in rap or sports.
Does this sound like a society that really needs people like Hitler flashed upon the screen on a daily basis? On a far less grand scale, African-American kids are influenced in a similar manner by the constant exposure to hoodlum rappers, the most violent of which are by far their favorites. That, however, will be addressed in a separate essay.
In conclusion, I'll assert that the rise of Nazism amongst white American teens is a response to the bitterness they harbor toward a culture that they feel is imposing, yet doesn't pertain to them. It's a perfectly understandable yet extremely dangerous defense mechanism, since these kids think in larger terms than your average cap-popping gangsta or barrio thug. If I may be so sweeping in my generalization, violence in white culture spends a lot more time in the fermentation stage than it does amongst blacks or Hispanics, and there's less of a tendency to shoot someone down in a temper tantrum than to design a bomb that will obliterate a wing of the school.
What is the solution? I knew you'd ask that, and it makes little sense to propose one. Will the media ever stop glorifying the Nazis? No- they attract viewers, and that's all TV stations care about. People do need to know about Hitler, but the images adolescents see should not always be the ones that were designed to impress the viewer. After all, most of those documentaries pull their footage from propaganda films that were made by the Nazis themselves, with the purpose of getting people fired up about the regime. These films were successful, folks.
On the racial side, I don't know what to say. In an increasingly violent society where minorities are patterning themselves after gangsters, trash-talkers, and the sexually uninhibited, how can one fault white kids for their interest in Hitler? None of them are making wise choices, but in the absence of a guiding parental hand, it should almost be expected that your child's mind could fall into the snare of whatever monster the television introduces them to.