.... except that nobody really is.
I saw the same phenomenon with the passing of Reagan, Falwell, Novack, Helms, and now Kennedy. In the older days (say the 1970s and 1980s) the media controlled the narrative when somebody famous or larger-than-life passed. The new media, however, gives everybody a voice, and if you know how to do it just right, everybody has an audience as well.
There is always somebody willing to point out that the deceased was scumbag in some portion of his or her life, despite anything else that individual might have accomplished.
And there are all too many sanctimonious blowholes for whom that individual's greatest accomplishment represented the establishment of tyranny and injustice on Earth.
Everybody is always Hitler. Dubya was Hitler. Obama is a brownshirt, or is it the teabaggers who are brownshirt Nazis? I forgot.
In fact, I don't forget: I don't give a shit. Really.
As a World War Two historian who specializes in the German-Soviet conflict I have spent more hours with the words, images, and documents of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts than any two dozen of the rest of you. I've read the transcripts of his sessions with his generals, with other politicians, and with his drinking buddies late in the evenings. I've been through the records and reports of the Einsatzgruppen [the special extermination squads that followed the German Army into Poland and the Soviet Union]. I've examined the photographic evidence from the camps, and I have stood on the ground at Auschwitz, Dachau, Birkenau, and Sachsenhausen.
Saddam Hussein wasn't Hitler; he wasn't even a potential Hitler. A potential Hitler requires not only an industrial state but a population so disaffected that it is ready to idolize a man who comes to power openly touting race war and future genocide as part of his political program.
George W. Bush wasn't Hitler; he never even made it to the status of a dictator, no matter how much he abused the US Constitution. Wars of aggression don't make you Hitler: wars of extermination may bring you close.
Joseph Stalin wasn't even Hitler. As Holocaust historian Raoul Hillberg once pointed out, there was a fundamental difference between the millions slaughtered in Stalin's Russia and the millions slaughtered in Hitler's Germany. In the Soviet Union the killings were the means to an end: forced industrialization and world socialist revolution. The prison camps were factories. In the Third Reich, the death camps became the end in themselves: factories whose end product was death. There was no rational even if horrifically immoral plan behind the genocide that took place primarily between 1941-1944. Genocide was not only the plan, the means, but it was the end.
Nor could you have an Adolf Hitler without a German people who, in the wake of losing a world war, undergoing a depression, and displaying a long history of virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Slavic prejudices, were ready to turn over all their prerogatives to the man on the pedastal.
Cheap comparisons to Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, and the Brownshirts abound today, and 99.9999% of them are made by people ignorant of the imbecility of the historical comparison they think they are making. Yes, that means you.
When you compare other American citizens to Nazis, or when you feel compelled to dishonor the dead of any party or persuasion because of your own need to get a few licks in, what you do is not only prove your own ignorance, but display a profound disrespect for the fundamental concepts of the American republic, as well as trivialize one of the greatest horrors of modern history.
Somebody [I think it was DD] pointed out that we are going to have to go through this again and again when Jimmy Carter, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, or Dubya keel over, but it's not inevitable.
Here's two simple rules to avoid the problem, both taught to me by my Dad when I was not yet a teenager:
1) Never speak ill of the dead until grass has grown again on the grave.
And if you can't follow rule 1, then there's
2) STFU and don't say anything.
spits, walks away shaking head
Rant complete for now.