The messages spray painted on some People’s Party of Canada signs in the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding last week were stark and disturbing.
Some signs in West Kelowna were defaced with “Fascist?” and “Elect a fascist?”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Allan Duncan is not the only candidate during this election to have this label used against him.
Earlier during this campaign, some Liberal and Conservative candidates in Quebec and New Brunswick had their signs defaced with swastikas and other Nazi images.
This vandalism is disturbing, not only because election signs were defaced but also because of the accusation in the graffiti.
Fascism is a far-right ideology which has been described as authoritarian and ultranationalistic.
The only time it has been used by governments was in Europe after the First World War and during the Second World War.
It was the ideology of Nazi Germany and Italy during the Second World War, and it was directly responsible for the deaths of millions during the six years of that war.
While neo-fascist groups and political parties have emerged since the end of the Second World War, fascist nations have not arisen since that time.
The Second World War resulted in between 60 and 85 million deaths, the most in any war in human history.
Millions were killed in Nazi death camps including Jews, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people with disabilities, political opponents and homosexuals.
To accuse any Canadian political candidate, leader or party of being a fascist or a Nazi is to make an extremely harsh and unfair accusation.
None of our political parties, candidates or leaders has advocated anything even remotely like the fascist dictatorships of the 20th century.
Even worse, using these labels to describe candidates or parties in Canada minimizes the horrors of the Second World War.
The war began 80 years ago and lasted six years, but there are still some among us who remember.
There are veterans who fought in the war. Some may be willing to relive painful memories and talk about what they witnessed.
Others who served will not talk about their experience, but their silence speaks of atrocities few if any of us could understand.
There are some who survived Nazi death camps and others who lost friends and family members in these camps.
There are some who were civilians in Europe during the war and remember what their lives were like under a fascist dictatorship.
Conditions in Canada in 2019 are nothing like those in Germany and Italy in the 1930s and 1940s.
Perhaps the labels of “fascist” and “Nazi” were intended for hyperbole or shock value. But the shock has long been lost.
In 1944, while the Second World War was still raging, British writer George Orwell wrote, “The word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless…almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ for ‘Fascist’.”
And in 1990, American attorney and author Mike Godwin came up with Godwin’s Law.
This states that as an online discussion continues, someone will eventually compare someone or something to Hitler.
“I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler to think harder about the Holocaust,” he said later.
The people responsible for defacing election signs in the Okanagan Valley, Quebec and New Brunswick should have heeded this advice.
Terms like “fascist” and “Nazi” come from one of the worst periods in human history.
Such terms must not be used simply as expressions of extreme disgust.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.
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