Newt Gingrich, Kristallnacht, and the Ground Zero Mosque

The so-called Ground Zero mosque is actually blocks from Ground Zero and blocked from view at Ground Zero by larger buildings. But never mind. Herderite Republicans like Newt Gingrich smell blood in the water and are earnestly rallying their Tea Party Brown Shirts patriots for the Clash of Civilizations. This appeared on Friday at Politico:

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” Gingrich wrote on his website. “The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”

Are you absorbing Newt Gingrich’s tit-for-tat here, and what it means? Newt Gingrich is saying that individual Muslim Americans bear collective guilt for the behavior of Muslims across the globe, and as such their rights are not guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, but held hostage to international politics: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

In other words, if the Saudis do something bad to Americans over there, we will do something bad to Americans over here: we’ll materially harm and violate the rights of Muslim Americans. It’s hard to think of a more grotesquely un-American formulation of an American citizen’s rights, and it is exactly the formulation that Germans used to justify Kristallnacht (“the night of the broken glass”) against German Jews. In Paris, a Polish Jew murdered a German Embassy attaché and German Jews were the objects of retaliation. Here’s how Ed Beattie of the United Press (UP), in November of 1938, opened his report on what came to be called Kristallnacht. This is what a gesture of retaliation for collective guilt looks like:

BERLIN (UP) – The government called a halt to a Nazi campaign of violence against Jews throughout Germany today after synagogues everywhere had been burned, shops and their contents wrecked and thousands of Jews arrested.

Fourteen hours after the violence began, at an hour apparently set by Nazi officialdom, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, ordered the destruction stopped. He indicated new official measures were planned against Jews in retaliation for the assassination of a German Embassy attaché in Paris by a young Polish-German Jew.

Germany’s “further answer to Jewry” would be given through laws and decrees, Dr. Goebbels stated.

Nazi mobs surged through the streets of cities and towns throughout the Reich and Austria, beginning at mid-night and lasting until mid-afternoon, in a systematic campaign of destruction.

The Nazi mobsters were instructed by party officials not to start until midnight so as not to interfere with the celebration of the anniversary of the 1923 Munich beer cellar putsch.

Police made no effort to interfere as the crowds set fire to synagogues, smashed shop windows, demolished furniture and stocks of goods and manhandled Jews. Persons who expressed sympathy for the Jews were maltreated, and some were arrested.

Does anybody see what’s coming? Republicans like Gingrich, in demagoging the Ground Zero mosque issue, are setting the stage, when a serious international crisis emerges, for an American version of Krisallnacht, a rampage against Muslim Americans for their collective guilt.

The bedrock American principle of treating citizens as individuals, not as members of collectives on whom we apportion guilt or praise, is at stake here. The Ground Zero mosque is a historic test of our Bill of Rights and our nation’s Enlightenment character. I’m relieved that Barack Obama has gotten on the right side of this. He’s done the right thing. But he needs every person of conscience to speak and stand with him.

Will we be a nation of Herderites or Jeffersonians?

The choice is before us.

Here’s an image of the main synagogue in Berlin after Kristallnacht:

1938 Interior of Berlin synagogue after Kristallnacht.jpg

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Newt Gingrich, Kristallnacht, and the Ground Zero Mosque

  1. Cody Deitz says:

    I’d be very interested in knowing where you get your ideas and material for your blog posts. My blog has been suffering lately from a lack of topics…
    Hope you’re well.


    • santitafarella says:

      Hi Cody,

      I started blogging two years ago when I had a revelation. I was reading Andrew Sullivan’s blog when the following thought occurred to me: “Hey, I can do this!” And so I started imitating Sullivan’s style, which is to range widely and unpredictably, writing about whatever. Then it occurred to me: blogging is holding a mirror up to humanity and existence. Everything that passes through the mind is fair game for associations.

      I’ve always been an associative thinker. It’s what makes me good at teaching literature: making links between writers and passages is what I salivate to.

      And so, in my solitude, if I make a wild connection in my head—Newt Gingrich and Kristallnacht—I just run with it in a blog post. And if I feel like I’m obsessed about something, I run with that. The pig finds the truffle. So long as I care about developing the thought, and enjoy it, I try not to worry how many people are coming around to have a look.

      As for specific techniques for getting things, I would suggest this post for thinking about that:


      • concerned christian says:

        You may not have noticed or even admit it, but I am also an associative thinker. And no this time I am not talking about Islam but I am linking politics with sports. In sports some teams try to win at any price while other teams try to live to a higher standards. Some players are in it for themselves and others are for the team. There are even some player on your team you wish they are on the other side. The media, think tanks, and Academia are the referees, but you may loose faith in some of them when they are blatantly biased. Now that brings me to my final association, blogs are the sports bar where everyone makes his or her point. Again some are fairer than others and some are pure fanatics. As in Sports Bars, there are some you miss when they are absent while others you wish they go away and never come back. I leave it there.

      • santitafarella says:


        I like your analogy a lot. But in it, what do the bowls of bar nuts represent?

        Analogous thinking is a lot like Freudian dream, isn’t it?

        Why would that be?


  2. Pingback: Three Casualties of the Ground Zero Mosque: The Enlightenment, the American Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? « Prometheus Unbound

  3. concerned christian says:

    Speaking of the Bar I can see that you have served quite a few articles discussing the Ground Zero Mosque from various angles, and the result is that the customers are excited and engaged. While I totally disagree with your point of view, I believe that the discussions carried out on your Blog are more civilized and informative than anywhere else. To throw you out on another sidetrack, I start seeing a link between two of the hottest topics; namely Ground Zero Mosque and Gay marriage. In both cases the majority of Americans are reacting strongly to a group overreaching and pushing for more rights. So far Ground Zero Mosque is less popular than Gay marriages.

    • santitafarella says:


      My way of thinking about politics has been really influenced by Zeev Sternhell’s book this summer. I’m about 400 pages in and it’s just eerie the way he talks about 19th century and early 20th century nationalist responses to the Enlightenment and our politics today. I’ve never seen the contrast more clearly on what divides people along political lines: are we a nation of citizen-individuals endowed with a universal human reason who can talk sensibly to one another and arrive at compromises and common purposes together, or are we a collection of competing ethnic and religious groups, committed to our tribal loyalties, incapable of really understanding one another, and with far less in common than we would like to believe?

      I think that people who live in big cities tend to think the former, and those in smaller towns and rural enclaves the latter. Hence the mosque tension between big city mayor Bloomberg and Alaska native, Sarah Palin.

      As for the bar, you are very kind. I’ve thought of that metaphor all week. I agree with you that it’s apt for blogging: a blog is like a small corner bar that you keep open, serving up a variety of things, and you get your regulars and your drift-ins who come around and talk at all hours. It has a character, doesn’t it? I’m glad I started one.


  4. Pingback: Ground Zero Mosque Question of the Day « Prometheus Unbound

  5. Pingback: Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin Have No Jeffersonian Clothes: Ron Paul Favors the Building of the Ground Zero Mosque and Castigates Its Opponents « Prometheus Unbound

  6. Ron Krumpos says:

    I just read a comment on an atheist website that has the best statement on this controversy I have heard yet.

    Plus, has anyone looked at the Ground Zero site lately? It’s trashed. It’s gross. If this is supposed to be a memorial, a place for people to come to remember, mounds of dirt and scaffolding is not going to do the job. It truly worries me that our politicians and citizens are too busy being worried about a religious group trying to practice hope and love and peace (which IS what Islam teaches), than to memorialize a site they consider oh so sacred.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s