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Harlan Crow’s Nazi memorabilia collection is raising a lot of questions already answered by his policy preferences
Why judge Clarence Thomas's benefactor by his Hitler napkins when we can judge him for his political activities ... AND his Hitler napkins?
Let me just say right up front that I do not know if Republican megadonor and Clarence Thomas patron Harlan Crow is a Nazi, a Nazi sympathizer, or just an extremely weird dude who likes to surround himself with Hitler’s paintings, tea pots, (signed!) books, and table linens for totally un-Nazi reasons.
Unlike seemingly everyone else who has lived in DC at any point in the last quarter century, I’ve never hung out with ol’ Harlan at his private retreat in the Adirondacks or munched canapés in his Garden of Evil.And (not to put too fine a point on it) I’ve never been funded by him. So I don’t have any direct personal knowledge to go on here.
Meanwhile, Crow’s various distinguished friends and (again, not to put too fine a point on it) beneficiaries are shocked, shocked! that anyone would suggest he has anything but the noblest motivations for adorning his mansion with roughly a half-dozen items that still bear Hitler’s DNA. Maybe they’re right. On the other hand, there are more Nazis out and about these days than I’m entirely comfortable with, so I’m afraid I’m going to need more than the say-so of someone on Crow’s payroll before I clear him. So put me down for “uneasy” on the question of whether Crow is a Nazi or just Nazi-curious.
I’ll say this: I’m confident Crow wouldn’t describe himself as a Nazi. And, like his (financially dependent) defenders, Crow would likely point to the fact that he also owns Abraham Lincoln’s desk, so surely he cannot harbor ill will towards his fellow man! He’s the good guy in this story. The Nazi memorabilia and the Stalin statue and all of that — that’s meant to be a grim reminder of humankind’s capacity for inhumanity, and of the triumph of good over evil.
I bet Harlan Crow really believes that.
When he sits down at his desk to write out another round of checks to Republican candidates who are working tirelessly to deny women the freedom of bodily autonomy, I’m sure Crow thinks of that signed copy of Mein Kampf on display a few feet away. “We must never again allow a tyrannical regime to trample the rights of its citizens,” he probably thinks. When he sits around the fireplace with his beneficiaries at the Federalist Society chatting about their efforts to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act and prevent Black people from voting, his thoughts no doubt turn to Hitler’s tea pot on the mantle, a somber reminder of an evil he so fiercely opposes. And when he chats up his pal Charles Murray, America’s pre-eminent eugenicist, or contemplates the eliminationist rhetoric the movement he funds uses against transgender people, his eyes must occasionally wander to those paintings by Adolf Hitler on his walls, a reminder that even a simple struggling artist is capable of great horrors.
And then perhaps it’s time for a stroll through his Garden of Evil to reflect on it all. Where might America be without his good deeds? What path might we be on, were it not for his vigilance?
No, I don’t think Harlan Crow thinks of himself as a Nazi. I think people like Harlan Crow and Charles Murray and their right-wing defenders find great utility in thinking of themselves as deeply anti-Nazis: It helps them avoid thinking too much about the implications of so much of what they do.
But we don’t have to play along.
Not a metaphor, an actual garden featuring statues of evil men.